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An aerial view of Central Hall and Chapel Hill. Sheila Butler | Courtesy

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.