Stu­dents look forward to Don Tocco coming to campus every year. Courtesy | Col­legian Archives

“I feel good!” chanted a roomful of stu­dents from Greek Houses and college-spon­sored clubs. “I feel great! Look out world, I am coming for you!” 

In front of the crowd stood Don Tocco, bene­factor of the college and one of its most dynamic annual vis­itors, who gave his annual speech to the student body on Nov. 5. 

At the beginning of his speech, stu­dents were given copies of Tocco’s “There are no Grades in the Real World,” a pam­phlet that empha­sizes the impor­tance of a good attitude, bet­tering yesterday’s best, coura­geous action, deter­mi­nation, and enthu­siasm for achieving success outside of school. 

Tocco also recounted lessons from his meetings with several prominent American busi­nessmen and high­lighted their strategies for success. 

While he spoke about these busi­nessmen, Tocco encouraged stu­dents to chant, “I feel good. I feel great. Look out world, I am coming for you!” to remind them of the impor­tance of a good attitude. 

Sophomore Aly Janke, who was in atten­dance, said Tocco’s speech res­onated with her. 

“I felt very empowered to start making a dif­ference in my life and actively work on my future goals,” Janke said.

Tocco also dis­cussed stu­dents’ reac­tions to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the spring 2020 semester, Tocco asked several on-campus Greek houses and student orga­ni­za­tions to write essays that detailed per­sonal changes made as a result of the pan­demic, lessons learned because of the virus, and advice they would offer to younger students.

Tocco read stu­dents’ essays and summed up his “2020 Tocco Chal­lenge Essay” easily.

“While reading your amazing essays, I find myself being touched by your genuine sac­ri­fices, courage, com­passion, cre­ativity and faith in God,” Tocco said in a letter. “I can hon­estly say that this time you [Hillsdale College stu­dents] have been my teacher and inspiration!”

Tocco reported that the most fre­quent adjust­ments for stu­dents were dealing with the hard­ships of online classes, over­coming iso­lation, read­justing to a family setting with many dis­trac­tions, and missing the estab­lished outlets for socializing. 

“The lessons learned and advice you offer could fill a book,” Tocco said.“COVID-19 has given you an extracur­ricular activity for which will receive no grade, but will reap sub­stantive harvest from the learning process.” 

These lessons, Tocco said, included not real­izing how good things are until they’re gone, learning the true impor­tance of family, and dis­cov­ering how important friend­ships are. 

During his time on campus, Tocco empha­sized his belief in America’s goodness, its founding prin­ciples, and how he wants to support Hillsdale stu­dents as they protect these values.

One way of offering this support will be in his Don Tocco Challenge. 

Fol­lowing the speech, Tocco announced that he will bring back the com­pe­tition, where he will compete against stu­dents to raise funds for student organizations. 

Tocco said he will par­tic­ipate in free throw com­pe­ti­tions, baseball and chess matches with stu­dents as part of the competition. 

He gave some stu­dents an early oppor­tunity to face off fol­lowing his speech. 

Sports Complex employee and senior Emma Matheson was on the court to witness Tocco’s skills.

“He was killing it,” Matheson said. “He was very con­fident in his capa­bil­ities and was demol­ishing all the students.”