On The Hill

Remembering the Axeman

Francis “The Axeman” Randolph died in 1997, spending his entire 83 years at Hampden-Sydney. He lived down the dirt road just past Seminary Cemetery on Via Sacra. That road, which now leads to the observatory and the new Energy Laboratory, was recently named “Francis Randolph Lane” in his honor. Francis

Generations of students remember seeing him walk through campus with a ruffled hat slanted on his head and a felling axe tucked under his arm—an appearance that could sometimes startle the uninitiated. In later years, he carried just the axe handle or a walking stick. His business was cutting wood in exchange for meals or money, often walking to family homes near Mercy Seat Baptist Church to offer his services. 

Elliot Professor of Economics Kenneth Townsend remembers giving him lifts up to the gas station across from the Finch House in Kingsville. He recalls “Mr. Randolph as a constant, going back to the 1940s I believe, an almost omnipresent fellow on campus.” 

More unusual than eccentric, he was almost legendary among the students. Some say that when offered a nickel or a dime in jest, he would take the nickel, appearing to mistake the size of the coin for its value, but in fact would be hustling the boys five cents at a time. Water and Sewer Supervisor Ralph Crawley remembers him walking by fraternity circle “just talking to the boys,” who would sometimes give him a few dollars to help him out. The church and others made sure he never lacked food or clothing. 

Although a private man, he knew students, children, and others around campus by name, and he was never known to complain or say a harsh word. The sign will be a pleasant reminder to those who knew him. 

The Highest Honor

William T. “Bill” Saunders ’60 was recognized at Homecoming 2014 for his long and faithful service to the College. During halftime of the football game, he was presented with the Alumni Citation, the highest honor the National Alumni Association of Hampden-Sydney College bestows.

William Saunders

The citation is awarded annually to dedicated alumni of the College who embody the characteristics of “humane and lettered men” in their lives and in their outstanding support of Hampden-Sydney College. It is a testament to their contributions to the continuing mission “to form good men and good citizens.” The citation recognizes contributions of service to the College, support of its activities, financial commitment to the future of the institution, and, above all, a steady demonstration of the excellence that is the hallmark of the Hampden-Sydney man.

Departmental Scholarships

The first departmental scholarship for a Bachelor of Arts degree at Hampden-Sydney has been established for the English Department, which will confirm the award in the spring of 2015. The $5,000 Thomas Edward Crawley Scholarship is available through application to juniors who have declared English as their major. Faculty members in the department will choose the recipient based on their own criteria, which may include GPA ranking, individual potential, or upcoming projects or internships that need funding. Financial need will be a consideration, and the Financial Aid Office will determine how the scholarship funds are administered. The College hopes to create a new scholarship for each department based on this same model.

The Crawley Scholarship emerged when English major J. Mark Burris ’76 and history major W. Birch Douglass III ’65 wanted to honor Dr. Thomas E. Crawley ’49 and commemorate his life and work. 

“I like the idea of an English Department scholarship. In fact, recognizing a deserving star in the academic subject—one mature enough to know what he may want to do—is probably the most meaningful way to acknowledge Professor Crawley’s legacy,” said Burris.
Douglass agreed. “I was a history major, but Crawley’s English classes and Graves Thompson’s classes in etymology and art appreciation have meant the most to me professionally and personally since I left the Hill.” 

Donations will fund the principal for each endowed scholarship and stipend fund. The minimum principal required for an endowed departmental scholarship is $100,000 and the minimum funding for the award for the recipient is $30,000. The $30,000 endowment will generate at least $1,500 and will be given in addition to the aid the student receives. Also, as principal funds for individual scholarships grow, so should the awarded scholarship dispersals, up to the stated need of the recipient.

Society of '91 Retreat

Nearly two dozen students in the Society of ’91 travelled to the Holliday Lake 4-H Educational Center for a weekend retreat on October 24-26. These annual outdoor retreats give students chances to learn leadership and team-building skills through discussion and activities. Society of '91 Retreat

Ben Mathes of Rivers of the World (ROW) spoke on his experiences with African, South Asian, and South American dictators, contrasting their heavy-handed rule with true leadership. He had met many of those dictators during ROW’s charitable ventures into distant, “way off the grid” jungles to help local tribes, as Professor Kenneth Townsend said. Townsend attends the yearly retreats to help guide and mentor the students.

Throughout the weekend, students worked together in team-building exercises, which were led by Dean of Students David Klein ’78 and Dean John Ramsay ’05. On Saturday afternoon, for example, students had to use rope and rods to move buckets of water in ways that required communication, teamwork, and compromise—basic skills that some young men have yet to master, according to Mathes.

Among other activities, the group learned the correct way to build fires—a particularly timely workshop in anticipation of “Light the Night,” an inauguration of the new student fire cauldrons recently installed outside residence halls. In general, however, students just got away from technology and distractions to learn more about being good and decent men, following the group’s mantra of leading lives of “honesty, integrity, and principle.”

Dictionary Giveaway

On December 4, 2014, President Christopher Howard and Mrs. Barbara Howard carried on the dictionary giveaway tradition started by former H-SC President Walter M. Bortz III and Mrs. Lorraine Bortz in 2001.

Second-grade students in Ms. Carr’s class at Prince Edward County Public Schools were treated to dozens of copies of the Children’s Illustrated Dictionary, written by John McIlwain. 

Rugby Field Dedicated

Ellis Rugby Pitch

Before John C. “Johnny” Ellis ’70 came to Hampden-Sydney, there was no rugby team. There was no field, no players, no coaching, and not even in England, where the sport was invented, was the sport of rugby generally recognized at
colleges and universities.  But in 1968 Ellis, with the help of Paul Reiber ’70 (now chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court), started the rugby movement at the College, and for the past 45 years he has remained a leading advocate and financial supporter of Club Rugby, among other College sports programs. This past Homecoming, to celebrate his generosity, talents, and leadership, the College named the playing field “Ellis Rugby Pitch” in his honor.

Rev. William E. “Willie” Thompson opened the ceremony with a thanks to God for “guys and dirt,” a recognition of both Adam’s creation and man’s affinity for the muddy sport. Dean David Klein ’78 spoke on Ellis’s dedication to the creation of the field and the club, as well as his support of the College through the Ellis Family Scholarship. On behalf of the board of trustees, John L. Gibson III ’82 presented Ellis with a framed photograph of the field and sign. Thanks to Ellis’s support, rugby will remain a sports fixture at H-SC for years to come.

Sons of Alumni in the Class of 2018

The following are legacy students, freshmen at Hampden-Sydney whose fathers also attended. They enjoyed a lunch in their honor during matriculation.
Legacy StudentsLegacy Students