H-SC President, 1919-1939
Joseph D. Eggleston 1886, the third member of his class to be elected President, brought a totally new perspective to his office. Although an indifferent and often mischievous student, he undertook a career in public education that culminated in two terms as State Superintendent of Public Instruction (the second election was without opposition), with a definitive book on rural education and appointment to the American delegation to an international conference along the way; when the Board turned to him he was president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He soon began creating the modern presidency: He did not teach classes; he had an office outside his home; he had a full-time Business Manager, and in 1922 even instituted an annual budget; and he had a dean - the first was one of his old teachers - to take care of the sort of problems he himself had presented as a student. He soon deeply regretted his early (1919) support of vesting the College's charter, and thus the election of Trustees, in the Presbyterian Synod of Virginia, whose policy was to give the College a stone when it asked for bread. In his push to modernize ("Go ahead or go to pieces"), Dr. Eggleston justified expansion of the faculty by increasing student numbers; so at last full use was made of the buildings (everything on the South side of Via Sacra) that Major Richmond Venable 1857 had bought for the College when Union Seminary moved to Richmond; and a building entirely for the sciences (Bagby Hall) was erected in 1922. Dr. Eggleston was aided in steering the College through the Depression by the fact that it was a highly visible bargain: until 1929 tuition had not increased since before the Civil War, and national attention came when a study showed that Hampden-Sydney had the highest percentage of graduates in the 1928-29 Who's Who in America of any institution. By 1934 many Trustees had grown dissatisfied with Dr. Eggleston for several reasons, including the amount of time he spent on research in College history, into which his roots went deep and his wife's even deeper. But he confounded his critics when in 1936 he persuaded a descendant of one of the founding Trustees to give a building (Morton Hall) in memory of his ancestor - the most generous gift the College had ever received. A full twenty-year term ended with a peaceful retirement on campus until his death in 1952.