“When the history of this school is finally written, these will be the golden years. And we have President Arnn and Chairman Brodbeck to thank for that,” said Pat Sajak, Vice Chairman of the Hillsdale College Board of Trustees.
Last Friday, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn and his wife, Penny Arnn, honored the retiring Chairman William J. Brodbeck ’66 with a program of a brief video and remarks from Arnn, board member Stephen Higley ’66, and future chairman Patrick Sajak. Guests — including faculty and students — mingled and ate hors d’oeuvres before the program and later danced to a performance from Brodbeck’s favorite band, The Diamonds.
“Bill is not going anywhere. He will serve as Chairman Emeritus and as a member of the board,” said Arnn in a letter to faculty and staff. “So we will not grieve, but party.”
In his remarks, Arnn said Brodbeck has “done everything right.” He emphasized Brodbeck’s decades of service to the college — from graduating with the nickname “Joe College” to heading the search committee that asked Arnn to become president of the college.
Arnn also included anecdotes about how Brodbeck would keep him in shape by writing “long lists of things I was supposed to do,” reminding Arnn of things he should mention during board meetings and making Arnn watch Fox News.
Arnn concluded his remarks by speaking about when Brodbeck had called Arnn to ask him to be the president of the college.
“I don’t think I would have accepted it if anyone else had called,” Arnn said.
Arnn said he accepted the position because of Brodbeck’s leadership at the college.
“At a good college with a beautiful idea behind it, being the president is unique,” Arnn said. “And it would not be so except for the service of Bill Brodbeck.”
Higley expressed similar sentiment in his remarks.
“Together, Larry and Bill have transformed this college from a good, small school to a tremendous institution that is nationally known,” Higley said.
The Brodbeck family has been connected with Hillsdale for decades. William Brodbeck met his wife, Jan Brodbeck, at Hillsdale when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman. Their three daughters also attended Hillsdale.
Event attendee and Hillsdale College Professor of Chemistry Lee Ann Baron has known the Brodbeck family since the Brodbeck daughters came to Hillsdale in the 1990s.
“I lived next door to the daughters, so I met Jan Brodbeck when our dogs were playing in their backyard,” Baron said. “They are just the nicest people.”
Another event attendee, senior Nick DeCleene, met the Brodbecks his freshman year when they had just moved back to Hillsdale and Dean of Men Aaron Petersen asked DeCleene to help the couple with any household needs. DeCleene said Brodbeck was always friendly with him.
“The first time I got there, I addressed him as Dr. Brodbeck,” DeCleene said. “But he said, ‘Nick, it’s Bill. Can we work with that?’”
DeCleene said his relationship with the Brodbecks has been one of his favorite aspects of his time at college.
“Throughout the years, it has turned into such a dear friendship,” DeCleene said. “They are one of the most selfless couples I have ever met, and they have, in a sense, become my parents here.”
At the event, Brodbeck was presented with two gifts: the Freedom Leadership Award and a painting of the couple, made by Professor Emeritus of Art Samuel Knecht. Brodbeck was then given time for remarks of his own. Brodbeck said he has hope for the future of the college.
“I know that this college will only go forward and upward,” Brodbeck said.