Commencement speaker Congressional Representative Robert Hurt '91 (above, r.) did not mince words when he urged the 2015 graduating class to stand up for the values and principles they had learned during their four years at Hampden-Sydney:
"Stop and recall the words of our nation's founders and this College's trustees in 1776. They believed that the success of our young republic would depend on the education, the virtue, and the civic-mindedness of its citizens. But they also knew that the importance of education was more than academic and that those good citizens would have to do more than simply learn and understand these principles. Good citizens would have to defend them-and they would even have to die for them."
The message to the graduates was clear. They are entering a new world armed with a Hampden-Sydney education and soon will be using their intellectual arsenals to improve and defend our republic-whether it be in law, in politics, in medicine, in economics, or in one of the many other fields for which the College trains good men and good citizens. They should be well prepared.
"With a liberal arts education," he said, "you have gained an underlying understanding-through history, through literature, through philosophy, through rhetoric, through math, and through science-in not just what to think, but how to think."
H-SC President Christopher Howard presided over the commencement exercises, which marked the conclusion of the College's 240th year. Among his many other duties, Howard awarded honorary degrees to Rep. Hurt; baccalaureate speaker The Rev. Virginia "Gini" Distanislao; John Hampden descendant Sir George Miles Hobart-Hampden; and Trustee and Board Chairman Thomas Allen '60.
Many of the students were recognized for their leadership, their athletic and academic accomplishments, and for their honorable characters during their tenures on the Hill. Faculty and staff were also recognized for their dedication to the students and their devotion and service to the College and its ideals.
Elliot Professor of Rhetoric Dr. Claire Deal was given the Cabell Award in recognition of her "outstanding classroom contribution to the education of Christian young men." The Cabell Award was created to assist Hampden-Sydney College in attracting and keeping professors of ability and integrity.
Two students and one professor received Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallions. Jonathan Wade '15 and Jonathan Wirges '15 were both recognized for their "excellence of character and generous service to his fellows." Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs Dr. David Marion was awarded the faculty Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion for his conspicuous help "to the institution in its effort to encourage and preserve a high standard of morals."
Aaron Gilani '15 earned two awards: The Anna Carrington Harrison Award and the Man-of-the-Year Award. The first was in recognition of his constructive leadership-Gilani had been elected to the student senate, had earned the Omicron Delta Kappa Award, had earned other awards for academic excellence and character, and had also served as president of the student government, among other achievements. He earned the Man-of-the-Year Award for "exemplifying the ideals of Hampden-Sydney College in the eyes of the College's students, faculty, and staff, distinguishing himself for high standards of honor, integrity, and character."
Rep. Hurt's words on laying down one's life may have weighed a bit more heavily on the four cadets from the ROTC program who were commissioned second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. Colin Atkins '15, John Gaskill '15, Jonathan Wirges '15, and Robert M. "Max" Zbinden '15 will undergo further training in the U.S. Army this summer. Their parents and others pinned their gold bars to their shoulders, and the crowd stood and applauded after their first salutes.
Following the ceremony, graduate Connor Bradley '15 gave the valedictory address. His 3.9842 cumulative grade point average made him the first-honor graduate. He spoke at length on his time at Hampden-Sydney.
"As I reflect on these past four years," he said, "I honestly couldn't have imagined attending college anywhere else-not only because of the memorable times I've had here, but because of the magnitude and depth of the Hampden-Sydney education. I believe we are leaving this College prepared for the rigors and realities of life. We received a true education."
Many other students, faculty, and staff received awards for their accomplishments and services to the College, including the Gammon Cup to Holton Walker '15; the Samuel S. Jones Phi Beta Kappa Award to Ryan Rivas '15; the Robert Thruston Hubard IV Award to staff member Janice Burkhart; the Thomas Edward Crawley Award to Elliot Professor of Religion Michael Utzinger; and the Senior Class Award to Biology Professor William "Bill" Shear and Head Basketball Coach Dee Vick '94. The Senior Class Gift was named after Deputy Chief of Police Jeff Gee, who "represents the College with dignity and is beloved by the senior class."
The long-dormant Center for the Study of the Constitution at Hampden-Sydney is being revived by the recently hired Assistant Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs Dr. Guy Burnett. It was first developed during the early 1990s and saw brief resurgence in the mid-2000s. When Burnett arrived at Hampden-Sydney last year, he was told that the Center was his, and that he "could do whatever he wanted with it," as he said.
"I'm trying to resurrect it in the sense of having substantive discussions on the Constitution-that is, specific provisions in the Constitution," he said. "So while there are a lot of topics in politics, debates on certain policies for example, I want this to focus more on provisions: Article I, Section 8; or Article I, Section 5-something like this." He believes many other topics and issues can dovetail into these close examinations of the text.
Although the Center is still being organized, Burnett has noted that students "seem to be interested in having discussions about the Constitution." In one of his classes this past year, he and his students spent the semester dissecting and analyzing James Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
"They really seemed to enjoy it, and in [the Center] they would be doing things like this on their own," he said.
As it is still in its initial phases, the Center is an unofficial, independent entity that currently lacks funding. Burnett will be chairing a panel on Kelo vs. New London (2005) at the American Political Science Association's annual conference this year, where he hopes to recruit speakers to come to H
ampden-Sydney to help jumpstart the program. Monthly student meetings, independent papers, debates, and discussions will be the focus of the Center, so that "students will be leaving here knowing the Constitution better than they could anywhere else," he concluded.
Hampden-Sydney biology major Stephen Woodall '15 recently completed his Senior Departmental Honors research in tumor immunology in the laboratory of Hampden-Sydney Elliott Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Kristian M. Hargadon '01.
For his project, Woodall genetically engineered mouse melanoma cells to express "targets," or antigens, capable of being recognized by the animal's immune system. As Hargadon explained, "Using a laser-based flow cytometry system to analyze the engineered cells, Woodall characterized clones of this cancerous cell line and evaluated the ability of mouse T cells to recognize these clones."
The model system Woodall developed will help future studies that aim to evaluate how T cells successfully attack cancer cells and, second, how cancer cells develop strategies to escape such an immune response. Insights into these two phenomena have the potential to suggest novel anti-cancer immune therapies that improve the outcome of cancer treatment.
He recently presented his work at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Boston. At the international research conference, Woodall received the Thematic Best Poster Award for the conference's theme on Molecular Mechanisms of Infection and Immunity.
Stephen will be attending N.C. State in the fall for a master's degree in the Physiology Graduate Program, after which he plans to attend medical school.
The Rev. Dr. William "Willie" Thompson presented a discussion titled, "Ten Surprises about Hampden-Sydney and the Civil War" on April 14 at the Atkinson Museum. It was part of the sesquicentennial and recognition of the College's role in the rebellion of 1861-1865 and its aftermath. Thompson has been studying the school's participation in Virginia's efforts to secede from the Union since he became the pastor and chaplain of Hampden-Sydney College in 1988.
Thompson estimates that more than 670 Hampden-Sydney men enlisted in the Confederate army to fight the Yankees. Only one known Hampden-Sydney man joined the Union army. Of those Confederate enlistees, Thompson has found no fewer than 96 who died in the war. It was one of the highest killed-in-action (KIA) rates of alumni from any non-military liberal arts college in the South, likely surpassed only by the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and perhaps the Citadel, he believes.
The speaker also highlighted the utter economic devastation the College suffered after the war: Enrollment numbers did not surpass the 1860-61 number of 134, the highest in the College's history, until the academic school year of 1892-93, some 31 years later.
Among the numerous personal stories of Hampden-Sydney veterans, few were as celebrated as that of Captain Delaware Kemper, H-SC faculty member from 1865 to 1883. He served as an artillery officer in the Army of Northern Virginia, firing what was described as the "single most remembered cannon shot of the First Battle of Manassas," said Thompson.
As the battle was drawing to a close, crowds of civilian spectators and Yankee forces were trying to retreat back to the capital. Some of Kemper's cannon fire burst above Cub Creek Bridge, just north of Bull Run Creek, creating "a massive, screaming panic," he said, as a wagon overturned and part of the Union army was blocked from retreating. The mob abandoned cannons and equipment while splashing across the creek, and many were taken prisoner. Kemper was cited for his "brilliance on the field" by generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston, co-commanders that day. It was said that the future H-SC professor could be easily persuaded to retell the story in his mathematics class after the war.
Although he was a graduate of the Citadel and the University of Virginia, Dr. Robert L. "Roy" Atwell fell in love with Hampden-Sydney. In 1998, he met then-President Samuel V. Wilson and soon became a supporter of the all-male, leadership-focused programs and strategy of the Wilson Center. Shortly before Atwell's death in 2013, he decided to create the Robert L. Atwell and Lucy Williams Atwell Foundation in memory of his parents. The Atwell Foundation has now awarded Hampden-Sydney College a $300,000 grant to establish the Robert L. "Roy" Atwell, Jr., Internship Scholarship Endowment at the Wilson Center.
Income from the endowment will be used by the Wilson Center to award stipends to students who require assistance with living and travel expenses or other costs associated with career-related internships. Funds may also be used to defray expenses related to student research projects or study-abroad programs.
William Seymour IV '79 and Hugh Edmunds '63 were friends with Dr. Atwell and helped organize the foundation and the endowment. Edmunds had been a friend to Dr. Atwell for years, and it was he who had introduced him to General Sam in 1998.
Seymour happened to live in the same neighborhood as Atwell, who had spotted an H-SC bumper sticker on Seymour's car and told him how he admired the College. They soon became friends.
"I think Dr. Atwell would be very pleased with the program," Seymour said. "He was extremely interested in public affairs and what was occurring in America, and he didn't like a lot of those things. He thought it was a great idea to train young men at Hampden-Sydney to be the future leaders of our country."
More than 100 students, professors, and staff gathered on the fourth floor of the Bortz Library on March 25, 2015, to listen to two distinguished judicial officials, Henry E. Hudson and Randolph A. Beals, on the topic "Views from the Bench: The Judiciary and the American Constitutional Order." Judge Beales is a former attorney general of Virginia and currently sits on the Virginia Court of Appeals. Judge Hudson is a United States federal judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Dr. David Marion moderated the discussion, which focused largely on the role of the judiciary and its impact on the nation, including the everyday affairs of the American people.
Hudson's greatest concern as a district court judge, he explained, is the excessive role of the judiciary in resolving social issues. Judges often overturn laws that people voted to enact, and the majority may change its mind on these social issues and yet have no right of appeal or means to change the law because of the permanency of judicial rulings. According to Judge Hudson, social issues should be decided through the democratic process. He also spoke on separation of powers, emphasizing the importance of keeping the different branches of government in their constitutionally defined spheres.
Against the backdrop of Hudson's reflections on separation of powers, Judge Beales offered his own observations on the specific work of the courts, drawing a distinction between the constitutionality and the justice of laws. Some laws may seem unjust and yet they may be constitutional, while other laws may appear just and yet violate the Constitution. The proper, limited role of the judiciary is to be the umpire in the game between the different branches and levels of government, calling balls and strikes to decide which laws or actions are constitutional or unconstitutional, he explained. Courts should not create rights or legislate from the bench, he believed.
The general consensus among students and faculty was that the program was both informative and provocative.
Thank you for providing feedback in the recent online survey for The Record. We send out the survey every several years to gauge the readers' attitudes on the appearance and the content of the magazine, as well as their preferences for stories. This year we received many thousands, and we found some trends that we would like to share and to which we would like to respond.
First, we have no intention to make the magazine online-only. We agree that magazines such as The Record are usually easier to enjoy when they can be held in one's hands. They can be placed on coffee tables, in offices, and in waiting rooms-practices that we encourage to help show others what we teach, what we do, and the kinds of men we produce here at Hampden-Sydney.
Next, we found that a plurality of alumni under the age of 29 look primarily to the Internet and social media for news about the College. To help adapt to the younger alumni's preferences and to respond to the use of new technology, we are looking at the feasibility of a new version of the magazine for mobile devices. Also, we recently improved the online issue with an eMagazine version, which looks like the standard issue but is in digital format. It has a number of new features and can be seen at www.hsc.edu/The-Record.
We also noted the general approval of the magazine's overall appearance (89%). We have a new designer, and we plan to make some improvements over time as new ideas surface. We are a traditional college with a traditional magazine, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of change or improvements in design and presentation. For example, we have heard your calls to return the magazine to its former larger size, and we are currently discussing that possibility with our new printing company.
We noted the strongest preferences for feature stories on individual alumni (78%), historical topics (76%), and campus life and events (63%). There was also strong interest in stories on current and former faculty (56%). We will continue to approach these topics enthusiastically.
The alumni's overall opinions of the magazine were overwhelmingly positive, and we aim to keep it that way. This magazine is for you, and I want to assure you all that we will continue to produce high-quality, informative issues with interesting topics that will keep you in touch with your alma mater.
Please send in updates on your life events for the Class Notes section. Many alumni like to read about their classmates' latest activities. You can drop a quick update on what you've been up to at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting alumni.hsc.edu. We hope to hear from you soon.
Angus Kirk McClellan '05
Quotes to Consider
"Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part, there all the honor lies."
-Alexander Pope: "An Essay on Man," 1734
"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."
-Sir Winston Churchill