When students in Hillsdale College President Larry Arrn’s Nicomachean Ethics course walked into Broadlawn for class last Monday, they had no idea they’d get to see an artifact most would only see behind plexiglass at a museum — one from the time of Aristotle.
Before the start of class, Arnn revealed to students and a few special guests a 2200-year-old Grecian urn, which President’s Club members Charles and Anne Koch donated to the college.
“Chuck does sweet things. He thinks it’s beautiful and he wants us to have it,” Arnn said.
The Kochs, who live in Florida, have been friends of the college since the late ’80s. Since then, they have donated financially to the college and the Barney Charter School Initiative and given gifts like a model fishing ship and black walnut wooden carvings of the four seasons for Hillsdale Academy.
Their latest gift depicts the Greek god Dionysus, the god of wine, vegetation, festivity, and pleasure; a satyr, the lustful, drunken, half-horse-half-man figure of Greek mythology; and dancing maenads, Dionysus’ groupies.
When Koch purchased the urn from a friend and collector in Florida, he built a carrying crate and packaging for the artifact. He and his wife then drove the urn from their home in Citra, Florida to Hillsdale in an RV to keep it safe. He also asked a friend, who has a Ph.D. in ancient pottery, to confirm the urn’s authenticity.
Alongside the Kochs, Arnn presented the urn to his class on Aristotle’s Ethics, which meets in the dining room of his home at Broadlawn.
“It was really incredible to be able to see the history and literature that we learn at Hillsdale come together in a piece of art,” senior Ben Dietderich, who witnessed the unveiling, said. “It demonstrated in a physical sense the true beauty of our education.”
Koch said he wanted to give the urn to Hillsdale because of what the school preserves and stands for.
“I feel what the school is doing is very important to our society and our future society as we move forward,” Koch said. “I’m always looking for things that I can do to help along the way.”
Koch, who is now retired, worked as a designer. His company designed the interiors of museums, public buildings, and corporate lobbies, as well as a few Association of Tennis Professionals facilities across the country. Koch said he looks at space dimensionally and thinks dimensional pieces have something to offer to students that’s different from 2D items like papers and books.
“When I see a problem or situation where I would like to help the communication between students and professors, I see not so much in written books that are printed, but I’m looking for something dimensional to help bring the message to the students,” Koch said. “They were talking about Aristotle, and one of the things the professors like to talk about is our history and the start of the founding today.”
As a future display place for the urn, Arnn said that the school is looking to build a storehouse for its collection of artifacts — including a collection of Winston Churchill’s letters, Sir Martin Gilbert’s papers, and a cross carved by artist Frederick Hart — in Hayden Park. Some of these artifacts would, Arnn said, be on display in the Dow Hotel once the building is renovated.
“It was given to the school to be used as a visual teaching and communications device so that the professors for years to come can use it to talk about the daily life and times back then of what people were doing,” Koch said.