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There’s a growing Hillsdale alumni com­munity in Louisville, KY.
Courtesy | Annie Ingham

In the last three years, Hillsdale’s alumni pop­u­lation in Louisville grew from two to 17.

After a belated com­mencement this July, Lauren Blunt, Nate Mes­siter, Annie Ingham, Nick Uram, Lukas Swenson, and Patrick Votel were the most recent group of Hillsdale grad­uates to join the Ken­tucky com­munity. Shelby and Andrew Lohman ’19, Chloe Rijke ’19, Bobbie Briggs ’19, Mark Compton ’19, and Eliz­abeth Blake ’19, all already called Ken­tucky their home, fol­lowing in the foot­steps of Reuben Blake ’18, Faith Liebing ’18, and Rebecca Willis ’18.

Why Ken­tucky? For all but Briggs, Votel, and Andrew Lohman, the answer was High­lands Latin, a clas­sical Christian school in Louisville that was founded in the early 2000s for the purpose of teaching Latin to home­schooled stu­dents. The school even­tually grew to be what it is today, with ele­mentary, middle, and high schools all staffed with at least one teacher who grad­uated from Hillsdale. 

The school, which Blunt, Ingham, and Mes­siter said they first encoun­tered at the clas­sical school job fair on campus, hired five Hillsdale grad­uates this spring, including Uram and Swenson. 

“I just fell in love with High­lands,” Blunt said. “It wasn’t so much that I wanted to be in Ken­tucky in par­ticular, but I really felt a con­nection with the school. When I found out three of my closest friends were looking at having jobs here too, it seemed like a dream that was too good to be true.”

Now sharing a downtown Louisville apartment with one of her best friends, Ingham, and with Mes­siter, Swenson, and Votel bunking together close by, the dream did come true for Blunt, she said. 

“It’s hard to get to know new people right now because of coro­n­avirus, so it’s espe­cially nice to have that group of people to come back to,” Blunt said. “Some­times Annie and I will go and hang out with the boys on weekends. Whether it’s just the five of us hanging out or whether we try to get the whole group of friends together, it’s cool to take these friends and people who I kind of knew in college and get to know them in a new way down here.”

Some Hillsdale tra­di­tions — like vol­leyball and Sunday brunch — never change, even in a new locale. Ingham said the 2020 grads have gotten together for a handful of post-church feasts at her and Blunt’s apartment, con­tinuing the custom. 

“Those were nice because it felt a lot like a Sunday brunch at Hillsdale,” Ingham said. “They’re long, we talk about similar things that we talk about there — in part because we just have that shared back­ground and expe­rience.” 

Ingham added that she did not nor­mally brunch with this group prior to moving to Ken­tucky.

More recently, a large group of Hillsdale alumni joined together for a game of vol­leyball.

“That was like we were all out at Hayden Park again,” Shelby Lohman said. 

Before 2018, only two Hillsdale stu­dents taught at High­lands Latin School: Kyle and Vanessa Janke, 2008 grad­uates. Kyle Janke still teaches at High­lands, while Vanessa Janke is taking the year off while they have their fourth child, Shelby Lohman said. 

Even in 2019, when Shelby decided to join the growing cluster of alumni at High­lands, it was because her husband Andrew was going to graduate school for aqua­culture and aquatic sci­ences at Ken­tucky State Uni­versity — though she added having Liebing around, already one of her close friends, was a plus. 

Though the Lohmans live in Frankfurt, nearly 40 minutes from the rest of the alumni in Louisville, Shelby said this is not always a bad thing.

“In a way, it’s nice that we’re a bit dis­tanced from the rest of the Hillsdale kids — well, it’s a double-edged sword,” Shelby said. “But it forces us to do things outside of spending time with Hillsdale people. It’s not like we were at Hillsdale for four years and now we’re basi­cally still at Hillsdale. We’ve made friends with other stu­dents at KSU where Andrew goes to school, and in the com­munity. I think if we were in such close prox­imity, there would be less incentive to do that. You tend to cling to what you know.”

This year, the Hillsdale com­munity truly began to burgeon. For­merly, all the other Hillsdale teachers were in the middle and ele­mentary schools save Shelby. Now, Uram, Swenson, and Mes­siter are also teaching at the high school, and Willis has also moved from the lower to the upper school, which Lohman said she has really enjoyed. 

“I think I’ve talked to Nick more in the last month or so than I did in all four years of Hillsdale,” Lohman said.

Many of the alumni now in Louisville were also orig­i­nally from the Midwest, Ingham pointed out — the Lohmans, Uram, Blunt, and Mes­siter from Michigan, Swenson from Min­nesota, Votel from Min­nesota, and Ingham from Ohio. This has led to a few not-in-Kansas-anymore moments for Ingham, she said, such as when a local woman shared about driving to Toledo, Ohio, Ingham’s hometown. 

“She said she felt claus­tro­phobic with all the corn­fields,” Ingham said, laughing. “I feel just the opposite. I miss having more fields. In Louisville, there’s a lot of con­crete. I miss that aspect of the Midwest.”

For Mes­siter, the moment was when a group of Hillsdale grad­uates decided to watch the Ken­tucky Derby together, which was post­poned to Sep­tember due to COVID-19. Having never par­tic­i­pated in the 145-year-old horse racing tra­dition, Mes­siter said they had no idea the race itself would be so short. 

“None of us are from Ken­tucky, so there was a little con­fusion about there being seven hours of buildup for the 90-second-long race,” Mes­siter said. “We’re still trying to figure out Ken­tucky.”

The Lohmans said they didn’t attend the derby watch-party, but have def­i­nitely “come to appre­ciate bourbon a lot more” since moving to the blue­grass state. 

Andrew Lohman said his wife also occa­sionally picks up the southern accent or man­nerisms. 

“Andrew still sounds like a Michi­gander, on the other hand,” Shelby replied.