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Published: Saturday, 2/15/2003

`Wheel' host Sajak to give area college a spin


HILLSDALE - If Hillsdale College ever decides it needs to buy a vowel, it can look to its newest trustee for some help.

Pat Sajak, the host of Wheel of Fortune, will join the private college's board for his first meeting on Monday, college officials said.

“He and I have a lot of principles in common,” said college President Larry Arnn. “I got to know him, and he's a very admirable man.”

Dr. Arnn said the two met when he was president of the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank in California, and Mr. Sajak was a trustee.

“He's a very successful man in his career,” Dr. Arnn said. “Meanwhile, he keeps his soul in order and remembers the more important things. He's a very well-informed man. He's a very intelligent man. His character is very fine.”

And so the game show host's giant spinning wheel landed on Hillsdale, a private, liberal arts college of about 1,200 students that is nationally known for its conservative ideas and for not accepting any government funding, even in the form of student grants and loans.

Dr. Arnn said he welcomes Mr. Sajak to the board as the college prepares to implement its strategic plan and deal with a difficult economy.

He joins a 35-member board that also includes beer baron Jeffrey Coors and U.S. Rep. Philip Crane (R., Ill.).

Mr. Sajak could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in a written statement released by Hillsdale he said: “It is a privilege to serve as a trustee at a college where the study of the liberal arts flourishes uninhibited by either federal support or federal regulation.”

He is best known as the host of Wheel of Fortune, with which he has been associated since 1981.

His broadcasting career dates back to 1967 when he was a radio announcer in Chicago while a student at Columbia College. He was a morning disc jockey on Armed Forces radio in Vietnam and later a weekend talk show host on television in Los Angeles.

The Pat Sajak Show debuted on CBS in 1989, but was canceled 15 months later. This spring, he will return to the talk show genre for Fox News Channel.

Mr. Sajak visited Hillsdale in April, when he addressed faculty, staff, and students at its spring convocation. On that occasion, he contrasted the entertainment industry's hypocrisy and inflated sense of importance with the school's ideals and traditions.

“They think they have diversity in their midst because they take pains to hire a representative mix of gender and race. But there is no diversity of thought,” he said at the time.

“You will have spent these formative years in a setting where ideas can be discussed and treated with respect,” he added later.

Mr. Sajak owns two radio stations in Maryland, a television production company, a music publishing company, and a record label. He, his wife, and their two children divide their time between Maryland and Los Angeles.

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