‘Neath Banners of White and Blue

By Cal McNellie

Cars with license plates from far-off states fill the campus parking lots. Young families with strollers in hand mingle with distinguished alumni wearing vintage Hillsdale gear. Old jokes, happy memories, and stories of new adventures fill the air; White and Blue Weekend has begun. 

On May 20-23, 2021, nearly 250 Hillsdale alumni and their guests spanning the decades were welcomed back to campus to celebrate the first White and Blue Weekend. On Thursday evening, returning alumni settled in, connected, and relaxed with a pizza dinner, drinks, and a bonfire at Hillsdale’s beautiful Hayden Park. Friday morning, Drs. Tom Conner, Gary Wolfram, Kelly Franklin, former professor John Willson, Joe Garnjobst, and Professor Don Westblade presented on their favorite topics, transporting alumni back to their days as students. Food trucks, a carnival, tours of campus, and a barbeque with a live band finished off the day. Don Westblade,

Saturday morning was filled with special presentations from Dr. Peter Jennings and Associate Dean of Men Jeffery “Chief” Rogers on the heroic wartime history of Hillsdale students. Lunch included a presentation by Dr. Mark Kalthoff on the importance of the liberal arts. Alumni then had the opportunity to tour the ever-growing John Anthony Halter Shooting Sports Education Center with Rangemaster Bart Spieth, and some even took a few shots at the trap field. The Halter Center has only been a part of Hillsdale since 2008, so this was the first look at the impressive facility for many alumni. 

Saturday evening, guests enjoyed beer, wine, and hand-rolled cigar tents before the Alumni Awards Banquet. At this special ceremony, the Hillsdale College Alumni Board and President Larry Arnn honored four alumni who exemplify what it means to be a Hillsdale College graduate through their dedication to service and ethical leadership in their various fields. Kevin Meyers, ’09, received the Young Alumnus Achievement Award. Brent Ogle, ’02, and Dale Allen, ’81, both received Distinguished Alumnus Awards. Marianne Rotole, ’95, received the Tower Award. It was only fitting to celebrate these powerful examples of the best of Hillsdale with a banquet of their peers and their families. 

To finish the weekend, alumni attended a Sunday service in Christ Chapel led by Dr. Ken Calvert. This was the first time many alumni saw the Chapel and its beautiful interior, so to celebrate in such a profound space on campus was a special experience for all. 

When talking to the more than 250 alumni who attended the weekend, the reaction was similarly positive. Recent graduate Braden VanDyke was excited to be back on campus. “Hillsdale alumni always want to come back to Hillsdale College, and this event gave them the perfect opportunity and space to do so,” he said. Despite graduating only a few weeks before, VanDyke still enjoyed the experience and relished the new perspective. “The weekend as a whole was what I had expected it to be and more. As a recent alumnus, I’m keenly aware of the types of events the College can put on. However, this event still exceeded my expectations, and I could tell it did so for the older alumni as well.” VanDyke hopes this event will become a Hillsdale tradition. “There is no doubt that I will continue to attend Hillsdale alumni events in the future,” he said.

Executive Director of Alumni Relations Colleen McGinness was extremely pleased with the first White and Blue Weekend. “While my expectations were definitely not low, the event far exceeded any expectations I had,” McGinness said. “My team pulled together a fantastic event, and our staff throughout campus partnered with us to create a wonderful, fun, and memorable weekend for alumni.”

Of course, the best part of any Alumni Weekend is seeing those who called Hillsdale home years ago return to campus and rekindle the relationships forged here. McGinness and the Alumni Relations staff cherished the opportunity to see alumni reconnecting and getting to know their beautiful families. “It’s the people,” McGinness added, echoing the sentiment of so many others. Due to its smashing success, the College has already set a date for White and Blue Weekend for next year, May 19-22, 2022.

Calvin McNellie, ’21, studies finance and politics. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio. A member of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and the Hillsdale College football team, Calvin’s interests include politics, fitness, woodworking, and jean shorts. He considers himself extremely blessed to be a student at Hillsdale College and a citizen of the greatest nation in the world.

Published in June 2021