Josiah Bunting, III

H-SC President, 1977-1987Josiah Bunting, III

For the first time in almost 150 years the Board, led by a lawyer-alumnus in New York, turned North for a new President. Josiah Bunting III, scion of an old Philadelphia family, had served briefly in the Marine Corps after graduation from St. George's School in Newport, Rhode Island, before attending Virginia Military Institute, where he majored in English, rose to the top cadet rank, and won virtually every honor; as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, "the balding and bookish American" rowed for Christ Church and took his degree in Modern History. After active army service, including duty in Viet Nam and teaching at West Point, he had been on the staff of the Naval War College before becoming the last president (1973-77) of Briarcliff College, a women's college in New York. In 1972 he published his first novel, and by 1977 was becoming well known for articles and book reviews in leading magazines and newspapers. After Bunting's election in January 1977 Dr. Reveley spoke of him to the Board in generous praise and anticipation: "The election...has given a lift to all...His appointment brings excitement to the campus and to Hampden-Sydney people everywhere." Indeed he made good his promise to "put fire in their bellies"; the inspiriting effect of the most visible President in almost sixty years raised morale to heights that could not be remembered. Where he saw needs he literally as well as metaphorically snapped his fingers and directly proceeded with often unnervingly ambitious action. So came the Kirby Fieldhouse - with the Leggett Swimming Pool, which Dr. McIlwaine had dreamed of a century earlier - and the new dormitories dictated by a commitment to increasing enrollment. Much of the past came back to life in him; an elegant dresser like the first Smith and D. L. Carroll, a man of letters like that first Smith, Alexander, and Green, a powerful orator like Hoge, Maxwell, and Robert, a bold visionary like Cushing, McIlwaine, and Gammon, and a full athletic booster like Graham and Gammon. After ten years of restoring confidence and momentum, he yielded to other urges and became Head Master of the Lawrenceville School, which he left in 1995 to become Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute. The College awarded him a Litt. D. at his last Commencement.