An army of good men

Dr. John Peter Mettauer 1811, a widely known surgeon in his day, founded the Randolph-Macon Medical School. He also developed revolutionary surgical techniques and tools, including some that, with modernization, continue to be used. Some of his original surgical equipment is on display in the Atkinson Museum. Dr. Mettauer is recognized as the namesake of the most distinguished annual award for faculty research.

Dr. Randolph Chitwood 1968
Dr. E. Lawrence Kendig, Jr. ’32 earned two degrees from Hampden-Sydney, both magna cum laude: a B.A. in 1932 and a 1933,  adding the Gammon Cup for good measure. After a brilliant career in medical school, he embarked upon an extraordinarily productive clinical, teaching, and research career in pediatrics—especially pediatric pulmonology, the field in which he has been acknowledged for decades as the world’s foremost authority.

Dr. W. Randolph “Ranny” Chitwood, Jr. ’68 is a cardiothoracic surgeon internationally recognized as the first to perform robot-assisted heart valve surgery in North America. He now serves as the director of the East Carolina Heart Institute and senior associate vice chancellor at East Carolina University. In 2003 he was elected to Fellowship in the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons of England, an honor for which few Americans are selected. In 2007, as founder and director of the Institute, he was named to the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Distinguished Chair, the largest endowed chair in the UNC System.

In an often less public but no less important role are the many captains of industry who may have honed their negotiating skills convincing less savvy Tigers to provide gas money for a road trip or to pay late fraternity dues.

Among our many alumni who have been successful in business is Robert V. Hatcher, Jr. ’51, who retired in 1991 as CEO of Johnson & Higgins, the fifth  largest insurance brokerage in the world. Hugh R. Stallard ’59 is the retired president and CEO of Bell Atlantic-GTE, one of the largest communications companies in the country. David N. Martin ’52 is founder and senior brand consultant at Martin Branding Worldwide. He has been inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame as creator of the internationally known marketing campaign “Virginia is for lovers.” He also formed the The Martin Agency, rated the best advertising agency in the south. Many Hampden-Sydney men have led careers there, including Martin’s brother, Stephen H. Martin ’67, and John B. Adams, Jr. ’71, the company’s current chairman and CEO. Norwood H. Davis, Jr. ’63 is the retired CEO and chairman emeritus of Trigon Healthcare, Inc., formerly Blue Cross Blue Shield of Virginia. Maurice A. Jones ’86 is president of Pilot Media and serves as the publisher of The Virginian-Pilot newspaper. He had been commissioner for the Virginia Department of Social Services and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Virginia.

The Law
As in business, Hampden-Sydney men have become leaders in law. Orran L. Brown ’78 was one of three valedictorians that year who graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. At the law firm BrownGreer PLC, he has been involved with administering claims in high profile cases, such as Dalkon Shield, “Fen-Phen” diet drugs, and the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. His classmate and fellow valedictorian Barrye L. Wall ’78 is a Hong Kong-based partner of White & Case who specializes in business law in Asia. Julious P. Smith, Jr. ’65 is the chairman of Williams Mullen law firm, which has offices across the Mid-Atlantic and abroad. W. Birch Douglass III ’65 is a successful estate planning and probate lawyer at McGuireWoods, while William N. Watkins ’79, a principal at Sands Anderson, is a leading attorney in civil litigation defense.
Hampden-Sydney College has produced so many successful businessmen, financiers, and lawyers that there are simply too many to list. It is safe to say, however, that the College’s alumni have positively contributed to every industry and continue to be well-educated and honest businessmen from Wall Street to Farmville.

The Arts

Dr. Graves H. Thompson 1927
Dr. Graves Thompson ’27 would be distressed if we did not celebrate the many contributions Hampden-Sydney College has made to the arts. Along with leading the classics department for decades, Dr. Thompson also taught art history and music appreciation. Despite being devoted to the liberal arts and working to instill in our students a love of music, literature, and visual art, the College is not known for producing many working artists. Some young men, however, have found their artistic voice on The Hill and taken it to far corners of the world.

Former classics student B. Louis Briel ’66 of Richmond is a portrait painter of national reputation, having painted such luminaries as John F. Kennedy, Arthur Ashe, and Carrie Hamilton, the daughter of actress Carol Burnett. After a career in advertising, Daniel C. Bartges, Jr. ’70 has become a widely-recognized artist. Christopher Beck ’98, inspired by teaching students, became a muralist and sculptor of larger-than-lifesize clothing from reclaimed iron.

Professor emeritus of English Hassell Simpson was fond of appearing in plays with students and fellow community members. He says in his Hampden-Sydney Stage that students were putting on plays at least as early as 1786 when a local supporter of the College, Martin Smith, gave it three lottery tickets; the winnings, if any, were to be used to purchase “a good set of scenes and costumes.”

Robert Porterfield 1928 enjoyed modest fame as an actor during his two years at Hampden-Sydney. He left to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, later becoming supervisor of dramatic art for the State Board of Education and founding the Barter Theater in Abingdon, which not only brought theater to rural Southwest Virginia but also was a proving ground for such actors as Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, and Patricia Neal.

After a lifetime of serving as a lawyer and judge and acting on local stages, Tom Mason ’40 broke into movies when he retired; among other roles, he played the judge in Mississippi Burning. After honing his skills in Johns Auditorium and working for a year in the Alumni Office, Skipp Sudduth ’79 moved to New York City and began a successful career as an actor and singer-songwriter. He has appeared in many off-Broadway productions and as a regular cast member of the TV series Third Watch. Stephen Colbert ’86 spent two years at Hampden-Sydney College before transferring to Northwestern University. He said in a 2002 interview for The Record, “Hampden-Sydney was great for me. It gave me a sense of what I wanted to do with my life.”

Scott Cooper 1992
Though he has acting credits in the film, Gods and Generals and the TV mini-series Broken Trail, Scott Cooper ’92 has found considerable success behind the camera as writer and director of the film Crazy Heart. The film has received many accolades, including awards from the Writers Guild of America, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Independent Spirit Awards, and Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Actor.

More recently, Drew Kennedy ’02 cultivated his songwriting prowess in dorm rooms and at fraternity parties before launching a career in country music. Based in Austin, Texas, he now has two albums to his name and tours regularly. Years ago, John Phillips ’56 of The Mamas and the Papas was a student here; however, like Colbert and Porterfield, he left before graduating. These early departures may speak to their love of a craft that our then-lack of a Fine Arts Department could not adequately foster.

That which Hampden-Sydney does foster well is writing. Students in recent years have had the benefit not only of the Rhetoric Program and the Writing Center, but also such faculty members as novelist Susan Pepper Robbins and poets Tom O’Grady and Neil Perry. Michael Knight ’92, who has published many short stories and this year’s novel The Typist, still credits Professor Robbins for her direction. Knight himself is now a creative writing professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Journalism has also felt the Hampden-Sydney touch. Among many are J. Kendrick Woodley ’79, editor of the Farmville Herald, Walter Miller ’72, a writer with CNN, and R. Tyler Whitley ’59 of the Times-Dispatch in Richmond. Charles Hurt III ’95 and Christopher Stirewalt ’97 are nationally-syndicated columnists; Stirewalt is now a commentator with Fox News.

William Hoffman 1949
A record of writing at Hampden-Sydney, however, would be incomplete without mention of William H. Armstrong ’36 and William Hoffman ’49. Mr. Armstrong is best known for his 1970 Newbery Medal-winning novel Sounder, though during his career he wrote more than a dozen books for children and adults. When he was not writing, Mr. Armstrong was teaching; he taught history and study techniques for 52 years at the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut. Mr. Hoffman remained closer, living in nearby Charlotte County and even teaching at the College for a time. He joked that he became a professional writer when he was paid to write love letters for fellow soldiers. Later he would receive the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature (1992), the O. Henry Prize (1996), and the Dashiel Hammett Award (1999). Among his works are the well-known Yancey’s War and Tidewater Blood.

The philosophy of the Independence Movement that led to the creation of Hampden-­Sydney College continues today. As one of the few colleges for men, Hampden-Sydney continues its centuries-old role of offering choice in education. What was once an alternative to colleges and universities loyal to the English King has become an alternative to college and universities designed to prepare students for particular careers rather than for critical thinking. The College offers a choice within the diversity of higher education options.

Student Body President Ken Simon ’11 agrees, saying, “Hampden-Sydney College continues to focus on the needs of young men, to provide a liberal arts education, and to develop thoughtful citizens and leaders is important for the United States, not just the students who come here. The effect our graduates have on the country is tremendous, as is the fact that ­Hampden-Sydney gives young men a place for frank discussions with other men about what their role is in society, business, families, and so forth.”

The concept of Hampden-Sydney College as a national treasure seems natural to most of us who are a part of it, but communicating that idea to others—beyond the lists of prominent and influential alumni—is somewhat difficult. In an attempt to get a better handle on it, I called John Brinkley at Westminster Canterbury where he now lives.
In somewhat atypical Brinkley fashion, he laid it out simply. He said, “The College is a national treasure because it aims to turn out good citizens. This country isn’t much without informed and involved citizens—not just the guys in high public office but also the army of good men working across our nation.”

Through the realization of our centuries-old mission “to form good men and good citizens,” we have become more than a college. We are a national treasure.