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J. Peter Grace, chairman of Cit­izens Against
Gov­ernment Waste, spoke at a Shavano con­ference in 1990. Col­legian Archives

As this week’s Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives lecture series comes to a close, the CCA turns 47 years old.

Twice a semester, Hillsdale College hosts the CCA lec­tures. Each program con­sists of a four- to five-day lecture series during which experts speak on topics ranging from eco­nomics and human­ities to gov­ernment struc­tures, current events, and films.

In a December 1971 interview, George Roche III, the eleventh pres­ident of Hillsdale College, told Hillsdale’s Alumni Mag­azine about his plans for the new CCA program. The CCA launched in the fall of 1972.

In designing the CCA, Roche set big goals for the college’s position in both edu­cating and leading the stu­dents.

According to Don Houghton, who inter­viewed Roche for the Alumni Mag­azine, the CCAs “forecast a fresh and vig­orous program designed to advance the college still further in its sin­gular role of lead­ership, cit­i­zenship, respon­si­bility, and faith in our American

her­itage,” bringing some of the “great minds and per­son­al­ities of our time” right to Hillsdale’s campus.

But Roche didn’t create the CCA just for stu­dents. The stu­dents took the CCAs for credit, but this was the college’s first time designing a program that was required for stu­dents and also open to the public.

According to Public Service Librarian Linda Moore, stu­dents were all ini­tially required to take four CCA lecture series during their time at Hillsdale, but due to the expansion of the core and degree require­ments, the CCA requirement dropped down to two credit hours and is now one hour.

“Lots of donors do like to hear what’s being said on campus,” Moore said. “You want to have people know about the college and you want people to know about the phi­losophy of the college.”

Just 10 years after the first CCA lec­tures, Roche intro­duced another new lead­ership program: the Shavano Institute for National Lead­ership. SINL expanded the achievement of the CCA program and shared a par­allel mission but on a sep­arate track.

While the CCA program was designed to attract stu­dents and guests to Hillsdale College, Shavano was designed to share the mission of Hillsdale College with those who live farther away, bringing “a greater appeal to a large section of America,” according to a 1981 issue of The Col­legian.

The college orig­i­nally estab­lished NLS in Col­orado Springs, named after Mount Shavano. But only four years later, the college brought the program back to campus because of its large success. The goal was to inte­grate the program with the CCAs, and as a result of its relo­cation, SINL would hold “a series of sem­inars on campus and around the country” in order to enlarge the already increasing national fol­lowing, according to a 1985 edition of The Col­legian.

The change in location also brought a change of name. Around the time Roche retired, the program became known as the National Lead­ership Seminar. NLS presents around the nation, expanding upon SINL.

The first seminar began with 200 attendees, but since then, more than 20,000 indi­viduals have attended the program. In a 1981 edition of The Col­legian, Peter Nei­dbala ’82 said that the CCA was meant to “develop broad under­standing of con­ser­v­ative thought,” and both the CCAs and the NLS con­tinue to curate a space for these ideals.

Both of these pro­grams were con­sidered by many as radical insti­tu­tions for their time as they attempted not only “a new aca­demic departure, but a defense of tra­di­tional values in an age which is moving in the opposite direction” according to the Alumni Mag­azine in 1971.

In a 1972 edition of the Hillsdale Alumni Mag­azine, Bruce Oyen, former mag­azine editor, said this project is undoubtedly “an ambi­tious one.”

“The talent, support, and lead­ership for it exist,” Oyen said, “And Hillsdale College with its long record of inde­pen­dence is the proper aca­demic setting.”

While there are many college lecture series around the country, current Director of CCAs Matt Bell said, “the Hillsdale College CCA program is unique, not only because of its size and history, but also — and most impor­tantly — because it con­tinues to be guided by the original 1844 mission of the College.”