H-SC President, 1960-1963
A native of Virginia's far-southwestern Pulaski County, Thomas E. Gilmer 1923 entered Hampden-Sydney in 1919. After graduation as third-honor man and marriage to his chemistry professor's daughter, he taught in a military school and then he did graduate work at the University of Virginia before returning to Hampden-Sydney in 1927 to teach mathematics. When the revered Dr. J.H.C. Bagby died in 1934, Gilmer moved over to physics and took a Ph.D. in that subject from the University of Virginia in 1937. He became an archetypal Hampden-Sydney professor: tough but fair, demanding but patient, and, though unforgiving in his grade-book, one of the kindest men anyone ever knew and legendary for his showman-like classroom and laboratory demonstrations.
As President he was much concerned about admissions and secured a full-time Admissions Director. During his tenure Eggleston Library was built; this freed Winston Hall for conversions into the Commons.
He returned to the classroom and laboratory in 1963 and taught until 1972. He helped design the new (1968) science building; it was named for him in 1981, four years before his death.