Pence to speak at Hillsdale College commencement

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Vice President Mike Pence will give the commencement address next month at Hillsdale College, the liberal arts school said Monday.

US Vice President Mike Pence attends a memorial for evangelist Billy Graham in the Rotunda of the US Capitol on February 28, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Pence, the former Republican governor of Indiana, is scheduled to speak during the college’s 166th commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. May 12.

“We are proud to have Pence, a man of principled public service, of strong constitutional views, and of deep faith at our campus,” Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn said in a statement.

“We are glad to have him back for this culminating ceremony of college life.”

It will be Pence’s fourth visit to Michigan as vice president. He was in Detroit in March to tout the GOP tax overhaul and to raise money for Republican House candidates.

Hillsdale is often ranked among the country’s most conservative colleges. President Donald Trump reportedly considered Arnn among other candidates for education secretary before selecting Betsy DeVos, the Grand Rapids area school choice advocate and philanthropist.

Tickets for admission are reserved only for graduates and their families, as well as employees and friends of the college.

In 2010, then-Congressman Pence gave a speech at Hillsdale on the how the modern presidency had drifted from the vision set forth by the Founders in the U.S. Constitution. he served in the U.S. House for six terms.

A former Hillsdale College basketball player took to Twitter on Monday to slam the school’s decision to invite Pence to speak at the spring commencement ceremonies.

Derek Schell, an openly gay former athlete who played four years at Hillsdale, called the news “another solid example of why I am ashamed to have a diploma from this place.”

Pence’s history of perceived anti-gay stances and legislation as governor of Indiana long have been a point of contention in the gay community. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, openly gay figure skater Adam Rippon ripped the appointment of Pence to lead the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremonies, then reportedly refused to meet with Pence.

Schell, a native of suburban Milwaukee, was a 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard at Hillsdale, playing from 2010-14. Schell came out to Hillsdale teammates in September 2013, prior to his senior year, and the following month he took his story national, penning an essay for the website, The public proclamation made him the first openly gay basketball player at the NCAA’s Division II level.

In his last visit to Michigan in early March, the vice president promoted the benefits of the recent tax overhaul and raised money for more than 20 GOP U.S. House candidates, including U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

A native of Columbus, Indiana, Pence graduated from Hanover College and the Indiana University School of Law.

In 2013, he was elected governor of Indiana.

Staff writer Tony Paul contributed