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.”