The Senior Capstone is a Beautiful Gift
Written by Paul Kearney
I’d already taken over fifty credits for Hillsdale’s Core requirements, some of which I excelled in, and others which challenged me from start to finish. As I have endured and (mostly) conquered, it is nice to have a refresher of the Core’s values as I embark upon my senior year.
Yet, when I think back, I remember where I sat in each one of those classes. I remember whether or not the professor’s voice was a drawl or engaging. As I take the final steps of my senior year, I can’t help but ask myself why I remembered all of my classes. Not only that, but what did I remember about them?
They’re easy questions to answer. I remember Dr. Miles Smith’s southern accent and jokes as he guided us through the main ideas of Western Heritage. I don’t remember most of the documents we covered, yet I remember the values we discussed, like character and its relation to self-government. I remember Great Books with Dr. Kelly Franklin, as I listened to him talk about his love for his daughter as well as discuss Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” I remember how he took a moment of silence before each class and the sense of peace that followed.
The list goes on. Each class gave me something different, whether through the content I was taught or in the values the professors portrayed.
I didn’t know until I took the Senior Capstone just how much I’ve learned during my four years here. Dr. David Stewart presented the Capstone to us History Majors through a series of six lectures, each covering a different document from the Western Heritage textbook. In these documents, we revisited old ideas that I had almost forgotten about from classes like Western Heritage. As the first Core class most students take, we discuss ideas such as: are there limits to believing anything we want? Is self-control the mark of a good ruler? Does it matter if rights come from government or tradition? As Hillsdale students, we often discuss these ideas during our freshman or sophomore years, but we must be wary of the dangerous tendency to overlook them as our classes become more specific or our majors less philosophical.
College President Larry Arnn delivered four additional lectures to the entire senior class. The lectures each covered four of Hillsdale’s principle values: learning, character, freedom, and God. While it was my first time hearing these lectures, it came as an interesting revelation to me when I realized that these ideas were nothing new. When Dr. Arnn defined a person with good character as someone who, “when things are hard, they will do the right thing at cost to themselves,” I knew he was “correct.” I’d seen it play out a million times before. In fact, it’s been completely integrated into my life at Hillsdale, whether in my classes or interactions with fellow students.
I had seen men do the right thing at great cost to themselves within the halls of Simpson Residence during my freshman year. When struggles met young men in Simpson, my RAs would stay up for hours helping or talking to them, sacrificing sleep and their own studies. It came out in my Great Books 1 class through Dr. Franklin’s very demeanor. He patiently waited for us to offer explanations for literature passages, then would smile and say, “I like that,” and proceed to explain to us why we were wrong. He was gracious and kind, even in the midst of frustrated freshmen struggling to grasp Dante.
The same goes for learning, freedom, and God. In the Capstone class, Dr. Arnn did not teach us anything new; he cemented old ideas into our minds so that we can bring them with us outside the walls of Hillsdale College.
The Capstone has given the senior class a beautiful opportunity. Many of us have completed the Core, or at least its most foundational classes such as Western Heritage, Great Books 1 & 2, Philosophy, and Western Theological Tradition. Our chances to discuss the ideas from these courses have come to pass within the classroom, and for many, they risk the threat of laying idle upon our graduation. Hillsdale College has ensured through the Capstone that this is not the case.
As a senior taking his last few courses at Hillsdale, I know this class will propel me into the “real world” equipped with a love for learning, a solid character, a sense of freedom, and the desire to follow God. While it will be difficult to employ these ideals in a society that tends to undervalue them, Hillsdale’s motto serves as my guide through all walks of life: “Strength rejoices in the challenge.”
Paul Kearney, ’20, is a history major local to Hillsdale, MI. You can find him reading, listening to indie music, or preparing for his next road trip while he procrastinates on term papers.
Published in January 2020