Conner is the best person to share parting words of wisdom as both he and the class of 2020 move on from Hillsdale College. COURTESY | Hillsdale College

Many stu­dents compare his deep and booming baritone to the voice of God. And after nearly 37 years of teaching, Pro­fessor of History Tom Conner is one of the most beloved pro­fessors on campus. 

Gen­er­a­tions of Hillsdale stu­dents have had the priv­ilege of learning from “Doc” Conner, but the class of 2020 has the honor of leaving Hillsdale College alongside this great pro­fessor as Conner will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. As Conner leaves Hillsdale after a dis­tin­guished career and years of ded­i­cation to Hillsdale’s student body, he is the best choice to address the grad­u­ating class. 

Hillsdale could invite many note­worthy and famous figures to speak at the 2020 com­mencement cer­emony. Other speakers might have wisdom to offer, but they cannot offer decades of knowing and teaching Hillsdale stu­dents. As someone who truly under­stands and values Hillsdale and its stu­dents, Conner is the best person to share parting words of wisdom as both he and the class of 2020 move on from Hillsdale College. 

Since his days as an under­graduate at Eliz­a­bethtown College, Conner desired to teach history at the college level. So, he joined the Hillsdale College faculty in 1983, just after he fin­ished his doc­toral program at the Uni­versity of North Car­olina. Though the primary focus of his graduate studies was the diplo­matic and political history of modern Europe, Conner has held many dif­ferent posi­tions at the college including director of admis­sions, dean of faculty, and history department chair. But in his final years at the college, he has gladly returned to teaching history full-time. 

Conner has received many awards and recog­ni­tions throughout his years of teaching. Stu­dents and faculty chose him as “Pro­fessor of the Year” in 1989, 1999, 2008, and 2016. In 2012, “The Princeton Review” ranked him as one of the best 300 pro­fessors in the country. Conner was also awarded the William P. Harris Chair in Mil­itary History in 2006. 

Besides his accom­plish­ments as a pro­fessor, Conner is also known for his sincere love for stu­dents. As the fourth child in my family to have Conner as a pro­fessor, I can testify to his devotion to his stu­dents as Conner has taken time to get to know my whole family over the years. 

After a long career of working for the college, in Sep­tember 2019, Hillsdale gave Conner an hon­orary alumnus award, hon­oring his decades of devotion to Hillsdale and its stu­dents. He received two standing ova­tions when he accepted his award in the Searle Center.  

“I already have two alma maters where I actually had to fulfill the aca­demic require­ments,” Conner told the Col­legian. “Please believe me when I say that my third alma mater is the one I’m most proud of.” 

As a faculty member 17 years before Larry Arnn became pres­ident of Hillsdale College, Conner has seen Hillsdale evolve and has been a part of thou­sands of stu­dents’ edu­cation and lives. With these decades of expe­rience, there are few who under­stand Hillsdale and truly know its student body better than Conner. He has seen 36 grad­u­ating classes work hard at Hillsdale and move into adulthood. He has spent much of his time with the student body, whether in the classroom, at ath­letic events, at con­certs, or in Europe. There are few who could say they know the stu­dents of Hillsdale better than Conner.