Affirmations: Page Three of Five
“AHI and the people associated with the organization have played a crucial role in my intellectual and professional development. It would be impossible to name every benefit that the AHI has provided to me. As an undergraduate at Hamilton College, participating in the reading groups and conferences organized by Professors Bob Paquette, Douglas Ambrose, Ted Eismeier, and James Bradfield deepened my education in ways that exceeded the classroom experience on Hamilton’s campus. My association with the AHI inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina. While completing my doctoral dissertation, the AHI provided funding to support my research in the form of the Bakwin Fellowship. During the term of this fellowship, I resided at the AHI’s headquarters, and I also had the opportunity to participate in the AHI-Baylor Annual Summer Conference organized by Mary and David Nichols. Currently, I am serving as a faculty member at the Lewis Honors College of the University of Kentucky. AHI has generously provided funds to support a reading group for Kentucky students interested in texts of enduring value and significance in world history.
“AHI serves as a shining beacon of hope that is working to promote and defend the value of free inquiry, robust debate, and civic responsibility. I cannot think of an organization that I support with greater enthusiasm than the AHI.”
Timothy Minella, Hamilton College, Class of 2009, Phi Beta Kappa, Ph. D., University of South Carolina
“[M]y sincere gratitude for allowing me to host an event [at AHI] for the current rowers and the Friends (alumni & parents) of Hamilton Rowing on Saturday evening. The space lent itself well and I consider the gathering to be a success as all enjoyed it and there was much comradery. . . . I will gladly make a donation to the AHI for that amount and then some.
Please let me know if I can be of service to you or AHI.
Jason Andris, Hamilton College, Class of 1996
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute embodies the best qualities of elite liberal arts campuses: intellectual excellence, dedicated, world-class faculty, and individual attention for students. Fortunately, the Institute is also a lot of things these campuses are not: intellectually diverse, open-minded, and a safe environment for students of any political persuasion to voice their opinions. The Institute has been a necessity for anyone seeking to study a balanced curriculum in Central New York. Personally, it has a been a blessing; as an opportunity for learning, to attend informative lectures, meet incredible lecturers, and as an outlet for an oppressed Conservative student. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Professors Ambrose, Bradfield, and Paquette for their creation of the Alexander Hamilton Institute.”
John McRae, Hamilton College, Class of 2009
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides a unique opportunity for Hamilton students and faculty to study Western Civilization by examining and discussing freedom, democracy, and capitalism. While Hamilton College spends a large sum of money inviting guest speakers onto campus, the guests almost always invoke a left-wing activist message. The lack of a conservative or traditional voice makes the campus hostile to a diversity of thought. This year, the Alexander Hamilton Institute has served as a meeting place for both the Publius Society, in which members studied and discussed the Federalist Papers, and the Edmund Burke Association, a new organization based around the work of British writer Edmund Burke. In the Edmund Burke Association’s inaugural meeting, the Alexander Hamilton Institute invited Colgate University Professor and Western Civilization scholar Robert Kraynak. Kraynak lectured on the conservative thought of Edmund Burke, and applied it to the conservative movement in America today. This engaging lecture was attended by students and faculty of both Hamilton College and Colgate University, as well as many residents of the local area. The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides an intellectual experience that would otherwise be ignored by a faculty and student body hostile to traditional and conservative thought.”
Joe Bock, Hamilton College, Class of 2009; J. D. Rutgers University School of Law-Newark
” I only recently discovered the Alexander Hamilton Institute, and just became a member this semester, but I already think it is a great Hamilton asset. While the lectures are interesting, as many Hamilton special events are, the particularly unique feature of the Institute is the open intellectual debate amongst students and professors. The open conversations, where people are taken out of their established roles on the Hill and thrown into discussion, has generated very thought provoking experiences. I’ve heard really interesting perspectives from professors and students I otherwise would have missed.
Laura Mattison, Hamilton College, Class of 2009
“My experience with the Alexander Hamilton Institute was an essential complement to my Hamilton education. My time in AHI’s various societies and events transformed philosophy, religion and history from academic abstractions to guiding lights in my own search to understand how a good life ought to be lived. AHI made me a better listener, a more passionate learner, and a more grounded, directed and open person, this was personal growth that has proved essential to me in what success I have since cultivated in my career, and as a person. I am forever grateful for having had the opportunity to study and grow in AHI’s rigorous programming.”
Jack Dunn, Hamilton College, Class of 2010.
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute provides students with a place off-campus for open discussion on a variety of different topics. I am part of two student organizations that hold meetings there. At AHI, I have felt very free to express my views without any fear of peer pressure that can exist in the classroom. Often, I have learned more in my discussions at AHI than I have in some of my classes at Hamilton College.”
Tim Eismeier, Hamilton College, Class of 2010
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute is the perfect complement to the liberal arts education at Hamilton College. AHI provides an opportunity to apply ideas learned in coursework to scholarly and real world discussions with leaders in their fields. I was encouraged to express my point of view and always felt that all persons and ideas were treated thoughtfully and as equals. Professor Paquette challenged me in every history class I took at Hamilton, but what was apparent at AHI was how much he invests in all of his students.
Beyond the academic opportunities, the professors who founded AHI aspire to give students a complete college experience. Some of the most important things I learned during my time at Hamilton had nothing to do with my coursework. The life lessons I learned from Professor Bradfield I carried with me after graduation and have become mantras that I repeat to every intern and recent college graduate in my office. The lunch and dinner events at AHI were the best preparation for the networking events l attend as a professional. The fact the catering was some of the best food in upstate New York was also a nice perk. I have many fond memories and lifelong friendships from my time at Hamilton, and I count those with Professors Paquette, Bradfield, and Ambrose among them.”
Anthony (Mark) Garcia, Hamilton College, Class of 2010; J. D. Vanderbilt Law School
“AHI exposed me to the lifelong endeavor of a liberal education. Through its variety of speakers, colloquia, panels, and reading groups, I was able to learn to become a young intellectual. Well after my graduation from Hamilton College, I found my ability to converse with academics from various disciplines to be invaluable in my career. I remember Professor Paquette invested considerable time elevating my prose. Often I will help my classmates writing their doctoral dissertations by trying to emulate his efforts.”
Will Eagan, Hamilton College, Class of 2011; Department of Statistics, Purdue University
“Since its inception, the Alexander Hamilton Institute has been a haven for those interested in studying and preserving the features of Western civilization that have made it economically prosperous, bolstered by a vibrant civil society, and predominantly based on consent rather than coercion. In an academic environment that often promotes faddish dross, AHI remains a place where individuals are invited to cultivate their critical thinking skills and pursue the truth. An inquiring mind and voracious consumption of scholarship are not merely encouraged but required.
Under the tutelage of Professors Ambrose, Bradfield, Hill, and Paquette, I tackled ideas and topics that expanded my intellectual horizons in ways I could never have imagined. I learned – as Professor Paquette always says – not what to think, but HOW to think. Through AHI’s many colloquiums and lecture series’ I was able to not just listen to, but engage directly with world-renowned scholars and prominent intellectuals. My experiences at AHI were among the most valuable of my undergraduate career and ones that I will never forget. Most of all, however, AHI was my home away from home and the place where I forged some of my most cherished lifelong friendships.”
Landry Frei, Hamilton College, Class of 2012; M. A. Accounting, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
“We appreciate the excellent work that the Alexander Hamilton Institute does to prepare students for both career and informed citizenship.”
Ali Eskandarian, Executive Director, Fund for Academic Renewal
“I stumbled across AHI by way of a history course on the American South while in college. Professor Robert Paquette and I connected almost immediately (after he ripped my first paper apart with red ink, of course). Professor Paquette recognized my viewpoint and outlook on life, particularly the fact that I had been raised to value above all else family, community, and hard work. I found my somewhat traditional notions constantly downplayed, or even worse, I encountered classrooms and professors that made the unilateral assumption that no students held conservative beliefs.
Professor Paquette and AHI allowed me to express and expand on these beliefs, and even gave entrusted me with tools and backing of AHI in order to launch an entrepreneurship club. I truly appreciated this opportunity, as my interests and passions always pointed towards a career in entrepreneurship with a stress on self-reliance. AHI has continued to support me over the years, as I have taken on business challenges and continued my higher education. I will honestly and sincerely always hold the highest level of gratitude to AHI and its leaders.
Anthony Balbo, Hamilton College, Class of 2013; J. D., Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University
“The Alexander Hamilton Institute changed not just my career trajectory, but my outlook on the world. I received a superb, wide-ranging education during my undergraduate years, and I attribute as much–if not more–to the AHI than I do to my alma mater. Professor Chris Hill drew me in with his insightful and inspiring lectures in the first few weeks of my freshman year. I quickly met Professors Ambrose and Paquette, both of whom would become profoundly important mentors. The discussions I had with them and other AHI members and faculty still stick with me to this day. At the AHI I was taught not just to express a gut opinion but how to construct–and defend–an argument. The students I met there had an equally crucial effect on my life; some remain my closest friends today. The AHI was and is an educational institution of the highest order–but even more, it is a community and a family.”
Dean Ball, Hamilton College, Class of 2014; Director, Adam Smith Society at Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
“I have attended all of the AHI [continuing education] classes since the autumn of 2010. They are currently taught by David Frisk, an organized and remarkable political science academic. My collegiate training had been in the sciences. Political science was a subject I and fellow biology majors sometimes regarded dismissively. Politics. Government. Nixon. It was the 70s. We were young and clearly poorly informed. Now, with some familiarity with the positive initiatives emerging from the AHI, an opportunity to be exposed to new subject matter in a casual way was enthusiastically embraced. Regular attendance at a class, of course, creates new and unexpected friendships. Classmates become familiar friends and there is pleasure each semester in seeing them again. At the end of a Monday we have something to look forward to, a class which feels as comfortable as a club.
The class structure includes a timely break after lecture and discussion. One can tell from the noise volume during breaks that multiple lively conversation on all manner of thing soccur. It would be an incorrect assumption to think the courses or the general mission of the AHI was anything other than being a place where alternative ideas are welcome and openly discussed. Indeed, thanks to the visionary founders of AHI, this community, local and surrounding, has much for which to be thankful.”
Kit Blackmore, Veterinarian, Clinton, New York
“I have since completed my active duty service in the Marine Corps, and I will be attending law Georgetown University Law Center this coming August. I wanted to thank you again for your letter and your support. I fondly think back to your courses on the Early Republic and Slavery and the Civil War, and I hope to bring what I learned about eloquence and objectivity in those classes to my legal studies.”
William Boudreau, Hamilton College, Class of 2014
“As is typical of new AHI Undergraduate Fellows, I came to my first AHI event during my Sophomore year at Hamilton with open eyes and ambiguous expectations. I had no idea that I was about to embark on a transformational growth experience that would arm me with knowledge, intellectual tools, and an ability to manage myself and others transcendent of what I believe to be typical for the undergraduate environment. The ideas, people and themes to which the AHI exposed me have prepared me to evaluate new ideas, both informative and artistic, in ways that I otherwise would never have approached. While college is a period of growth for everyone, I believe that AHI’s challenges made me a more courageous and intellectually honest person than I otherwise would have been. At an on-the-ground level, leadership positions within AHI student organization prepared me for the interpersonal dynamics and pressures of the workplace in ways that facilitated my transition out of college. I continue to root for the AHI from afar as post-collegiate life twists and turns.”
P. C., Hamilton College, Class of 2014
“AHI stands out as a highlight of my time at Hamilton. What a singular place, and what luck I had wandering into its fold early in my college career. One appreciates things best in hindsight – I couldn’t fully know then how special it was being surrounded by the ferocious intellects of Professors Ambrose, Hill, and Paquette, to name a few. The environment was intellectually stimulating and nurturing. The point was to learn, not lecture; to prove, not pose. I learned to find my voice on topics I hadn’t previously considered, and learned so much simply by watching deeply intellectual people debate civilly about topics that meant the world to them.
AHI’s programming stood out for its intellectual depth and political diversity. The speakers, audiences, and ideas that AHI hosted were more diverse (really!) than most events I encountered up the Hill. To current students, I’d say attend at least one event, especially if you don’t think you’ll like it. Hamilton’s campus environment isn’t always conducive to new ideas or stimulating discussion – AHI is that place.
AHI means a lot to me and still shapes my memory of Hamilton. I’ll always be grateful for having been a part.”
Scott Milne, Hamilton College, Class of 2014
“My time spent at the Alexander Hamilton Institute was easily the most eye-opening and enriching experience in my four years at Hamilton College. In fact, it was the probably the most valuable component of my liberal arts education. The people surrounding me at AHI, including professors, students and other patrons, exposed me to new ideas, influential thinkers and great books but at a much higher level of discourse than I was getting on the Hamilton campus.
“I especially appreciated my time with Professor Ambrose and Professor Paquette, both in the classroom and at AHI. Their meticulous critique and analysis of my papers strengthened my writing, for which I will always be grateful.”
Ben Swett, Hamilton College, Class of 2014
“AHI programming was a great supplement to my Hamilton education. AHI encouraged me to think seriously and with conviction. Conversations at the AHI often went straight to the fundamentals, which made them all the more interesting and worthwhile. While off the Hill, you have a great opportunity to engage with people in the community, not for a grade or recognition by your peers, but for conversation’s sake alone.”
Sarah Larson, Hamilton College, Class of 2015
“I first involved myself with the Alexander Hamilton Institute during my junior year of school. I had just resigned from a daily humor publication after harassment from college administrators and activist students and felt lost, both socially and intellectually. What happened going forward would define my time as an undergraduate. Immediately I was welcomed into a community of intellectually curious students from across the political spectrum as well as a group of professors who offered all the resources imaginable to nurture our academic interests.
Thanks to the Alexander Hamilton Institute, I began my first formal foray into journalist through “Enquiry,” which I co-founded with other fellows. Through “Enquiry,” we commissioned columns from students of all political persuasions. Like the Alexander Hamilton Institute, our policy was simple, yet clear: We will accept all work, regardless of ideology or belief, as long as it was of high quality. I’m proud to say “Enquiry” remains on Hamilton’s campus today.
Since graduating, I’ve worked at a number of news outlets including the New York Post, the Daily Caller, and now I’m a campaign reporter for the Washington Examiner. My work has also been featured in publications like National Review and the American Conservative. It’s safe to say none of this would have been possible without the Alexander Hamilton Institute. I owe my career, and my sanity, to the distinguished individuals involved in the organization. I can’t thank them enough.”
Joe Simonson, Hamilton College, Class of 2015; Political Reporter, Washington Examiner
“When I think back on my 4 years at Hamilton, what has become abundantly clear to me in the time since is just how big of an inflection point it was to enroll in a class with Professor Paquette and thus get exposed and welcomed into AHI. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but up until then I would describe myself as a student who was just going through the motions, accepting middling results in classes and grades. I’m not sure what it was the professor Paquette saw in me, but thank God he did recognize it and took it upon himself to snap my head around and strive to do better. That reality check was what I most credit for my in-class success the following 3 years. Past just our relationship in the classroom, being welcomed by Professor Paquette, Professor Ambrose and so many others at AHI opened my eyes to so many ideas, and histories which I didn’t even realize I had a passion for. It challenged my intellectual curiosity and intellectual rigor being surrounded by so many bright people, people I respected and considered brighter than myself. The lectures, conversations, and conventions hosted by AHI were consistently among the most intellectually engaging and stimulating as any other forum I experienced while a student. Finally, as I was preparing to make my transition into the professional world, Professor Paquette was probably the first person who I who sensed I would be a passion for entrepreneurship and helped set my career on its course working in the Venture Capital and technology startup world. I can safely say the skills, mindset, and composition required of me in my career was developed during my time at Hamilton overall, but most especially through my experience with the AHI.”
Brian Warager, Hamilton College, Class of 2015
“The conference [at Monticello] was absolutely phenomenal. I cannot thank you enough for allowing me to join you all.”
Sarah Contant, Graduate Student, Rochester Institute of Technology
“It would be hard to catalog the extent of the opportunities AHI offers. Looking back through a whirlwind of reading groups, dinners, lectures and film screenings, a summer internship and an editorship at the AHI Undergraduates’ flagship publication, what I remember best is the people I met, many of whom have become lifelong friends and mentors. I’m grateful to have close friends who I first met during late nights with AHI Undergraduates, gathering in dorm rooms for hours-long conversations. I’m also tremendously grateful to Professors Paquette and Ambrose, who carry their commitment to their students beyond the classroom, and who shared with us so much energy, so many meals, and so much of their time, and who continue to do so well after graduation.”
Mike Adamo, Hamilton College, Class of 2016
“Dr. Pilon, thank you so much for having me for the WAPONS program this summer. It was quite an excellent experience and definitely has me looking forward to moving to Washington for my career. Speaking of which, I will be back in Washington at least twice over the upcoming academic year, perhaps more if I am requested for job interviews. It would be great to catch up then if at all possible, and I could collect my certificate at the time as well. As to the program, I cannot think of much that would make it any better. If the majority of students chosen are those whose majors are on the fringes of national security, and as such may have little experience in national security, such as economics or American history, it may have been more beneficial for them to have more experts speak to these roles in their organizations. For example, it would be interesting to hear how a history major might be of value to the FBI or an economist in the Treasury Department working with the CIA to hunt terrorists. For me, however, I thought the program was highly informative, as I learned about the workings of the TSA and Think Tanks, which are areas that are of interest to me and ones I have not considered looking in to in so much detail. I got to hear from several extremely informed and credentialed people as to these roles and it was quite an interesting experience. I will certainly be taking back what I have learned for our student organization and department heads, as they are topics that are often passed over. Next year, if the speakers are different enough and my schedule permits I would love to come back. I really appreciate your efforts in organizing it all, and please pass my gratitude along to the other fellows of AHI. I hope to see you again in a few months, and thank you again!”
Mason Goad, University of North Georgia
“While I like to think that Hamilton College stood out against the myriad of small liberal arts schools that I visited as a teenager, there is little doubt in my mind that the Alexander Hamilton Institute played a central role in drawing me to Clinton, NY. Although I was interested in politics, government, and history as a high school student, I had yet to contemplate the issue of discourse and diversity of thought on college campuses prior to my matriculation on the Hill. Today, I see this as one of the defining issues shaping the next generation of our country’s leaders, but, as a high school student wandering the idyllic campuses of Northeastern liberal arts colleges, I only knew that something felt ‘off.’
I was accustomed, of course, to racial diversity in the classroom, having attended a working-class high school in suburban Massachusetts, and I did see this reflected in the students and faculty that I encountered on my campus visits. But something more subtle was missing. I was used to a high school where the children – and therefore the ideas – of middle-class Republicans, working-class Democrats, progressive professionals, and every other combination thereof all mixed and mingled. But here, on these grassy knolls and tree-lined quads of America’s finest liberal arts institutions, the ideas all seemed to be the same.
The bulletin boards in the pillared academic halls and Brutalist cement libraries seemed to universally advertise events featuring the likes of feminist and post-Marxist thinkers likes Angela Davis and Cornell West, but academic talks by anyone who could be even mildly construed as having a conservative or free market agenda were few and far between. As someone who spent my high school days reading National Review and watching online recordings of Milton Friedman lectures, I was rather disappointed that my vision of collegiate academic exploration was apparently so inaccurate.
Hamilton College stood out as an exception amongst these monolithic campuses thanks, in large part, to the work of a dedicated group of men and women down in the yellow Federalist building at the bottom of the hill. At the time of my matriculation to the college, I was not aware of the rather disconcerting history that led to AHI’s picturesque off-campus location. Fortunately, the one-and-a-half rather steep miles in between the college and the Clinton town green had little effect in limiting the academic reach of AHI, and the Institute succeeded in bringing intellectual diversity to events both on and off the Hill. It was, as one AHI student alumnus rather famously put it, not a ‘safe space’ where ideas and perspectives were immune from challenge, but a place of rigorous discourse where dialogue was treated as an intellectual tool rather than a cliché.
While it took me far too many of my undergraduate years realize the physical space of AHI for the unique resource that it truly was, the people of AHI had a profound impact on my time at Hamilton from my very first days on campus. Professor Alfred Kelly taught me during my freshman fall semester just how much my writing could (and should) be improved, while Professor Maurice Isserman reminded me during the subsequent spring semester that I still had a long way to go. Both men, I am certain, had a far greater impact on my development as a student than they will ever know. The beauty of AHI, of course, was that thought-provoking discussion wasn’t limited to the classroom – Professor Doug Ambrose and AHI Resident Fellow David Frisk both excelled in creating an atmosphere at AHI that facilitated these moments of extracurricular profundity.
Few Hamilton professors, though, had as substantial an impact on my experience in college as Robert Paquette. Although I never had occasion to sit in one of his classes (not majoring in history is one of my few regrets from college), Professor Paquette’s influence on my intellectual experience was apparent during just about every semester that I was at Hamilton. By bringing speakers to campus who could engage with provocative ideas and elicit discourse to a degree that unsettled the campus thought-bubble, Professor Paquette’s work had the effect of spurring discussion in the classrooms of the very faculty members who had fought so hard to push the AHI off the Hill. I eagerly anticipated the challenge of driving classroom discussions beyond the ad hominem and into the deeper issues that these visiting speakers raised. While sensibilities on college campuses today seem to be more fragile than ever, for my four year at Hamilton, AHI was perhaps my greatest asset in finding discussion that could transcend the ubiquitous echo chamber of academic groupthink.
As an alumnus of AHI and Hamilton College, I have enjoyed the continued opportunity to engage with the ideas and the people – from alumni to current students to faculty and fellows – that make the Institute the special place that it is. It has truly been a pleasure to reconnect with classmates through our shared affinity for the distinct model of education that AHI continues to advocate. While the news of higher education is too often littered with incidents of disinvited speakers and restrictions on speech and language, I am always heartened to read of the restorative work of AHI and the peer institutions whose creation it has spurred. More so than any Broadway play (no matter how catchy the refrain), the Alexander Hamilton Institute has helped to cement into the current academic ethos the relevance of the man whose name it bears.
Patrick Bedard, Hamilton College, Class of 2016
“At AHI, I found a safe place to explore my intellectual curiosity. AHI challenged me to learn by reading great works followed by provocative conversation. I turned to AHI to find the diverse views that fostered a stimulating learning environment. Studying Western thought had a profound impact on my developing values and enhanced my college experience.”
Andrew Mandelbaum, Hamilton College, Class of 2016
“Your class had everything to do with my submission— I remembered the name Carl Menges from our class and colloquium and recognized it when I was looking through the award submissions. Your very patient teaching led me to write clearly and effectively, as well as look at ways to problem solve both in my writing and in my ideas. The subject of the Carl Menges Prize was a subject near and dear to me . . . I figured I had nothing to lose by submitting an essay about what I believe the school does well and what it should re-evaluate, and I will admit I was very surprised at the outcome! Thank you so much for teaching me more than I could have ever hoped— I still think your class was one of the most rewarding (and yes, difficult!) classes I have had the pleasure to take. . . .”
K. M., Hamilton College, Class of 2016
“I would be happy to write a few words on my experience at the WAPONS conference this summer because it was truly invaluable. The connections made, with peers and “higher ups,” the information learned, the resources (i.e. News sources and articles to read for further knowledge on National Security), and the ability to put what I’ve learned and already knew into an intelligent discussion with others was extremely beneficial in helping my career in government. Further, it was great to hear from different political views on issues because that allowed me to strengthen my stance and learn new perspectives on ideas and issues-which I think is key to being a well-rounded individual. For instance, the discussions in the morning were very useful because I found that the definitions we discussed, like the definitions of human rights and rights (in general), helped with context and for especially for my internship this summer, since the organization that I’m interning with advises the UN on human rights. Also, Jack Dziaks “history lesson” of the KGB will come in handy when I study Russia, since Russia (and the Middle East) are my focus; and when Roger Pilon talked about aspects of the Constitution, like different powers of government, because that will be useful when I study constitutional law. And thank you again, Juliana, for all your efforts with AHI—it is truly a remarkable program, and I am not saying that lightly.”
Jordan Hayley, Liberty University