The Hampden-Sydney College Board of Trustees recently elected a new chairman, M. Peebles Harrison '89, of Duck, North Carolina. He assumed his new position on July 1, 2015, replacing former Chairman Thomas "Tom" Allen '60, who had served in that role since 2008. This article is an introduction to the Southside Virginia native, who is currently an attorney with Rose Harrison & Gilreath, P.C.
Peebles grew up on a seventh-generation family farm outside McKenney, Virginia, working in tobacco and at the local convenience store. He played sports and was the student body president at Brunswick Academy in Lawrenceville. Earning a Leadership Scholarship enabled him to come to Hampden-Sydney, where he enrolled in 1985.
"When I got here, something happened academically," he said. "The faculty just changed my life, both in the way they taught me how to think and how they challenged me." He was soon a member of ODK and Phi Beta Kappa. He double-majored in history and economics and was graduated summa cum laude in 1989. While on campus he was a resident advisor, a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, served in the student senate-chairing it in his junior year-and finally served as student body president.
He went on to attend The Washington and Lee University School of Law, where he served as president of the law student body. He then worked at Williams Mullen in Richmond and in 1995 moved to the Outer Banks with his wife, 1991 Hollins College graduate Avery Harrison (née Hesford), to form a new law firm. Presently, his practice focuses on defending class action lawsuits around the country for a client with a national presence. He also serves as a director for the Bank of Hampton Roads.
Since his move to the Outer Banks, Peebles has served as senior warden for the vestry of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, chair of the Outer Banks YMCA board of directors, and president of the local Jaycees, where he was recognized as one of the top ten presidents statewide. He and Avery have three children aged ten to fifteen.
Peebles has been a Hampden-Sydney Trustee since 2000 and was previously the Vice Chairman. In 2012, he chaired the trustee bylaw revision committee-tending to bylaws that hadn't been revised since 1935. Peebles worked with faculty members and trustees to build consensus to clarify the bylaws and bring about the necessary changes. Elliot Professor of Religion Dr. Michael Utzinger served on the committee. "He led the process collaboratively and transparently. He asked for and understood faculty concerns, and he helped broker creative compromises on the rare occasion of disagreement. I welcome his leadership," he said.
Peebles looks forward to advancing and enhancing the mission of the College in his new position. "The Board is focused on strengthening our mission to form good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning," he emphasized. "To do that, the Board's role is to think strategically about our mission with a focus on who we are, what we do well, and to work with all constituents as we do this and deal with the headwinds facing all colleges and universities," he said.
"I am confident we will succeed."