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Dr. Ben Carson keynotes President’s Freedom Celebration

June 23, 2023

On Thursday evening, Northwood University celebrated successes in enrollment, endowments, and an expanding global footprint. Most notably, donors who have made those gains possible were honored in a President’s Freedom Celebration keynoted by Dr. Ben Carson, Sr., M.D., former presidential candidate, and 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“In a crowded, analogous, higher education marketplace, Northwood remains one of the most distinguished universities in the world,” President Kent MacDonald told a packed crowd of more than 300 in the Hach Center on Northwood University’s campus in Midland.

During a State of the University address, MacDonald highlighted recent enrollment gains, with significant increases in undergraduate enrollment this fall and growth in new students in the DeVos Graduate School of Management.

MacDonald said the world needs more Northwood, and the university plans to expand its international footprint with double-digit locations by 2026. This year, Northwood is expanding into France, Ghana, and Japan.

“These international centers allow us to extend The Northwood Idea and American free-market principles around the world,” MacDonald added.

Another strength MacDonald emphasized was the fact that Northwood continues to attract outstanding students who help drive decorated academic competitive programs like Northwood’s award-winning Mock Trial, DECA, and Business Professionals of America teams, as well as Northwood Esports, which has won multiple national and world titles.

“In these academic competitions, there is no Division 1, 2, or 3,” MacDonald said. “Northwood’s winning results are achieved against some of the richest, largest universities in the nation. We teach our students educational content, but it’s also our job to build confidence and foster excellence.”

MacDonald said future endeavors that are in the works include:

• Creating new endowed professorships and chairs at Northwood. This effort has already been launched with the creation of the Subaru of New England Professor in Automotive Strategy.

• Increasing the university’s scholarship endowment, increasing funds to support any student who believes in The Northwood Idea, regardless of their economic background.

• Investing in Northwood’s infrastructure and developing independent, kind, and mature graduates who are unapologetic in their belief that free enterprise is the world’s engine of social mobility and the primary reason two billion people have been lifted from extreme poverty over the past several decades.

Thursday’s event also was an opportunity to recognize donors who have supported Northwood University and its guiding philosophy, The Northwood Idea, which values freedom, limited government, the rule of law, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.

 “We care deeply about these values, and like so many, we too are becoming concerned about increased attacks on elements of individual and societal freedom,” Northwood President Kent MacDonald stated during a State of the University address. “We are witnessing a repression of speech, an overwhelming plague of political correctness, and an ongoing expansion of government overreach into our lives and private markets.”

During his address, Dr. Carson expressed concerns about political correctness infringing on freedom of speech in the U.S., particularly because this has distinguished America from other parts of the world.

“Our liberties make us the destination for people worldwide, and we must fight vigorously to maintain them,” he said.

He fears America is close to losing our Republic, and that’s one of the reasons he formed the American Cornerstone Institute based on the principles of faith.

“Love your neighbor — not cancel your neighbor if they disagree with you if they have a different yard sign,” he said. “That’s incredibly important about who we were and can be again.”

Carson said we need to train a generation of leaders who can spread themselves throughout society to speak with authority about things that are going on.

“That’s so vitally important because those who want to fundamentally change us believe in divide and conquer. Divide society based on race, age, income, gender, religion, political affiliation – any other place where you can drive a wedge. People have become enemies. But the fact of the matter is, we, the American people, are not the enemies – the enemies are the ones driving the wedge,” he said.

Carson thanked Northwood for giving rise to “so many amazing students who are going to go out and populate our entire nation with common sense.”

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” he added.

Northwood leaders presented Carson with one of the university’s most prestigious awards, The Capitalism, and Freedom Award, which takes its name from the inspiration provided by Dr. Milton Friedman, Pulitzer-prize winning economist with strong ties to Northwood. This award honors national leaders and independent thinkers deeply committed to freedom.

Thursday’s President’s Freedom Celebration also recognized the 2023 Wings of Freedom honorees. The Wings of Freedom Award celebrates individuals and organizations whose work has significantly contributed to human progress, individual liberty, and economic and social prosperity. This year’s honorees included:

• Dr. William D. Schuette, a native son of Midland who has served his constituencies of Michigan for over 40 years as a politician, judge, lawyer, and community volunteer, representing a life grounded in liberty and personal responsibility. The former Michigan Attorney General has served as a state representative, senator, and Court of Appeals judge.

• Dr. Jeffrey A. Bennett has been part of the Northwood family since 1965, when he joined as a faculty member. Throughout his 40-year career, he inspired and mentored thousands of students to learn, love and enjoy the language of business (particularly accounting), instilling values of free enterprise, independence, integrity, resource allocation, and personal responsibility.

• The Hilda E. Bretzlaff Foundation, whose mission is to grant scholarships to individuals who strive to improve the community in which they live in a positive, moral, and conservative manner. The foundation takes its name from Mrs. Hilda E. Bretzlaff, who planned that a foundation be established to support students through scholarship upon her passing. Mrs. Bretzlaff and her husband, Herbert Bretzlaff, Sr., shared many loves, including a great passion for their American freedoms and actively promoting democratic principles, a free economic system, and capitalistic principles.

To cap off the evening, there was a live performance by Dave Fenley, an international touring artist who previously was featured on NBC’s hit show, The Voice.

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