Alumni, students, faculty, and staff filled the Searle Center on Friday night to honor three distinguished alumni and an honorary alumnus at the 68th annual Alumni Awards Banquet.
The recipients: Tom Conner, Thomas Shafer ’81, Megan Lacy Owen ’07, and Kate Bachelder Odell ’13, are all leaders in their respective fields and were given a plaque and the opportunity to speak to the crowd.
Professor of History Tom Conner received two standing ovations while accepting his award as an honorary alumnus for his exceptional contributions to Hillsdale in his 36 years of teaching.
“I already have two alma maters where I actually had to fulfill the academic requirements,” Conner said. “Please believe me when I say that my third alma mater is the one I’m most proud of.”
Conner was listed in the 2012 Princeton Review’s “Best 300 Professors in the Nation” and has been voted Professor of the Year four times in his tenure at Hillsdale College.
“This is actually the most satisfying award I ever could have wished for,” Conner said, “because it bonds me to a place I’ve grown to love and admire deeply.”
A long line of students and alumni waited to take pictures and speak with Conner, or “Doc Conner” as he is known across campus.
“It was very humbling and amazing,” Conner said. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world and really felt it tonight.”
Kate Bachelder Odell received a Young Alumna Award, which recognizes a graduate from the last decade who excels in her field and is likely to build upon that early success. Her father accepted the award on her behalf, as she was in a Virginia hospital expecting she and her husband’s first child.
Odell is an editorial writer at the Wall Street Journal, where she covers topics such as taxes, healthcare, and domestic policy. Odell got her start in journalism at the college. She was a member of the Dow Journalism Program and served as the Opinions editor for The Collegian. Odell and her husband, Andrew, who serves in the Navy, met at Hillsdale.
“It was really an exciting honor to be given this award, especially since so much of my life I feel I owe to Hillsdale,” Odell said in a video played for the crowd. “It’s like receiving an award from someone who gave you everything you have.”
Odell moved to Hillsdale in the tenth grade when her father and Hillsdale College trustee, Chris Bachelder, accepted a position at the school. While she was apprehensive about attending the college at first, Odell grew to love Hillsdale.
“I’m overjoyed that she came here because she benefited so much,” Bachelder said.
Megan Lacy Owen, the second recipient of the Young Alumna Award, graduated in 2007 with a degree in history.
Owen went on to study at the University of Virginia School of Law and clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals. After moving to Washington, D.C., and practicing at a private firm, she served as an advisor to White House Counsel Don McGhan on Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. After his swearing in to the Supreme Court, Owen served as a law clerk for Justice Kavanaugh.
“It’s wonderful to be home,” Owen said at the banquet. “It’s wonderful to recall the generosity and kindness of so many people who were so formative to my life.”
Owen is one of seven graduates who have gone on to serve in the United States Supreme Court while Larry Arnn has been college president.. Arnn said he remembers Owen fondly.
“Megan is a special girl,”Arnn said. “She always has been.”
Thomas Shafer, recipient of the Outstanding Professional Achievements in Business award, graduated in 1981 and was honored for his success in the banking industry.
He serves as the president and CEO of Chemical Bank and has worked on 26 mergers and acquisitions.
Shafer met his wife, Mary, at Hillsdale and has been a supporter of the school for years.
“The school is living its mission every day wonderfully,” Shafer said. “The investment in the students, faculty, and campus create nothing but pride in alumni like myself.”
Shafer triple majored in economics, business administration, and political economy.
“I’m thrilled to be back on campus and honored to be here for this award,” Shafer said. “It’s a great weekend.”
The three distinguished individuals join a prestigious list of past alumni to receive the award. From banking to law, the former Chargers are using the lessons and skills acquired in the liberal arts education of Hillsdale College.
“I’m proud and I’m marveled,” Arnn said. “Look how they’ve grown up.”