By Chairman of the Board M. Peebles Harrison '89
I attended my first classes at Hampden-Sydney in 1985. At the time, I thought of the College as one of tradition, with a strong liberal arts program and a stately campus (though my three-man dorm room in Cushing left a bit to be desired). As I have reviewed all of the comments we have received during the presidential search, it is clear to me that many of you still hold a similar view of the College and want us to maintain it. More of you, however, although appreciating the traditional aspects of the College, want us to do more. You want programs of excellence within this tradition. Are the two mutually exclusive? I do not think so.
The world of higher education is extremely unsettled today. The business model is stressed. Demographics are changing. Technology, if not properly utilized, is disruptive. Those institutions that stand still in this environment will be passed by. They will become stagnant and fail.
For this reason, the preservation of tradition should not be our goal; it is not our destination. Rather, our tradition forms the foundation on which we can build a more vibrant and relevant institution of higher education. And this foundation must support our efforts to increase the societal demand for an all-male education at Hampden-Sydney.
As I think about how we can drive the demand for our College's offerings, I realize that we as a Board must become more strategic. How do we become a catalyst for demand? How do we drive an increase in net revenue per student? How do we increase alumni enthusiasm and improve donor support? How do we move our mission forward and invest in the academic program?
Regarding the academic program, what should we do with our curriculum? Is it relevant to young men in 2015? We no longer require the study of Cicero's orations or attendance at chapel, once staples in College life, so we should realize that we are subject to change. We need to create the next Rhetoric Program-that is, one or more additional signature programs. We need to design the forthcoming Science Center with academic innovation in mind; a physically improved building would be insufficient in keeping our science departments at the forefront of scientific study.
Over the next several editions of The Record, I will share with you the Board's thinking about these topics. As we move the mission of our College to "form good men and good citizens" forward, we must do it together. I want you to join us in this effort.
Recently, the Henry Tree beside Graham Hall bookstore fell after several days of rain. It was stately and firmly rooted, much like the traditions and other cherished attributes of our grand old school. But the wind and rain were too much for it. The roots loosened, and it finally fell. Let's not allow Hampden-Sydney to fall from outside forces that could undermine our rich traditions. If we adapt to the world around us, with our roots firmly grounded, a thriving and flourishing future is ours for the taking.