John A. Burtka is ready to begin at his new position. Courtesy | John A. Burtka


John A. Burtka IV, a Hillsdale College class of 2012 alumnus, will become the next pres­ident of the Inter­col­le­giate Studies Institute, the orga­ni­zation announced Aug. 31.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to take the helm at ISI,” said Burtka, who will assume his new duties at the Wilm­ington, Del.-based orga­ni­zation on Sep­tember 21. “It’s the oldest insti­tution in the con­ser­v­ative intel­lectual movement, and its history, alumni, and campus are unparalleled.”

Founded in 1953 by con­ser­v­ative jour­nalist William F. Buckley, Jr., ISI seeks to acquaint college stu­dents with America’s founding prin­ciples and con­ser­v­ative thought through book pub­lishing, lec­tures, fel­low­ships, con­fer­ences, and other pro­gramming. Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn is a trustee.

Burtka recently served as exec­utive director at The American Con­ser­v­ative, a mag­azine based in Wash­ington, D.C.. Before that, he was a devel­opment asso­ciate at ISI. 

ISI Chairman of the Board Thomas Lynch praised Burtka as a “proven leader in the con­ser­v­ative intel­lectual movement.” 

Burtka credited Hillsdale College with preparing him for his new role. 

“Hillsdale pro­vided a holistic edu­cation in first prin­ciples and the per­manent things. I learned what it meant to be a human being and how to live well in com­munity, whether it be the family, the church, the work­place, or the polis,” Burtka said. 

Born and raised in Hillsdale County, Burtka double majored in French and Christian studies and served on the exec­utive board of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.

“My position on the exec­utive board of Delta Tau Delta gave me the prac­tical lead­ership skills needed to manage people, build a movement, and direct an orga­ni­zation,” he said. “It also was a boot camp in public rela­tions, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and diplomacy as I learned how to effec­tively rep­resent the fra­ternity on campus when inter­acting with other student groups and the administration.”

Burtka listed Assistant Pro­fessor of Religion Don West­blade and Temple Family Chair in English Lit­er­ature Stephen Smith as two of his favorite pro­fessors. Burtka described West­blade as an “intel­lectual mentor and spir­itual advisor,” and noted that Smith was a “friend and mentor.”

“John was a fine student here, always full of energy, zest and good cheer, with a certain gift for lead­ership,” Smith said in an email. “In Renais­sance lit­er­ature classes with me, he dis­played keen insights, an inter­dis­ci­plinary mind, and a remarkable spirit of friendship, civility, and service. ISI has made a won­derful choice for its next leader.”

“Outside of class, he made a valuable con­tri­bution to the college by helping lead the rebirth of the DTD fra­ternity with renewed com­mit­ments to service and spir­itual devel­opment,” West­blade said in an email. “Dinners with him and his brothers in their old Mont­gomery St house remain vivid mem­ories for me a decade later.”

After grad­u­ating from Hillsdale, Burtka enrolled in Faculté Jean Calvin in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, grad­u­ating with a graduate degree in the­ology in 2013.

When he returned to the United States, Burtka, inspired by his time in Pres­ident Arnn’s Aris­totle class and the “prac­tical necessity” of a job, decided that he wanted to make a real-world impact with his edu­cation, beginning as a devel­opment asso­ciate at ISI. “The friend­ships that I made at Hillsdale have been indis­pensable to advancing my career,” he said. “Rela­tion­ships are every­thing, and Hilllsdale alumni bend over back­wards to open doors for each other, espe­cially in D.C.”

Now back at ISI, Burtka expressed his desire to share the same prin­ciples and values that inspired him with stu­dents nationwide. “It’s a magical place, and I hope to share that magic with others for decades to come.” 

Burtka added that ISI is a “big tent con­ser­v­ative orga­ni­zation,” rather than tar­geting only sub-groups like lib­er­tarians or Kirkian traditionalists. 

“ISI should be the intel­lectual driver of con­ser­vatism in America,” Burtka said.