The Blake Centerfor Faith and Freedom
The Blakes’ Enduring Gift & Legacy
The Blakes’ decision to donate their property on Hall Hill Road to Hillsdale College, including the replica of Monticello they built, will benefit the Somers community and help cement their legacy as generous philanthropists. The College plans to establish the Blake Center for Faith and Freedom at Monticello.
The Blakes will leave a substantial endowment to ensure that the Blake Center has the funds needed to operate in perpetuity.
Four Pillars Campaign
Hillsdale College was founded in 1844 by Free-Will Baptists with four purposes:
- Learning: to provide "sound learning"
- Character: to "improve the hearts" of its students
- Faith: to maintain by "precept and example the essentials of the Christian faith and religion"
- Freedom: to perpetuate "the inestimable blessings resulting from the prevalence of civil and religious liberty
Christ Chapel Dedication
The recently-completed Christ Chapel provides Hillsdale and its students a venue of religious and academic cermonies. It was designed by Notre Dame architect Duncan Stroik and took more than two years to complete. A chapel of its size and beauty has not been built in the United States in two generations.
Hillsdale CollegeWashington, D.C., Campus
Hillsdale College’s presence in Washington, D.C., extends the College’s educational mission to the nation’s capital by teaching and promoting the principles and practice of American constitutionalism. Hillsdale in D.C. seeks to inspire and form students, citizens, practitioners, and statesmen, who will restore America’s principles and revive self-government in the political life of our nation.
Rockwell Lake Lodge
The Rockwell Lake Lodge, a 16,000-square-foot retreat and conference facility, is part of Hillsdale College’s George H. Gordon Biological Station. The lodge consists of ten private, custom-furnished guest suites housing up to 40 occupants, dining and conference rooms, and a large deck area. The lodge is open to the public and may be reserved for events such as family outings and reunions, business meetings, conferences, and camps. It also allows visitors to experience a variety of educational programs offered at the station.
A Brief History of Religious Identity
Michigan Central College is founded by Free Will Baptists “grateful to God for the inestimable blessings resulting from the prevalence of civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety in the land.”
The Michigan State Legislature passes an act to incorporate Michigan Central College, which included a religious toleration clause: “No person shall be excluded from any privilege, immunity or situation in said college on account of his religious opinions.”
Edmund Burke Fairfield becomes president of Michigan Central College. An ordained minister, he served as a pastor at several New England churches before accepting a call to lead the College. He continues to preach and lecture during his 21 years as president.
The Michigan State Board of Visitors report of Michigan Central College states: “In the compositions of the young ladies, and the orations of the young gentlemen (as well as in the papers of the literary societies), some of which we have never seen surpassed, we were gratified to see so many good moral and religious sentiments inculcated.”
The Board of Trustees votes to move Michigan Central College to Hillsdale and rename it Hillsdale College.
College Baptist Church’s permanent building is dedicated. The congregation was established in 1855 by Edmund Fairfield but met in the Hillsdale College chapel until the permanent church was completed. Hillsdale College professors and presidents, including Ransom Dunn and Edmund Fairfield, pastored the church in its early years and have continued to supply the pulpit when needed in more recent years.
Hillsdale College establishes the first theological school in the state of Michigan.
A fire destroys a majority of the College’s original building. The Board of Trustees resolves to rebuild. On August 18, 1874, at a cornerstonelaying ceremony, College administrators place the Bible from the 1853 cornerstone in the new structure as well as a prayer.
Due to instability within the Free Will Baptist denomination, Hillsdale College disaffiliates amicably with the denomination, reinforcing its founding mission of religious liberty as articulated in its mission statement. Incidentally, being a member of the Free Will Baptist Church had never been a consideration for admission or employment at the College.
The Board of Trustees passes a resolution declaring Hillsdale’s independence from federal subsidies and affirming the College’s religious purpose: “Acknowledging that the possibility of failure is a concomitant of independence, the trustees place their trust in God and in the dedication and generosity of students, alumni, and friends who share their views. With this help, and through their own continuing efforts, they are confident that the principles to which the College is dedicated will continue to be available to young men and women seeking Christian higher education.”
Hillsdale launches the Center for Constructive Alternatives (CCA) lecture series. The CCA, which continues to this day, brings in well-known scholars and figures in fields such as economics, politics, journalism, and theology. CCAs are intended to emphasize the moral, philosophical, and spiritual underpinnings of the free society in an academic setting.
Student-led faith organizations on campus, such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, provide opportunities for fellowship, service, and personal growth among students and have always had a place on campus. InterVarsity joined the roster of student activities in Hillsdale in the 1970s. Many other faith-based organizations have been initiated by students.
The Board of Trustees passes a resolution stating the College’s refusal to comply with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s Title IX requirements. Once again, the board reiterates its reliance on God: “Resolved further, That Hillsdale College will, to the extent of its meager resources and with the help of God, resist by all legal means this and all other encroachments on its freedom and independence.”
Although theology courses had always been offered, Hillsdale College reinforces its commitment to religious study by instituting a Christian Studies program. Initially begun as a minor field of concentration, the program was expanded to a major and continues to this day.
College Baptist Church celebrates its 150th anniversary. All-College Convocations (biannual religious services) were held here until Christ Chapel opened.
The College adds “The Western Theological Tradition” to its core curriculum. All students are required to take this course during their time at Hillsdale.
The College breaks ground for Christ Chapel. Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn says of the place of faith in higher education: “The two chief ways of knowing are reason and faith. There has never been a great university that was not heavily concerned with the question of God. There has never been serious Christian practice that was not heavily concerned with learning. This chapel will be a daily reminder of this essential fact.”
The College dedicates Christ Chapel. The 27,000-square-foot building has a capacity of 1,350 people and is designed in the style of churches such as Christ Church in Philadelphia and St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in England.