Look up “Rush Limbaugh Hillsdale College” and the first thing that pops up is Hillsdale’s “Rush Limbaugh Challenge,” where you can take a Supreme Court quiz and get a free pocket Constitution from the college.
The long-time Hillsdale College supporter and radio talk show host died Wednesday, Feb. 16, after a battle with stage 4 lung cancer. Limbaugh was 70 years old.
Over the last 40 years, Limbaugh became one of the most influential voices on talk radio. At the height of his popularity, Limbaugh had a weekly audience of 15.5 million listeners.
Last year, former President Donald Trump surprised Limbaugh in his State of the Union speech by awarding him the Medal of Freedom.
Hillsdale College Professor of Theatre James Brandon wrote his doctoral dissertation at Bowling Green State University on Limbaugh and his interactions with his audience.
“There was certainly a natural charisma there. There was confidence. He made things very simple for his audience,” Brandon said. “He had a knack for taking a complex political argument or debate, and sort of boiling it down, often in a humorous or sarcastic way, that was easy to understand.”
In 2008, Limbaugh spoke at Hillsdale College’s Churchill Dinner in Washington, D.C., receiving the Freedom Leadership Award. College President Larry Arnn released a statement on the college’s Facebook following the announcement of Limbaugh’s passing.
“My friend Rush Limbaugh, who died today, was a force of nature. More than any other individual, he was responsible for breaking the Left’s media monopoly,” Arnn wrote. “His voice on the radio, where he has promoted Hillsdale College for more than 10 years, will never be equaled.”
Scot Bertram, general manager of WRFH, the campus radio station, said Limbaugh saved AM radio. Politics were the center of Limbaugh’s show, and future stories surrounding him will focus on that aspect, but above all, Limbaugh was a talent, he said.
“He was an expert entertainer, above all else,” Bertram said. “The most important part of the show, why it was so successful for so long, was that it was flat-out entertaining. Rush knew when to inform. He knew when to entertain. He knew when to poke fun at the opposition. He knew how to work the audience. You know how to work the clock. He knew how to hold an audience through a segment and over break all those things but most importantly he was an entertainer.”
Junior Zac Ailes said he knew Limbaugh well. The radio host called himself Ailes’ “older brother” and mentored him on many matters, including where to attend college.
“Rush was a true friend to those in need, a patriot, and one of the kindest hearted people I’ve ever known,” Ailes said. “This country suffered a tremendous loss today and he’ll be missed by so many.”