“Doc Conner” receives a standing ovation as he accepts the Hon­orary Alumnus Award. | Ben Wilson

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.”