April 06, 2012
Alexander C. Cartwright '13
Hampden-Sydney holds an annual event for those alumni, students, and friends of the College who have given to Hampden-Sydney at the Founder level. This year, Founders Weekend was nothing less than exceptional. Without a doubt, one of the weekend's highlights was the lecture after the Saturday dinner by social entrepreneur and author, Rye Barcott.
Mr. Barcott wrote a well known book It happened on the Way to War about his non-profit "Carolina for Kibera" which seeks to "develop local leaders, catalyze positive change, and alleviate poverty in the Kibera slum of Nairobi" (cfk.unc.edu). Barcott explained how his original inspiration stemmed from the clinic a local woman built after Barcott gave her $26.00 to start a business in which she arbitraged vegetables in different parts of the city and used the proceeds to construct her clinic. As an aspiring economist, I was thrilled to hear a story about how entrepreneurship, the movement of capital, and free trade improved a community, but I realized Barcott's message was not about economics alone. He attributes his organization's success to its focus on providing talent with opportunity; I think that message is worth bringing back to "the Hill" to reflect upon.
Just as Carolina for Kibera works to create opportunity by providing talented leaders with the resources they need, Barcott pointed out that colleges and universities function largely the same way. A college provides talented students with opportunities-professors, laboratories, libraries, study abroad opportunities, internships, fellowships, and a scholastic environment-that cultivate success. Hampden-Sydney College has done just that for me and my fellow students. We give each student a book on etiquette during his first day here, we work to maintain a strong honor code system, and our administration works hard to maintain a low student to instructor ratio. Even beyond these efforts to provide talent with opportunity, several of the resources we have are unique to Hampden-Sydney, like our Center for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Political Economy, The Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest, and the new Hampden-Sydney Journal of The Sciences. Furthermore, unlike Mr. Barcott, we Hampden-Sydney students don't have to travel to Africa and risk $26.00 in order to combine talent with opportunity; we have opportunities all around us.
Even though mixing talent with opportunity sounds like a simple formula for success, it's not a law of chemistry. While there is ample talent and opportunity at our fingertips, we still miss plenty of chances to capitalize. In fact, attending Founders Weekend reminded me of an opportunity we have that not enough students and alumni take advantage of: the opportunity to improve our world by giving to our College. By giving to the College, you help combine talented students and professors with unique Hampden-Sydney opportunities and make it possible for Hampden-Sydney men to go out in the world as leaders in business, science, public service, academia-any field a liberal arts education covers.
Current students and even the youngest alumni can think about this in terms of Rye Barcott's $26.00 investment in Kibera. If you graduated in the last three years, the monthly gift to be a Young Founder is only $21.00 per month, or $250.00 divided by twelve months. That's less than Rye Barcott spent on creating new opportunities for talented leaders, and we don't even have to travel to Africa to do it.
Each day we students have the potential to fuse our talents with opportunities at Hampden-Sydney College. One of the greatest opportunities we have is to give to the College in an effort to ensure that in the future, talented Hampden-Sydney men will be connected with endless opportunity, and being able to do this at the Founders level for less than $21.00 per month is an opportunity we should all seize.