Growing up in Gettysburg, Tyler Hillson ’26 considered the sidewalks, sand volleyball courts, and batting cages at Gettysburg College an extension of his family home’s backyard. Here at the College, he learned how to ride a bike and perfect his baseball pitch. Today, his connection with Gettysburg College takes on new meaning for this student-athlete who now calls the College his second Gettysburg home.
Hillson, a philosophy and psychology double major, ultimately chose Gettysburg for its rigorous liberal arts and sciences curriculum, breadth of high-impact learning opportunities, and the balance offered between academics and athletics. In particular, the diverse study abroad opportunities, the Psychology Department’s supportive faculty, the Washington, D.C., connections through the Eisenhower Institute, and the strong sense of community he felt on campus convinced him that Gettysburg was where he wanted to be.
That community has been further built through the camaraderie of his teammates on the Gettysburg College baseball team, who supported him during his first year as a pitcher and outfielder for the Bullets.
“My buddies on the team ask me, ‘Hey, why don’t you go home for dinner?’ I probably went home only twice during the spring semester,” said Hillson, whose family lives only 10 minutes away from the College. “I wanted the full college experience,” which included residing on campus in Rice Hall.
At Gettysburg, even family acquaintances have taken on new meaning, as is the case with Public Policy Chair Anne S. Douds. His father, Dr. Eric Hillson, and his mother, Heather, have known Douds for many years. Hillson said he enjoyed getting to know and work with Douds on an academic level during his First-Year Seminar, Change Agency & Activism, as an Eisenhower Scholar.
Eisenhower Scholars are selected based on their high level of civic engagement locally, nationally, or internationally. Throughout high school, Hillson contributed to activities of the Knights of the Holy Temple, a Catholic service organization for young men, by performing volunteer work for community organizations and assisting with fundraising for his parish church.
“[Eisenhower Scholars] identify needs within their community and have the intellectual and emotional capital to do something about them,” said Douds, who also noted their leadership skills as entrepreneurial changemakers. “I have known Tyler since he was a little boy playing baseball with our son. Imagine my surprise when this young man walked into my classroom on the first day, bearing the name of who I still pictured as 3 feet tall in his Little League outfit. He had matured into an independent and critical thinker with a passion for knowledge and advancing the greater good.”
During his First-Year Seminar, Hillson explored how to become a policy change agent and advocate for social reform. He created an action plan for developing baseball clinics for Gettysburg Little League baseball that would promote diversity and inclusion and increase youth participation.
“The baseball clinics were a way to get kids excited about the game and learn about the game,” he said. “Unlike other sports, baseball has high barriers to entry. I thought about fundraisers and other ways to cover team needs and equipment costs to bolster Gettysburg Little League as a whole. It’s a project that has something to do with my community that I’m very passionate about, and it has something to do with a sport that I’m very passionate about.”
In addition to his First-Year Seminar, Hillson said he enjoyed his introduction to philosophy class with Philosophy Prof. Gary Mullen because he gained a greater understanding of the skills he has been building, such as communication.
“The thing I liked about his class is that it was all discussion-based. You got a chance to talk with your peers, share ideas, and just learn from each other,” said Hillson, who’s considering pathways that could take him to law school or a career with the FBI after graduating from Gettysburg. “I want to learn how to communicate and write better. Besides philosophy being such an interesting area of study, it teaches you a lot of the skills that you’re going to need [in your life and career].”
“Gettysburg does a good job of allowing you to step outside your comfort zone. When you graduate, you have all these experiences and skills, no matter what you choose to do.”
– Tyler Hillson ’26
During his first year at Gettysburg, in his First-Year Seminar, philosophy course, and other classes, opportunities to build communication and teamwork skills often arose through group projects. Hillson frequented Musselman Library to use its many research and instruction tools and find support from knowledgeable library staff, such as Online Learning Librarian Kevin Moore. His baseball teammates also motivated him not only on the field but also in his studies.
“A lot of the guys are academically driven. It was good because we could get together and really crank out the work,” he said.
As he looks forward to his sophomore year, Hillson encourages Gettysburg’s incoming Class of 2027 to take time and connect with all that Gettysburg offers its students, including athletics, student clubs and organizations, and leadership and public service opportunities. It all begins with Orientation traditions, like Convocation and the First-Year Walk, and its offerings in August.
“You’re with all the members of your class, and four years later, you’re with them again and you’re looking around at the people you’ve grown with,” said Hillson, who recalled fond team-bonding experiences through the College’s many traditions, such as Servo Thanksgiving. “As soon as I walked through Penn Hall [during Convocation], it became real. I’m a student here now.”
From Orientation on, Hillson encourages first-year students to immerse themselves fully in the College’s consequential education, from pursuing internships to studying abroad in Greece or Italy, both of which he’ll explore at Gettysburg.
“When you go out into the world, you’re bringing with you real-world experience,” Hillson said. “Gettysburg does a good job of allowing you to step outside your comfort zone. When you graduate, you have all these experiences and skills, no matter what you choose to do.”
By Michael Vyskocil
Photos by Abbey Frisco and David Sinclair