Honoring the brotherhood

by Nathan R. Ryalls ’11

Nathan Ryalls ’11
A recent discussion on the concept of "brotherhood" at Hampden-Sydney College included the perspectives of two alumni, a faculty member, a student, and a professor from the U.S. Marine Corps War College. In the afternoon of February 22, members of the community gathered to discuss the perspectives of Nathan Ryalls '11, Billy Sublett '74, Jeffrey Harris '90, and Dr. Anne Lund. That evening, Dr. Tammy Shultz, Director of National Security and Joint Warfare and Professor of Strategic Studies at the United States Marine Corps War College, gave the talk "Traditions: A Double-Edged Sword?"

Mr. Ryalls started the symposium by presenting a definition of brotherhood developed by the Committee on Sustaining Traditions (initiated by Student Body President Ken Simon '11), explaining that it is time to enter a discussion on "why we have not lived up to these ideals and when we have surpassed them."

"Who is the Hampden-Sydney Man?" was the question Billy Sublett sought to answer. He shared his own experience coming to Hampden-Sydney as a freshman in 1969 and said, "I was very small, not only in terms of my stature for the football team, but also in my thinking." He explained to the audience how he had changed his values while at Hampden-Sydney. He ended with this challenge to the audience: "when we go forth into this world, what we have to do is be worthy of the code and oath we have taken."

Jeffrey Harris ’90
Mr. Harris shared his experience of being a gay, black man on Hampden-Sydney's campus and noted that while "it was difficult enough being a black person, I couldn't have imagined being out on this campus." Mr. Harris was honest and open about his experiences, giving the audience a clear sense of the extent to which his time at Hampden-Sydney was difficult. He said, "Brotherhood is what you make it," and added that his best advice for his Hampden-Sydney brothers (students and alumni) was simply to "be yourself." Mr. Harris noted how happy he had been when, after announcing his homosexuality to his Hampden-Sydney friends, "not a man turned me away." He ended his presentation with the statement: "I think of each of you as one [of my brothers] whether you think of me as one or not."

Dr. Lund has the distinction of being the first female professor at Hampden-Sydney College. She spoke about the early years of her tenure as the only female faculty member and how many friends felt she had lost her mind when she accepted the position. However, she said, "I believe I am a part of this community." She noted her objection to the "Where men are men and women are guests" bumper sticker and stated that she never felt like a guest inside or out of the classroom. Dr. Lund believes that "the diversity [of this community] enriches the brotherhood beyond measure."

Before her presentation that evening, Dr. Tammy Shultz warned the audience,
"If I don't offend you, then I'm not doing my job."  

Dr. Tammy Schultz
She spoke about the decision to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell," and explained why she thinks the Marines are the most resistant of the military branches to opening their ranks to gays and lesbians. She noted similarities between the Marines and Hampden-Sydney College, beyond their shared birthday, noting that both institutions are slow to change because of their traditions. Dr. Shultz argued that traditions create the positive sense of "we-ness," but at the same time negatively define who we are by forcing us to define who we are not.

The "Honoring the Brotherhood" Symposium was the start of a discussion of Hampden-Sydney College's strengths and weaknesses. This discussion should continue as we try to understand what a Hampden-Sydney Man is and how members of this community can live up to our ideals of brotherhood.