by Karlton Davis ’13
The 22nd annual Black Alumni Mentorship Reunion was as powerful as any previous event put on at Hampden-Sydney College. The turnout was second largest in history with a number of alumni, faculty, prospective students, and guests totaling around 140.
The weekend's slogan was "Building a Strong Foundation for Future Generations" and the keynote speaker, Myron Rolle, captured that essence in his profound speech. The reunion committee was active all year, meeting many times to ensure that the weekend went off without a hitch. The members of the committee were seniors Makel Dickerson, Herbie Williams, Damien Booker, Ronnie Fultz; Sophomore John Barber; and I. We put in the dedication and commitment for a wonderful event.
The weekend started off Friday, March 30, at the Minority Student Union house with a cookout for alumni and food catered by Granny B's. The choice in catering came in hopes of bringing a nostalgic feel for the alumni as they returned through the gates of Hampden-Sydney. Alumnus Warren Thompson '81 of Thompson Hospitality Corporation shared with cookout guests a brief story of his success and also explained the help he could offer present students in their future careers and graduate school choices. The event was an example of networking at its finest.
Saturday started early with morning workshops pressing the idea of building a foundation for the attendees. David Coe '14, Mark Henson '08, and I started off with a discussion of how H-SC has improved and also stayed the same in certain areas for minority students. Audience members were free to share input, and they did not hold back their opinions. Questions included "How did professors treat you?" "How many black students did you all have in your freshman class compared to graduation?" and "Did you get all out of H-SC that is promised with the brand name?"
Next, Warren Thompson elaborated on his story and gave tips to entrepreneurs who are trying to achieve their goals. Thompson engaged in numerous jobs until he finally reached his goal to start his own restaurant and hospitality service. Through a PowerPoint presentation, he explained how he came from a two-parent home and raising hogs to be president and chairman of a company that generated $320 million dollars in annual revenue.
To conclude the workshop portion of the weekend, Nat Scurry, a mentor to and close friend of John Barber '14, explained his story of being a minority soldier in Vietnam, a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, and a high-ranking government official. Mr. Scurry has served as senior policy and budget executive at the White House Office of Management and Budget and as deputy director of budget and resources for the District of Columbia. Scurry worked on cases under Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush. Though his life was not easy, the amount of work he put in allowed him to gain the equality and respect of his white counterparts. His story was very informative for the younger generation, conveying that your color is not as important as achieving your goals.
Before the banquet dinner, there was a cocktail reception at Middlecourt. President and Mrs. Howard opened their home to all for great food, drinks, and conversation. Prospective students experienced firsthand the tradition of excellence of Hampden-Sydney and saw the men who were once in their shoes.
Myron Rolle (above at right), a member of the Board of Trustees and a professional football player, started his speech with an interesting quote from William Shakespeare: "The world's a stage and we are merely players," and constructed his insight around this quotation. Rolle is from New Jersey and has had a successful athletic and academic career. He attended Florida State University and by 2006 was a three-year starting safety. He dedicated his career to being a student before an athlete, and this commitment led him to pursue the Rhodes Scholarship, choosing to earn a master's degree in medical anthropology before entering the NFL in 2008.
Rolle explained how his foundation of a strong family and focused goals kept him on track to achieve all that he had in his hands. Rolle was first introduced to the track of self-knowledge one summer day in New Jersey. He explained how he and his friends would walk the strip chasing girls for their phone numbers. One day, his father commanded Rolle to stay in for the day and do book reports on Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, W.E.B. Dubois, and others. "At the time, I was furious and disgusted that my father would hold me from fun with my friends on a summer day to do pointless book reports that weren't even graded," said Rolle.
Later in his life, Rolle came to understand the hard work those brave men had put in, so that Myron Rolle could have a chance to be a player on this stage. There were too many people pushing Rolle to continue for him to give up the gifts he had ahead of him.
The audience was in awe of Rolle's profound story. He deserved a standing ovation after his speech and that's exactly what he received. The committee presented Rolle with a Hampden-Sydney clock, and I dedicated a painting to him that captured the event's mission of "building a strong foundation for future generations."
We are lucky to have Rolle as a Trustee to offer his intelligence to help Hampden-Sydney grow and prosper.
This weekend was a positive experience for all in attendance and hopefully the next reunion will be as powerful as the last.