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Wilfred McClay is the author of the “Land of Hope” American history
textbook. Courtesy | Hillsdale College Mar­keting Department

Hillsdale College’s history department will gain a pres­ti­gious new faculty member next fall: Wilfred M. McClay.

Cur­rently the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the Uni­versity of Oklahoma, McClay will make the move to Hillsdale fol­lowing the end of the spring 2021 semester.

“My expe­rience with Hillsdale is of an extra­or­dinary com­munity, built upon a shared love of the highest and noblest things,” McClay said in an email. “That too is van­ish­ingly rare, and I count myself blessed to have the oppor­tunity to share the life of that com­munity, and I hope to con­tribute some­thing good and lasting to it.”

According to McClay, the dis­cussion of joining Hillsdale’s faculty began over the summer of 2019 when he came to campus for a week to film lec­tures for his online course on American History. After some per­suasion and paperwork, McClay is now set to begin teaching the American Her­itage courses this fall, but may expand beyond that in fol­lowing semesters.

Already well known as a public intel­lectual, McClay gained addi­tional promi­nence last year after pub­lishing “Land of Hope: An Invi­tation to the Great American Story.” The history textbook serves as an alter­native to socialist thinker Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” which has been used in high-school class­rooms across the country since the 1980s, as well as the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which seeks to “reframe” the country’s history by dating America’s founding to the arrival of the first slave ship in 1619, rather than Inde­pen­dence Day.

McClay said his book aims to teach a full, unbiased account of America’s story: extolling its virtues, con­fronting its dark times, and instilling a sense of patri­otism in stu­dents. “Land of Hope” is now the standard textbook for Hillsdale’s American Her­itage courses and is used in several Barney Charter Schools throughout the nation. McClay’s work has also caught the attention of the Trump admin­is­tration. In Sep­tember, he was a pan­elist on the White House Con­ference on American History, which took place on Con­sti­tution Day, and was mod­erated by Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn.

“Bill McClay’s textbook answers a great need,” Arnn said. “It’s really hard to write a good textbook and it’s hard to get people who are com­petent to do it. That’s not what their first instinct is to write. And then darned if Bill McClay didn’t just produce one. And then by some coin­ci­dence, he ends up working here. How’d that happen?”

Pro­fessor of History and Russell Amos Kirk Chair in American Studies Bradley Birzer said it is a “thrill” to have McClay join the faculty, describing him as “one of the greats.”

“He’s as kind as a person as he is bril­liant as a scholar,” Birzer said. “His work on American culture and indi­vid­u­alism is really out­standing and unpar­al­leled in breadth as well as depth. Addi­tionally, his recent book, ‘Land of Hope,’ places him firmly within the pan­theon of American history demigods. We are truly blessed on a pro­fes­sional as well as on a per­sonal level.”

McClay said there’s a lot to look forward to about coming to Hillsdale.

“Oh, where do I begin?” he mused. “I have always been impressed by the caliber of Hillsdale stu­dents, and that will be a big, big plus for me. It’s also going to be a pleasure to teach in an insti­tution that has such an intel­ligent and well-inte­grated program. I am looking forward to working with some great col­leagues in the history department, and other members of the Hillsdale faculty, many of them people I’ve known and admired for years.”

Above all, however, McClay said he admires Hillsdale’s ded­i­cation to its purpose.

“I am excited to be a part of an insti­tution that has held fast to the most fun­da­mental mission of higher edu­cation, at a time when others have lost their way entirely,” he said.