Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said he wishes he had planned this 20 years ago. But he didn’t. It just came together that way.
On Thursday, Hillsdale College will celebrate the school’s 175th Anniversary with a gala, the dedication of Christ Chapel, and the launching of the Four Pillars capital campaign. The events will be attended by faculty, staff, students, and more than 800 visitors.
Not many colleges can really celebrate their anniversaries anymore, Arnn said, because they are not really the same institution their founders created them to be. Hillsdale, unlike other colleges, has not changed, but has developed and grown further into its mission.
“175 can only be meaningful if it’s the same,” Arnn said. “Old colleges aren’t what they were. It’s within human competence to change, but you can’t change the thing and expect it to be the same. 175 here means a lot, more than other places. And we had to mark the occasion.”
The gala, which began Wednesday morning, includes tours of campus and the John Anthony Halter Shooting Sports Education Center and a dramatization of the historical figures on the Liberty Walk. Lunches and dinners will feature lectures from historian Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Journalism Fellow Mollie Hemingway, author and journalist Mark Steyn, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Four Pillars Campaign Co-Chairman Pat Sajak, Vice President of the Board of Trustees and Four Pillars Campaign Co-Chairman Stephen Van Andel, and Arnn.
There are also presentations on the new classical education master’s program, the Barney Charter School Initiative, and a theatre department presentation of selections from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice.” Thursday night, the college symphony will perform after dinner with dancing to follow.
The events and presentation of the gala demonstrate some of the purposes of the Four Pillars campaign, which seeks to raise $686.85 million for the endowment by 2024. Péwé said the gala, in conjunction with the chapel dedication and campaign launch, provides the opportunity for donors and others to learn about the college’s other new efforts, like the Four Pillars campaign.
The Four Pillars are character, high learning, faith, and freedom, and they come from Hillsdale College’s founding documents, including the mission statement and the Articles of Association, according to Arnn.
Arnn said that while the actions and the way the college lives out its mission has changed, the mission itself remains the same.
“We’ve been talking about the Four Pillars for a long time. Dr. Arnn’s always talked about the Articles of Association, the type of education we provide, and what that education is built on and what it is for is really character, faith, and freedom,” Péwé said. “It made sense the capital campaign be named the Four Pillars because that resonated with everybody.”
The $686.85 million raised from the campaign will fund various college needs. $260.2 million will fund undergraduate and graduate scholarships, $201.7 million will go to general operations including campus improvements, classroom materials, and student extracurricular activities. Program endowments will receive $121.6 million with 20 million going to the development of online education. The remaining $103.3 will go towards capital projects including new dormitories and student professional development. It will also help for some beautification and restoration projects around campus, like fixing the back of Central Hall and the Dow Hotel and Conference Center.
“The key to raising money is to remember you don’t,” Arnn said. “A lot of people think you talk people into it, but most Americans have a charitable impulse. If you reach widely enough, lots will like what you do.”
The last fundraising campaign raised $250 million from more than 400 million gifts, Arnn said. He initially announced the beginning of this campaign at the 2019 commencement ceremony.
“We hope that even though it’s a big crowd, the college is in a position where it can advance those four pillars and sustain the college long term,” Péwé said. “This is a big deal. It’s important for the long term of the college to be stronger and better and solidify the curriculum and fund as many scholarships as possible.”
Péwé added that while the events and construction impact students now, the end result is important for perpetuating Hillsdale College and its mission.
“I know it’s happening around the students, and the quad is gone, but when it comes back it will be glorious. It’s important for the long term of the college.”
Arnn said the chapel’s architect, Duncan Stroik, said a chapel like Christ Chapel has not been built on a college campus for decades. The chapel was built in a classical style with pillars, white walls, and dark wood fixings on the walls that point toward the altar.
“There’s not a bad seat in the house,” Arnn said.
While meeting with Stroik and others to discuss the design of the building, Arnn insisted the exterior complements the rest of the buildings on campus.
“Classical is right, and right means to fit its purposes. It’s directional and transcendent, but fits this campus. It needs to look like it goes here,” Arnn said. “I’ve been effacing the red buildings ever since I’ve been here. All the buildings should look like Central Hall, duh.”
The structure, Arnn said, was larger than Central Hall, and therefore proposed challenges in proportionality and height to other buildings on campus. To make the chapel proportional to Central Hall, designers decided to include two shorter spires at the front of the building.
To account for costs, Stroik mentioned that one way to save money would be to eliminate the second-floor balcony seating. But Arnn said he was partial to it, and kept them, because they make the interior look “powerful.”
The chapel currently has one of its organs, but the larger organ, which will be fixed to the back wall, will be completed within two or three years.
“The chapel fits the purpose of faith, high learning about God be it in the pagan or Christian way,” Arnn said.