• Katie Heid

Hillsdale College celebrates 175th Anniversary, Dedicates Chapel

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Visits

Hillsdale College students, faculty and guests listen to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during the dedication of the school's new Christ Chapel on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. | Courtesy of Dr. Bradley Birzer

Hillsdale, MI (Great Lakes News) - Hillsdale College commemorated its 175th anniversary Thursday with the dedication of a new chapel and a visit from a special guest.


Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during the ceremony dedicating Christ Chapel.


Hillsdale President Dr. Larry Arnn said the choice of Hillsdale’s invited guest seemed clear, since the college has remained true to its conservative mission during its tenure.


“[Thomas] is writing an accurate constitutional history of the U.S. and showing distortions that have come upon us in last 3 generations,” Arnn said.


The plans for Christ Chapel emerged in 2001 and construction began two years ago. The 27,000 square foot space provides students with a non-denominational place of worship, although Sunday gatherings will not be held there. It will host concerts, ceremonies, and even provide organ lessons. Christ Chapel also contains a smaller day chapel and spaces for student clubs and organizations to meet.


Supreme Court Justice Thomas has served on the nation’s highest court since being appointed by President George H.W. Bush. Thomas applauded Hillsdale’s “stunning and glorious” culmination after decades of planning and fundraising.


“[This chapel] is a place where man can withdraw from chaos of world and where they can seek an inner calm and sacred space. God comes to us in the stillness and a gentle whisper.”


Thomas also spoke of falling away from his faith, and how his life had been turned around by prayer and worship.


“By building this chapel, Hillsdale College has provided that space where students can come to discern God’s calling, to pray through difficult times, and to praise God for his faithfulness,” Thomas said. “I have no doubt that many will enter here burdened but leave unburdened and at peace.”


Hillsdale College, although not affiliated with any one denomination, is known for its conservative base and seeks funding from private donors instead of government assistance.


Elizabeth Bachmann, a junior at Hillsdale, said the addition of Christ Chapel is significant for the campus. “Most [students] haven’t seen quad without a ton of construction,” she said. “We’re all very excited to use the chapel.”


The two-year construction process has been a bit of a mystery, Bachmann explained, and many students weren’t sure what the result would look like. “I went inside and wasn’t disappointed,” she said.


Justice Thomas is no stranger to the Hillsdale campus. He stopped by in 2016 to give the commencement address to the graduating class.


“Chapels provide [a setting that] invite us to seek God’s wisdom,” Thomas said. “The construction is a public declaration that faith and reason [go together]. It’s a bold act of leadership at a crucial time in our nation’s history.”

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