Mark Meitz ’95, Director of Alumni Relations, welcomes the 2013 graduates into the alumni association.
Springtime at Hampden-Sydney was again marked by the joyous celebration of a beautiful Mother's Day commencement ceremony. Exams were completed and graded. The stress and worries of academia were traded for the congratulations and camaraderie of a job well done for the 191 seniors graduating on the lawn of Venable Hall.
This year's commencement address was given by U.S. Navy Admiral Eric T. Olson (Ret.) (right, with President Christopher Howard), the former leader of the U.S. Special Operations Command. He is now the president of ETO Group, LLC, a national security consultancy. Admiral Olson offered the graduates valuable insight into the lives they would soon be leading as college graduates. First, he reminded them to use the critical thinking skills instilled in them through their liberal arts education: "Those who could see beyond the next move or the next challenge, were the ones who succeeded in our long and demanding program. They weren't focused on what would happen after breakfast or lunch. They were mentally days or weeks ahead, already figuring out how to be in the best position to overcome a future challenge."
He then encouraged the graduates to consider multiple perspectives during decision-making. He said, "Our reliance on social media and other sources that compress and abbreviate information, and on bulletized'slide presentations for decision-making, have caused a distillation of almost everything into simple and decidedly un-nuanced concepts and phrases. But real life is quite nuanced. Everything and everybody have complexity, subtlety, and depth that defy our attempts to simplify them. By quickly examining a problem through a single lens, we miss much of what is important. Whatever time you spend seeking the nuance,the perspective, the overlooked fact or factorwill be time well spent."
Admiral Olson also said that we should not rely too heavily on living in a digital world, that we should not be afraid to jump into the "people pit." "Learn what it is like to have an inconsiderate coworker, a demanding boss, an awesome mentor, a selfless neighbor, a truly courageous subordinate," says Olson. "Figure out how systems depend on people to run them, and how important decisions, those that affect lives and livelihoods, are made. Gain, as much as you can, the experiences that will fill you out, make you a better person,not just wealthier or more popular,better. As you broaden your people horizons, you will find yourself surprised, entertained, disappointed, elated, saddened, humbled, inspired by their stories, if you take the time to listen to them."
Finally, Admiral Olson referenced the popular "Man Up /Hampden-Sydney" bumper sticker. "Don't ever stop manning up. And know that being a good man means being a good teammate and good friend; a thoughtful leader; a man who carries his share of the load and then some; a man who is willing to stoop down to pull others up; and, when the time comes, a man who is a loyal and hardworking husband and an attentive father. Even in real life, there is a code of conduct and a code of honor."
Later, senior Ryan M. Carter took the stage to deliver his valedictory address. He has developed a reputation for giving inspiring speeches, and he did not disappoint on his graduation day. He offered a glimpse into the future of the graduating class and offered these thoughts: "I stand before you not as a man of fear but as a man of unyielding confidence and optimism in the face of complex problems-confident that here on this Hill in this class we have preachers who will spread the Gospels, soldiers who will bring peace, economists who will develop other countries, doctors who will find new cures, businessmen who will reinvigorate our economy, artists who will deepen and enhance our culture. In this class, we have politicians who will rise above the noise of our Capitol, educators who will reshape young minds, lawyers who will stifle injustice, fathers who will continue and deepen and enrich the legacy of this place, and philanthropists and leaders who will feed the hungry, house the homeless, and give voice to the mute."
Commencement 2013 was indeed a day of great celebration as another class of Hampden-Sydney students marked the conclusion of their undergraduate education and the beginning of their lives as Hampden-Sydney Men.
The Gammon Cup, given in honor of Dr. Edgar G. Gammon 1905 to the member of the graduating class who has best served the College through character, scholarship, and athletic ability, was presented to Alex T. Price '13.
Alexander C. Cartwright '13 received the Anna Carrington Harrison Award for the most constructive leadership during the school year. Cartwright served as Student Court Chairman and co-authored an article on the Honor Code in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The Eta of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa presented Yonathan T. Ararso '13 with the Samuel S. Jones Award for intellectual excellence. The biology major completed research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, presented findings at several conferences, and edited the College's Journal of the Sciences.
Each year, a member of the faculty is recognized for "outstanding classroom contribution to the education of Christian young men" with the Cabell Award. This year, the award was given to Dr. Kenneth D. Lehman, Squires Professor of History.
Dr. John H. Eastby, Elliot Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs, was given the Thomas Edward Crawley Award, named for Dr. Edward Crawley '41, who served the College as teacher, scholar, musician, and dean from 1946 until 1984.
The Senior Class Award, given to "a member of the College's faculty, administration, or staff who in the eyes of the Class members has contributed during their four years most significantly to the College, its students, and the community," was presented to Dr. James F. Pontuso, Patterson Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs.
L. Rucker Snead III '81, Associate Dean for Career Education and Vocational Reflection and Director of External Relations at the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest, was recognized for his "active devotion and service to the College and its ideals" with the Robert Thruston Hubard IV Award.
The Senior Gift, a fundraising effort by the graduating glass in support of the College's annual budget, was given this year in honor of Thomas H. Shomo '69, director of marketing and communications.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion was presented to two graduating seniors and one member of the staff. Ryan M. Carter '13 and John B. "Britt" McKenzie '13 were recognized for "excellence of character and generous service" to their classmates. Ralph A. Crawley, supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, was recognized for having been "conspicuously helpful to the institution in its effort to encourage and preserve a high standard of morals."
Kershawn Gilliam ’16 (left) and Michael Bouldin ’16 (right) are all smiles at Middlecourt as their friends and classmates mingle with guests and alumni.
As the student body of Hampden-Sydney College changes, so do the programs that serve the student body. This spring marked the newly reorganized Minority Alumni Mentorship Weekend. Hakeem Croom '10, Assistant Dean of Students for Intercultural Affairs and Student Activities, says he is broadening the event beyond its traditional African-American audience to include all minority groups represented on campus.
"This spring we changed the name of the event to represent our new approach," he said. "Next spring we are making a concerted push to include international students and gay students, as well."
The Mentorship Weekend began with a casual cookout at the Minority Student Union on Friday evening before a Saturday full of workshops and networking opportunities. That afternoon included a tour of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts and a spirited basketball game between the alumni and the students.
Ralph W. Baker, Jr. '89, an investment banker and founder of the New York Shock Exchange youth basketball team, was the keynote speaker at Saturday night's banquet.
The weekend's events concluded Sunday morning with a group worship service in Crawley Forum.
One member of the faculty is recognized each year for outstanding achievement. The Mettauer Award, named for the pioneering medical doctor John Peter Mettauer 1811, is presented at Final Convocation, and this year's recipient was Dr. Michael J. Wolyniak, Assistant Professor of Biology.
Dr. Wolyniak published two articles in 2012: "Improved Student Linkage of Mendelian and Molecular Genetic Concepts" and "Extensive Phenotypic Variation." Also, through the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Education Alliance, he worked with students to isolate a novel bacteriophage, guided the students as they purified and mass-produced it, and did a DNA analysis. The data from two of his courses were added to a central database at the University of Pittsburgh that directly contributes to ongoing studies of bacteriophage genomic diversity.
Students are expected to have experience in independent research projects while in college if they are interested in going to graduate or professional school, and it is great preparation for any career in the sciences.
Dr. Wolyniak says, "Part of my job as a Hampden-Sydney professor is to provide as much student access to authentic research experiences as possible. Through the support of the College and outside agencies like the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, I have worked to join and forge collaborations with faculty at a variety of other colleges and universities to allow Hampden-Sydney students to conduct meaningful and cutting-edge research both in the classroom and independently over the summer and during the academic year. It's a win-win for our students, since they can utilize the resources of larger universities while preserving the close student-professor interactions that they expect at Hampden-Sydney. I am honored to receive the Mettauer Award since it means that these efforts are paying off and that our students are getting increased opportunities to perform independent research."
The recognition Dr. Wolyniak received is indicative of the energy in the biology department. Dr. Edward Devlin, chair of the department, says, "Mike is one of the cohort of four enthusiastic junior colleagues we have in biology. Mike has the ability to engage students and get them excited about biology and research in the field. It is not unusual to see a group of students in his office and lab discussing their projects."
This summer, James Hughes '14 and Alan Fish '14 have been working with Dr. Wolyniak at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
Alex T. Price '13, the recipient of the highly competitive NCAA postgraduate scholarship, was recognized twice at Final Convocation; he received The Weyland Thomas Joyner Physics Award and the William C. Chewning, Jr., Award from the department of mathematics and computer science.
The James Madison Award for Excellence in Political Science was given to two students whose grade point averages were separated by only 25/1000th of a point. The recipients were G. Forrest Allen '13 and Alexander R. Boal '13.
This year's recipient of the annual Leila B. Thompson Eta Sigma Phi Latin Prize is Marcus G. Payne '13. The award is named for the wife of Dr. Graves Thompson '27. The Thompsons famously hosted Eta Sigma Phi gatherings for decades, and Mrs. Thompson's chocolate punch is fondly remembered by many alumni and community members.
Hampden-Sydney College students (at left) worked with tenth-grade students at Prince Edward County High School on crafting clear, thoughtful essays.
Part of being a "good citizen" is interacting with our fellow citizens. More and more students are taking advantage of local community service opportunities, particularly ones involving the children of Prince Edward County.
Dr. Elizabeth Deis collaborated with Paul Jenkins '95, an English teacher at Prince Edward County High School, to have her rhetoric students work over a series of weeks with his 10th-grade students on their essays. In addition, the Hampden-Sydney students, whose rhetoric class focused on communication and gender, were collecting data on the high school students' attitudes toward reading and writing.
Students involved in the Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program took their "little brothers" on a tour of the newly opened galleries of the Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville. They went through the galleries together and saw a movie. Later they shared lunch, and a former Moton student-striker who became a teacher read a story to the children. The Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program pairs college students with local elementary and middle school students. Mentors go once a week to visit their "little brother" at school and become a positive presence in his life.
Local elementary school children got a special science demonstration from Greg Knabel '13 in March. Greg graduated in May with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry; he also served as president of the College's chapter of Chi Beta Phi, the national scientific honorary fraternity. Fourth Graders at Prince Edward County Elementary School witnessed Greg's amazing one-man show, demonstrating physics, chemistry, and biology in fun ways to encourage the kids to get excited about science.
A group of Hampden-Sydney men (including some newly minted alumni) traveled to Nicaragua in May for some fishing and fellowship. At the Rio Indio Lodge, (standing) Meade Whitaker '99, fishing guide Harry Robertson, Patrick Clifton '13, Michael Dieffenbach '14, George Dieffenbach, Dr. Jeff Clifton '83, (kneeling) Russ Carter, Ryan Carter '13, David Klein '78, Dr. James Miller '05, Michael Van Reekum '13, and Chatham Wurdeman '13.