Commencement this year was marked by lively remarks from keynote speaker Verne Lundquist, the popping of many champagne corks, and the celebration of the a lifelong friendship put to the ultimate test-as well as the conferring of degrees. The beautiful Mother's Day ceremony drew a large crowd to the front lawn of Venable Hall to mark the transition of this year's class from students to graduates.
Lundquist is the lead play-by-play announcer for CBS Sports' coverage of college football. Throughout his career he has broadcast more than 20 different sports for CBS, including noted coverage of Olympic figure skating and the Masters professional golf tournament. During his remarks, which included references to the movie Happy Gilmore and singer Kid Rock, Lundquist recalled his first trip to Hampden-Sydney in 1980, to provide the play-by-play for ABC TV's broadcast of the Tiger football game against Salisbury State, an assignment he was given after famed announcer Howard Cosell mockingly hyped the game during a broadcast of Monday Night Football.
Next weekend, it was Lundquist-not Cosell-who arrived on campus to broadcast the game.
Standing on the graduation stage this spring, Lundquist recalled, "Some enterprising young guys unfurled a bedsheet from one of the windows of what was then Gammon Gym. On the sheet it said, 'Hampden-Sydney welcomes ABC Sports.' Below that in smaller letters it said, 'Where the Hell is Howard Cosell?' In really small letters it said, 'Who the Hell is Verne Lundquist?' I thank all of you for a slightly warmer reception this time around."
All was not fun and games. Lundquist did offer advice to the graduates, noting: "Who and what you are on this beautiful Sunday in May is not who and what you will become. Along the way, there are going to be twists and turns. There are going to be some roadblocks, some detours, a boatload of surprises in your life as you evolve. I have vivid recollections of clutching my bachelor of arts degree a half a century ago, my major in sociology and minor in history, wondering 'Well, now what?' I contemplated law school. I considered radio and television. I almost joined the Peace Corps. In the end, in 1962, I enrolled as a student at the Lutheran School of Theology on the campus of Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.
It was the same seminary from which my father had been ordained into the Lutheran ministry in 1944. I think I wanted to find out a little bit about myself. What I found out really quickly was that I had no business being a Lutheran minister."
He added: "You as graduates have two ways you can lead your lives: you can live a life of selfishness or a life of selflessness. I would strongly urge you to walk through door number two. Share your life. Introspection has its place; it's important in the development of your soul, but look beyond your own soul. All of you here were witness to an amazing example of selflessness in the early morning hours of January 24 when a fire consumed the TAC house. After all of those present-eight of the nine who lived there-took a count, they realized, as the flames continued to roar, that one of their own was not present. Ben Rogers was still inside. Kirk Rohle took it upon himself to dash back through the flames to try to rescue his best friend, his lifelong teammate. Ben Rogers did escape. Kirk Rohle had a moment when it was really, really looking grim, but at the last minute, hurting by the flames, he found the will to jump through a window. Both men, of course, were burned. Kirk's burns were very serious. It was an incredible act of love, courage, and brotherhood. Needless to say, we are quite thrilled that both men are with us today."
Kirk and Ben, who completed the requirements for their degrees this summer, were the final two students to walk across the stage and did so just as they have lived most of their lives-together.
In addition to the conferring of degrees, many individuals were recognized during commencement for their outstanding achievements as students.
The Gammon Cup, given in memory of Dr. Edgar G. Gammon 1905, pastor of College Church from 1917-1923 and president of the College from 1939-1955, is awarded to the student-athlete in the graduating class who has best served the College. This year it went to Benjamin T. Rogers '12. He earned the President's Award upon entering Hampden-Sydney College and is a Dean's List Student. A two-time football captain, he started in all 43 games of his career and is the only player in program history to be named All-Old Dominion Athletic Conference for all four years of his career. He has been a vital part in helping the Tigers to a 35-5 record, two ODAC Championships, and three NCAA appearances.
The Anna Carrington Harrison Award is awarded to students who show the most constructive leadership in a school year. This year's recipient was S. Barron Frazier '12. He is a Venable Scholar and is a Dean's List Student. He successfully completed the requirements of the Society of 1791 leadership program and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. During his senior year, he reactivated GMGC (Good Men and Good Citizens), and through his efforts many civic endeavors were taken on successfully.
The Samuel S. Jones '43 Phi Beta Kappa Award for intellectual excellence and outstanding student research was presented to Osric A. Forrest '12 for his honors thesis in biology, The Effect of B16-F1 and D5.1G4 Tumor-altered Dendritic Cells on Killer T Cell Activation. The project was supervised by Professor Kristian Hargadon '01, who himself won the award in 2001.
Given annually to "a Hampden-Sydney faculty member in recognition of outstanding classroom contribution to the education of Christian young men," the Cabell Award, created by the Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation, was given to Assistant Professor of Biology Michael J. Wolyniak. In just three years here he has served as the research advisor for five students doing honors research in his department and three students doing summer research projects. His students have won awards and scholarships from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and the National Science Foundation.
The Robert Thruston Hubard IV Award, named for a member of the Class of 1935 and a Hampden-Sydney College professor of political science from 1946 until 1982, is given to a member of the faculty or staff most distinguished for active devotion and service to the College and her ideals. This year, the award went to the Director of Marketing and Communications, Thomas H. Shomo '69. He has served the College for 27 years in many departments, and, as the author of the nationally acclaimed To Manner Born, To Manners Bred, has made significant contributions to civility and good manners among students.
The Thomas Edward Crawley Award, named for the late professor whose 38-year career as teacher, scholar, musician, and dean, is given annually to "that professor most distinguished for devoted service to the ideals of Hampden-Sydney and the education of her sons." This year, that person is Dr. Walter C. "Mike" McDermott III, professor of physics and astronomy. Among his many accomplishments, he took the lead in developing cooperative agreements with both Old Dominion University and Virginia Tech to allow our students to earn degrees both in physics at Hampden-Sydney and in engineering at the other institutions.
Each year, members of the graduating class and friends of the College are recognized for their excellence of character and generous service to others with The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion. Among the graduates, this year's honorees were Jared Christian Harris '12, a highly motivated and a skilled computer scientist who has been instrumental in helping the College with social media, and Stewart Joseph Neifert '12, an outstanding scholar and four-year member of the Student Court. The third recipient was David G. Wilson, Jr. '63, a former College Trustee, the president of The Roundball Club, and a mentor to many young men.
Student Body President John Sharp '12 presented the Senior Class Award, which is given to the member of the faculty, administration, or staff who has contributed most significantly to the students during their four years at Hampden-Sydney. This year's award went to the faculty as a whole for the unifying spirit each member has displayed. Then Taylor Pierce '12, chairman of the Senior Class Campaign, announced that 100% of the graduating class has contributed $5,500 to a scholarship honoring Director of Admissions Jason M. Ferguson '96.
During commencement, five graduates were commissioned as military officers-three in the United States Army and two in the United States Marine Corps. Major Stephan Ruppel-Lee commissioned Joshua E. Rivera '12, Austin J. Sheppard '12, Thomas H. Weisel '12, and Lain M. Healey '12 as second lieutenants in the Army, with Lieutenant Rivera receiving his first salute from his mother, First Sergeant Pamela Kaye Rivera. Lieutenant General W. Gerald Boykin, Wheat Visiting Professor in Leadership, commissioned Edward F. Thomas III '12 as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.
The student graduating with the highest cumulative grade-point average (3.9747) was DesRaj McCree Clark '12, a biology major and chemistry minor. In his valedictory address he urged his classmates to acknowledge the changes that have occurred at Hampden-Sydney during the past four years, but also to be reassured by its steadfast nature. "We should expect things to change over four years, but what makes Hampden-Sydney such an interesting place is that the traditions and important elements of this college are still in their proper places."