Those glory days of college are hard to come by after we go our separate ways. No more late nights hanging out in our buddy's room, walking to the Commons for a late Saturday morning breakfast, or just enjoying a peaceful walk across campus. Thankfully, we can do all of those things again during our new reunion weekend.
Alumni gathered at the end of May for the inaugural spring reunions, and any reservations about the new arrangement quickly faded away. Early arrivers gathered for a discussion with Lt. Col. Christopher W. Hughes '88, Deputy Director of Public Affairs for the Marine Corps, and Joe Viar '63, retired chairman of Viar & Co., about being a "good man and a good citizen" in today's world. Later, they moved to the patio of the Tiger Inn for a "bourbon, wine, and beer tasting" with wine from John Higgs'61, owner of BarrenRidge Vineyards, and beer from Taylor Smack '97, owner of Blue Mountain Brewery. J. Scott Simms '61, a local connoisseur of bourbon, guided the attendees through the many options available to them. By the time dinner on Chalgrove Point rolled around, nearly everyone had arrived for an entire weekend of reconnection, recollection, and celebration.
"The pace of the weekend was perfect," says Gerald Gillespy '88, who made the trip up from Birmingham for his 25th reunion. "I got to talk to Ron Heinemann for a long time at Friday night's event, and there were a lot of other old professors running around."
Each reunion class had a hospitality room on campus with yearbooks, school newspapers from their College years, and other memorabilia to recall stories lost to time. The hospitality rooms also gave those alumni not spending the night in the dorms a chance to get back in the residence halls.
Gillespy was one of the attendees who chose to maximize their return to The Hill and spent their nights in the residence halls, something they could not do when reunions where held during the school year. He says, "My buddy Mike Barke '88 and I attended the reunion together and stayed in the Whitehouse dorms. Saturday morning we woke up in the dorm and walked to the Commons for breakfast. I haven't had the chance to do that in years. I loved the opportunity tore live the old school days."
Saturday morning, after Gillespy, Barke, and the other brave alumni sleeping in the dorms had breakfast, all of the reunion classes gathered in Johns Auditorium for remarks from President Chris Howard and Dean of Admissions Anita Garland.
"Having been educated on this Hill, none of you has lived an ordinary life-not one of you," said Dean Garland to the reunion attendees. "You left this place with a youthful fervor, knowing that nothing could stand in your way, yet you always had the security of being joined to this place and to each other by something that no one could ever take away from you."
It was here that the Class of 1963 announced a $5.3-million gift to Hampden-Sydney. Gifts from members of the class supported new endowed scholarships; the Hampden-Sydney Fund; the classroom renovation campaign; the Good Men and Good Citizens Scholarship endowment; the Miller, Porterfield and Sipe chemistry equipment endowment; and new scholarships to be created through their estate plans."
This effort of the Class of 1963 sets a new standard of excellence in collective giving by a reunion class to support the College," says Lee King '94, vice president for Institutional Advancement. "It is an all-time record reunion gift, and is especially meaningful for the many different projects and endowments that this collective gift supports. Every facet of Hampden-Sydney is touched by the generosity of these men."
Col. Christopher W. Hughes, who celebrated his 25th reunion, says, "I have a sense of envy over what the Class of '63 has done for Hampden-Sydney College. I hope '88 can do as much if not more." But he did not stop there, adding, "I'd like to see my class assume a greater leadership role for the College. It's an important time right now for Hampden-Sydney. As we approach the peak of our influence and earnings potential, we should always consider H-SC and seek meaningful ways to support her."
The Class of 1963 then joined members of the Patrick Henry Society for lunch in Pannill Commons and their annual induction celebration. Peter B. Hatcher III '63 and his wife Judy made the trip down from Toronto, Canada. "It was nostalgic to say the least. The last time I was here was about 10 years ago. We had what I consider to be a wonderful class and we reconnected instantly with old friends. We stayed with a group of fraternity brothers at the Longwood Inn and we enjoyed reminiscing with each other."
He says they talked about the infamous alligator, racing cars around the circle in front of Cushing Hall (including the one that rolled over), and the Kappa Sigma Christmas party that got them put on two-month probation.
Hatcher adds, "You notice the new buildings, but Hampden-Sydney still has the same ambiance that it had when I walked into the place in 1959."
There was a very special member of the Patrick Henry Society in attendance: William "Wit" Garrett, Sr. '43 (right, with his son Bill) returned for his 70th reunion. Mr. Garrett is a retired farmer and oyster planter from Essex County, whose family has strong ties with the College. Wit Garrett's brother, Fred L. Garrett, graduated in 1932. Fred Garrett's son, Fred Garrett III, graduated in 1962. The line has continued with brothers-in-law and grandsons. Wit Garrett's return to campus is a great testament to the family's love of the College.
Mr. Garrett's son, William "Bill" Garrett, Jr. '74, attended the reunion with his father and says, "He and mother used to go to reunions pretty regularly, but he hadn't been back with any regularity since the 1970s. A year ago, when he found out about the reunion and realized it would be his 70th, he said, 'If I am able, I would like to go.' I said, 'Dad, if you are able, I will take you.' He was pretty excited to be there. He just wanted to go to the luncheon, which we did, and he was acknowledged a couple of times. The Class of '63was very gracious. It was a very good day for him."
Rodney E. Williams, Jr. '93 and his father Rodney E. Williams, Sr. '63 were both on hand celebrating reunions. The younger Mr. Williams says, "This was definitely a once in a lifetime occasion. My mom was here too and she was really proud to see us on campus together."
The elder Williams also came with his lifelong friend Dr. Harvey F. Selden '63, and the younger Mr. Williams adds, "The two of them competed for the valedictorian's spot and my father took the prize. I've always been proud of him for that accomplishment; he is very academic. Of course, Harvey says the reason my father was valedictorian was because dad's pre-law classes were easier than his pre-med classes! It was great seeing them together at Hampden-Sydney and to be here with them. I know I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
The classes of 1973, 1983, 1988, 1993, and2003 gathered in Parents & Friends Lounge for "lunch with the coaches." Football head coach Marty Favret, lacrosse head coach Ray Rostan, and tennis head coach Murrie Bates, as well as some student-athletes, gave a lively report on the state of intercollegiate athletics at Hampden-Sydney.
Saturday afternoon was filled with campus tours, strolls through Atkinson Museum, and other activities. Tennis fans took part in the 34thannual Graves Thompson Tennis Challenge. Peter Hatcher says, "I played on the tennis team, so one of the highlights for me was playing tennis on Saturday afternoon with Will Moss '10 and Tennis Coach Murrie Bates. To their credit, they arranged it so no one lost!"
Dr. Herb Sipe, Spalding Professor of Chemistry, taught his toxic chemicals class on Saturday afternoon. Much to the delight of the alumni, he did not give any quizzes nor require any presentations. He says, "I have been teaching Chemistry 105 - Toxic Chemicals and Society with reasonable frequency since 1985. I thought that some alumni might enjoy hearing a recap, especially since some of the statistics about cancer incidence that were suggestive in 1985 have become more definite in the intervening years. I pointed out to the audience, which surprisingly did not include any alumni who had taken the course, that it would be difficult to summarize a semester's 40-plus lectures in an hour, but that I would 'talk really fast'."
Dr. and Mrs. Howard hosted a cocktail reception for all of the reunion classes at Middlecourt before their respective class dinners.
Fine arts professors Frank Archer '73 and Mary Ann Archer hosted his class at their home on campus. He says, "It was a privilege to host not only our reunion brothers but, at their request, professors from our era with whom they wished to reconnect. Even Grace Simpson came, a poignant memory for us all after learning of Hassell's death. My classmates feel a deep and abiding connection with this place and the reunion weekend served as a catalyst for discussion of further activities, a class gift, and even (gasp!) our 50th reunion."
On Saturday night everyone reconvened at the Bell Tower in the center of campus to enjoy the company of friends old and new and the music of The Second Nature Band. It was a beautiful night on The Hill.
"The extended weekend gave me the chance to relax and reconnect with classmates in a manner a football weekend just could not," says Col. Hughes of the new reunion format. "I very much enjoyed the reunion and I hope it catches hold for Hampden-Sydney."
President Howard gave a hearty thanks to this year's reunion attendees for showing their faith in Hampden-Sydney and their willingness to try something new. "Starting a new tradition is not easy at a place as historic as Hampden-Sydney," he said. "But I can see from all of the smiling faces this weekend that we are really on to something great."