It’s hard to believe that this is the fourth year I’ve watched winter turn into spring from the windows of my office in Hampden House. Since it will be my last as Director of Alumni Relations, I think Mother Nature decided to prolong that change and even let me see what it is like around here when classes get cancelled. Fortunately, the gates didn’t crumble and everything is just fine. I was even able to take a few minutes to pay attention to some of things that are timeless around this place: the sun coming up over Kirk Athletic Center (the old Gammon Gym), the bells echoing across campus, and the initials carved on the front wall of Hampden House by students who got their meals inside many years ago.
Then, within a few steps of that front wall, I began my daily routine—checking in on our new social media outlets—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. In that moment, I struggled to remember how only three years ago social media didn’t exist for our Alumni Association; now, they are as much a part of our operations as a letter or a call. As I continued to think about changes I’ve seen, I thought about the Alumni Association which, seeing the need for more consistency and continuity, recently ratified new bylaws establishing a Board of Directors and a Club manual. One of the items mentioned in the Club manual is an annual gathering for a toast to celebrate the Rhetoric Proficiency Exam—a new idea that, in this its second year, saw over 50 gatherings around the world (including a toast atop the Duke Chapel in Durham, at right), and has become a vehicle to build clubs, identify local leaders, encourage students, and support faculty.
Beyond the RPE Toasts, alumni clubs and affinity groups have shown their energy and enthusiasm by meeting more often, across larger geographies, with better attendance and greater impacts than in the past. In the first half of this fiscal year alone (July 1–Dec 31, 2013), alumni gathered for over 60 events. One of those events, The Circle, had over 200 paid attendees, and in its three years of existence has raised money to provide stipends for summer internships, to establish an endowed scholarship, and to fund a ‘welcome to the Circle’ picnic to kick off formal rush.
I believe that this embodiment of alumni support for the fraternity system has played a large part in seeing membership increase to 40%.
Coming in June is the second Reunion Weekend. Unlike the hurried hours squeezed into a Homecoming Saturday, Reunion Weekend will allow you once again to appreciate some of the timeless things about this place that I’ve gotten to enjoy again… the sun coming up or setting over one of your favorite landmarks, the sounds of the bells or the birds, the smell of Morton Hall, or the cool air in the swale behind Johns Auditorium. You will also be able to share time with professors who, in some cases, are showing physically that time is moving on. Reunion weekend will also give you the opportunity to reunite with friends and classmates, and perhaps even ignore the passage of time as you enjoy the band by the Bell Tower on Saturday night.
Today, I passed Cushing Hall on the way back to the office from lunch at the Commons, and, with a voice as recognizable as a rooster in the morning, the sounds of music and conversation flowed from half-opened windows to tell me that it is spring on The Hill. With spring comes new growth, new ideas and fresh starts. For me that means making a fresh start later this year and leaving the position of Alumni Director. Thank you for supporting me, but more importantly thank you for supporting Hampden-Sydney. Thank you for your focus on making this a better place even in the face of new challenges and a changing world. Your perseverance and steadfastness have helped create the momentum that will cause Hampden-Sydney to carve her name on the walls of education in the 21st century, just like the young men whose initials you can see any time you walk up to the front door of Hampden House.
All my best,
Thirty alumni returned to campus in March for the Men's Chorus/Glee Club reunion concert honoring Music Professor Frank Archer ’73 as he prepares for retirement in June 2014.