Hillsdale College Release:
Hillsdale College is sorry to announce the passing of its 11th president, George Charles Roche III.
President Roche died Friday evening, May 5, in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was being treated for a stomach virus and complications that had troubled him for several months.
Born in 1935 in Colorado, President Roche was a graduate of Regis College and the University of Colorado, from which he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history. He is the author of nine books.
President Roche was appointed the 11th president of Hillsdale College in 1971. He served in that office for 28 years until November 1999. Under his leadership, the college continued and extended its policy of refusing all forms of federal government support. In 1977, efforts were made by the Department of Health Education and Welfare to subject all colleges whose students received any form of federal-aid to the full range of federal regulations. This included even those colleges that refused every form of direct aid.
Hillsdale College refused to agree. In 1984, it lost its case before the Supreme Court and faced the prospect of the loans of all its students and graduates being recalled. Rather than submit, the college organized a private loan fund on the guarantee of its own credit and began to supply privately-based financial aid to replace the federal support.
Under the leadership of President Roche, the core curriculum of the college was expanded, its devotion to the traditional liberal arts curriculum increased, and its commitment to free market economics deepened.
The college’s national speech digest, Imprimis, was launched early in the presidency of President Roche. Its national leadership seminars and its on campus conferences were expanded under the titles Shavano Institute for National Leadership and the Center for Constructive Alternatives. The college’s national reputation and academic standards increased significantly during this time, and its physical facilities were improved extensively. Its largest building, the George C. Roche Sports Complex, and several other major buildings were completed during his presidency.
In a tribute to President Roche written for a gathering in his honor last November, Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn spoke of the moment when the federal department of Health Education and Welfare threatened to call in all the loans of the college if it did not submit:
“Having worked here for a while myself, I have some ability to measure the difficulty of that moment 29 years ago. It would take a strong-willed man to see the college through a moment like that. It would take shrewdness, and it would take fortitude.
“It was important for the College that those qualities were present in its leadership at that moment. Those of us who must now carry on are grateful that it was here.”
President Roche is survived by his wife Dean, and former wife June; children George IV, Muriel (Jeremy) Peters, Maggie (Chad) Murphy, and Jacob; sister Peggy Brockway; grandchildren George V, and Patrick, George and Mary Kate Murphy.
The achievements of President Roche are remembered with respect on the campus. The college extends its deepest condolences to his family and many friends.