After decades of faithful service to Hillsdale College as its Chairman of the Board of Trustees, William Brodbeck ’66 is stepping down and will be replaced by Vice Chairman Pat Sajak.
Unlike Brodbeck, Sajak — who is famous for running the TV show “Wheel of Fortune” — did not attend Hillsdale, though he’s served as Vice Chairman of the Board for 15 years. But Brodbeck said Sajak’s lack of a degree won’t hamper him at all.
“Pat is a brilliant mind. He brings a sound knowledge of the school,” Brodbeck said. “He can dramatically move Hillsdale forward, both on campus and around the country.”
And that’s what Sajak plans to do: He intends to keep Hillsdale on the path shaped by Brodbeck, Arnn, and the rest of the board, improving the “physical plant” of the school through renovations, and monitoring the academic standards it has set.
Sajak said he would like to see Hillsdale’s national reach continue to expand.
“Our funding comes from people who have never stepped foot on campus,” he said. “And that’s the challenge: the outreach.”
As Brodbeck prudently led the Board of Trustees for many years, Arnn said Sajak will do the same, with, perhaps, one difference: he’ll bring his wits.
“Pat is a man of calm and steady judgment, possessed also of a wicked wit. He is a man of selfless service, famous and yet not interested in celebrity, hilarious and yet serious. He knows the purposes of the college and is devoted to them,” Arnn said.
Brodbeck said he decided to step down from the chairmanship because he felt his time had come.
“I don’t want to be in the way,” he said. “It’s time for me to go and let Pat have this opportunity. And I can do it knowing he will fulfill his duty well.”
Brodbeck’s service to Hillsdale is one of inestimable worth, Arnn said.
“I have discouraged this successfully for a couple of years, but now he says, ‘It is time,’” Arnn said. “Of course he has lost his sight. In the face of that sore trial, he has been the brave and cheerful man, the high-minded and self-deprecating man, that I have known these 19 years. I think he makes but one mistake about his blindness, which is to think that it causes others inconvenience. It does not. Rather it gives others opportunity to repay in some small way the large kindnesses he spreads about himself wherever he goes.”
Sajak said he is thankful Brodbeck will continue to serve on the board, adding that he will continue to look to him for “wisdom and guidance.” Brodbeck said he isn’t planning on going anywhere, noting that he and his wife, Jan, will still live in Hillsdale and contribute what they can to the school.
“Our intent is to stay here as long as we’re useful,” he said. “We deeply adore this place.”
This transition has been about a year in the making, according to Sajak, who has spent more time on campus, sitting down with staff and students, to get a “closer look” at the school and better understand its “daily ins-and-outs.”
Since returning to Hillsdale to serve on the board in 1996, Brodbeck said he has seen the school grow and transform in tremendous ways. When former President George Roche III stepped down, Brodbeck spearheaded the effort to bring Larry Arnn, then the president of the Claremont Institute, to Hillsdale. Brodbeck guided the school through the transition and has since been apart of major changes on campus and around the country.
Under Brodbeck’s direction — though he credits the board’s action and Arnn’s vision — Hillsdale has renovated and built dozens of buildings on campus, developed the Washington D.C. Kirby Center, expanded the school’s online courses as well as Imprimis’ reach, which now arrives in the homes of nearly 6 million people nationwide.
“There’s no aspect of the school that hasn’t improved under their watch — under the vision of Arnn and the passion of Bill,” Sajak said.
Arnn recalled the day Brodbeck called him to ask if he’d come to Hillsdale, and said he wouldn’t have accepted if anyone else had asked.
“It matters very much to my life that he was the one who called me about this job,” Arnn said during his remarks at an event honoring the Brodbecks. “At a good college with a beautiful idea behind it, being the president is unique. And it would not be so except for the service of Bill Brodbeck.”
The number of chairmen at Hillsdale College, in its 175 years, has been small, and Sajak said it is the honor of a lifetime to be among them.
“I’m in an industry where we’re always patting each other on the backs for different awards we’ve won,” he said, “but this one is at the top of my list.”