Preppy maven Lisa Birnbach affirms H-SC's primacy


In decidedly prep fashion, author Lisa Birnbach returned to Hampden-Sydney on November 13 for The Game and to autograph copies of her new book, True Prep. Set up at a table in front of Hampden House porch, Ms. Birnbach gamely signed hundreds of books for her admirers with individualized messages, including one in a copy of the Preppy Yearbook (the 1981 Kaleidoscope), which she says “is preppier than the Preppy Handbook and True Prep.”

True Prep
Prep icons Diana and Josiah Bunting III, author Lisa Birnbach, and Barbara and Christopher B. Howard on the lawn of Hampden House.
Birnbach, and Hampden-Sydney, gained notoriety in the early 1980s when she released True Prep’s prequel, The Official Preppy Handbook, in which good ol’ H-SC was named the preppiest college in the country.

She affirms our position in her new book: “… allow us to assure you, in no uncertain terms, that Hampden-Sydney is, without equivocation, the preppiest college in the United States.”

“While one could argue that New England or the mid-Atlantic states,” she continues, “with their heavy load of original colonies, seem older, require more layers to be comfortable, and look more British in that tweedy woolen way, we have found that Virginia, home of FFV (First Families of Virginia) and Jefferson’s aura, is the real deal.”

True Prep tells the history of Hampden-Sydney’s own etiquette guide, To Manner Born, To Manners Bred, including its genesis. It seems that in 1978, Diana Bunting, wife of then President Josiah Bunting III, thought students should know how to respond to her dinner invitations, which they were not doing. Using Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt as guides, Thomas Shomo ’69, now director of Public Relations, put together the guide, now in its 7th edition (2008). It has gone through several changes over the years to accommodate new technologies, such as cell phones and e-mail, as well as the evolution of social mores.