Remember your Roots

dad and mom

George and June Roche, Dad’s Graduation from the University of Colorado

A few weeks ago, I placed a few requests on social media, asking for comments about my parents and their time at Hillsdale College. The thoughtful responses brought back many memories from several generations of students. Growing up at Broadlawn, the students of Hillsdale College were central to my parents’ lives whether through day to day college business, a student in need of additional financial assistance (one of Mom’s many missions), or a student in need of a home-cooked meal or family movie night (usually John Wayne westerns). I loved seeing the students come and go; several of them are friends today. I’m thankful for the example my parents set regarding students’ needs outside the classroom. I think it makes me a more effective educator…

My father and your father were great friends. That friendship was formed with their evolvement with F.E.E. And The Mount Pellerin Society. I met your father briefly in the early 70’s and I could not help but be impressed by his obvious intelligence and boundless energy. Most importantly to me though was was a kind man. It was what drew me to Hillsdale. I met your brother George, who was in my class I believe, and we had some fun together. I also had the honor of introducing your father at a school business function. I was so awed by reading his credentials that I must have looked shocked, but he saved the day with his big warm smile.

~Henry Hagemann

I graduated with your brother and his wife, and worked for the college after graduation. During those years, I had the opportunity to witness your mother in a variety of social and business settings. On each occasion, she conducted herself as a great lady should, with intelligence, integrity, compassion and grace. Hillsdale was lucky to have her.

~Cheryl Lieblang

I had the pleasure of meet George Roche while attending Hillsdale College from 1993-1997. A great guy with a ton of knowledge.

~Tommy Sudduth

I attended Hillsdale from 1975 to 1979. As editor of the Collegian in the fall of 1978, I had a number of dealings with your father, all of which were cordial and even when we disagreed about publishing a story he did not like, they were still very respectful. Your mother was a wonderful woman, always warm and welcoming when I came to the house for an event.

~Benne Hutson

It wasn’t any particular story while I was there. It was after. His power of personality, immense gift of observation was mind blowing. To come back 10 years after graduation and be met with a handshake, by name with no tag, and throw my jersey number in for good measure! Wow, wish I had paid as much attention while I was in school. What he understood was how to make an environment of immense learning without many of us even realizing the absorption we were experiencing. That’s my memory and fondness for George. A name I was required to use when I attempted a meager Mr. Roche at that very meeting.

~Jim Shuster, Class of 1985

It is with great joy that I share my glimpses of June and George Roche while a student, and then an employee, at Hillsdale College from 1976 to 1983. My first memory of seeing June Roche was when I was a transferred-in sophomore in 1976. Mrs. Roche was walking with her husband and President of Hillsdale College, the George Roche, near Central Hall. They appeared to be in deep conversation and thought, walking slowly side by side, listening to each other and speaking with one another with great deliberation. They made a striking couple and that vision of them expressed many of the elements embodied at Hillsdale—tenderness, concern, beauty, listening, discussing, elegance, timeless grace. At that time I did not know who these two were but later discovered their identities. As busy as they both must have been that urgency of day to day life did not show in their demeanor as they walked and talked with each other. After that I saw June many times at Broadmoor as I would walk into town from Waterman Hall. She was often in the company of her youngest, their daughter Maggie. Seeing them together was dear to recall. June gave off the “aroma” of gracious calm that came from living a life consecrated to God, family, school and country. That kind of spiritual beauty cannot be bought, manipulated, falsified or affected. I infrequently saw June when I attended CCA lectures and cultural events on campus. My deepest memory of George was as a student, a senior, who was a few credits short of graduation requirements. I was told by the registrar that I had to go see George to obtain approval for walking across the stage with my class of 1979 in May. Having not really known him while studying at Hillsdale, this mission was daunting. I laid out to him a solid plan to attend summer school in June and July of 1979, finish the few classes I needed to fulfill the requirements of my BA degree, on a promissory note of sorts to follow through on my plan. His side of the conversation was comforting. He said I could walk across the stage with my class and would be handed the leather “holder” of my degree but no degree. That was a perfect solution. It was principled, easy, and only I would know. While this may have been a standard practice at Hillsdale, to me it was a sort of “salvation” which meant everything to me and for which I have remained every grateful. When I began working in the Admissions Office I would see June and George at various recruiting dinners held at Hillsdale, at Homecoming events and always at the seasonal CCA lectures, dinners and cultural events on campus. Their stewardship of Hillsdale College as the President and First Lady was impeccable, thoughtful, firm, compassionate and lovely to behold.

~H. (Kuhn) Bryant, 1976-1979

I had the pleasure of knowing Dr. & Mrs. Roche both as a student from 1975- 79 and as an employee of the College from 1979-81.  On one occasion as a student, I was part of a group invited to have dinner at Broadlawn with Jack Kemp, it was impressive to listen to these fine American leaders.  Dr. Roche was always very supportive of our efforts on the football field.  I remember Dr. Roche and then Athletic Director, Jack McAvoy being very close and spending a lot of time together on campus and on the road raising money for the school. As a member of the Development Staff (now Institutional Advancement), I had the opportunity to watch our charismatic former president and his family interact with many supporters of the College.  They always treated me and those I observed with respect and dignity.  Dr. Roche had a presence and like he friend Coach McAvoy was an intimidating figure – together they were a powerful combination.

~Keith Otterbein

Any one who wishes to add thoughts, please share your comments! Thanks for reading!


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