H-SC President, 1992-2000
At the top of his high-school class in 1940, Samuel V. Wilson was ready to enter Hampden-Sydney, but he fibbed about his age and enlisted in the army as a private. Combat duty with Merrill's Marauders in Southeast Asia was followed by a brilliant career in military intelligence, during which he attended graduate school at Columbia and became fluent in Russian. He rose to Lieutenant General, finishing his service as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Deputy Director of the CIA. He retired to nearby Rice in 1977, received a LL.D. from the College in 1979, and began teaching courses on national security in 1981. At 68, he became the oldest man ever elected President.
In the years immediately before Gen. Wilson's election and in the first years of his presidency, enrollment growth had slowed, and Hampden-Sydney again faced the question of coeducation. After an extensive examination of the issue, in 1996 the Board voted to remain all-male.
Astonishingly visible and efficiently energetic, Gen. Wilson fixed the focus on the uncompromised cultivation of the student-faculty enterprise. On his first day, he set the tone by inspecting every room on campus, and his administration saw the completion of the renovation of Bagby Hall, the renovation of Morton Hall, Atkinson Hall, and Cushing Hall, the beginning of a multi-year project to renovate or rebuild all fraternity houses, and the construction of the observatory. The enrollment resumed growth, and the endowment nearly doubled.
Throughout the eight years of his presidency, he taught a Sunday School class for students and missed few home athletic events. "General Sam" was elected President Emeritus in 2000 and continued for several years as the Wheat Professor of Leadership. At his last Commencement he received the B.A. that he had forgone the opportunity to earn.