September 03, 2020

The Chairman of the Board of Trustees Peebles Harrison shared the following report with the H-SC community on September 3, 2020. 

To the Hampden-Sydney College Community:

Given the many challenges that have come in 2020, I am sure you share our delight that classes resumed on campus last week. We truly appreciate all the hard work that has gone into managing the College through the pandemic and preparing for reopening. We have a long way to go to achieve a successful in-person semester, but the experience of the first week and a half is encouraging. I want to thank everyone who has made the College’s reopening possible. And just as importantly, I want to give a special thank-you to our students who are following the commonsense precautions essential to our success. Now, I would like to share an update from the Board’s summer meeting.

The Board’s August Advance is an annual opportunity for Trustees to reflect on the progress of major priorities at Hampden-Sydney and to set new goals for the College. For example, at our August 2017 meeting, the Board identified five priorities for the College. Now, just three years later, here is their status:

  1. Improvements to physical plant, especially dorms. Students are residing in a renovated Cushing Hall and have moved into new upper-class housing.
  2. A new academic emphasis on experiential learning as impactful as the Rhetoric program. Last fall the College launched Compass, an experiential learning program. It is so unique and thoughtfully conceived and implemented by our faculty that Rob ’87 and Cindy Citrone have pledged $6 million in initial funding to support it.
  3. A new science building that programmatically touches every student. The largest gift in the College’s history from Stanley Pauley has allowed us to design and begin constructing the Pauley Science Center.
  4. An enhanced entrepreneurship program. We now have an experienced, full-time director—Andrew King—leading the Flemming Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
  5. An expansion in the leadership offerings at the Wilson Center. This fall, 68 freshmen are entering the Wilson Leadership Fellows Program, which has become an impactful program and a powerful recruiting tool for the College.

But how do we proceed from here in light of all of the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic? As we prepared for our meeting, we thought it would be wasted effort to try to predict what the world will look like five or ten years from now. Instead, to guide our planning efforts, we took a page from Jeff Bezos’s management book and asked ourselves, “What will not change in the higher education marketplace in the next ten years?” Here is what we came up with:

  • The demand for a quality education in a tight-knit community that respects all opinions and in an environment that fosters civil discourse;
  • The demand for character development and mentoring of young men so that they will be good men and good citizens;
  • The expectation that a young man will begin a successful career after his education (ensuring a solid return on an investment in higher education);
  • The shrinking number (falling significantly after 2026) and increasing diversity of college-bound students.

These observations will guide our planning and work throughout this year and beyond.

At this meeting, we also assessed Hampden-Sydney’s ongoing progress toward being a more diverse and welcoming community. We will soon share a message with you from the Board that affirms our commitment to being a place of learning where all individuals, ideas, and perspectives are valued and heard in an environment, as I said above, that fosters, rather than stifles, civil discourse.

To my point about civil discourse, Dr. Stimpert shared with me an email he received from Gene Hickok ’72 about a free speech issue occurring at another university. For those of you who do not know Gene, he served for six years as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education under Governor Tom Ridge and as Under Secretary and Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush. With Gene’s permission, I am sharing a portion of his email:

It strikes me that true leadership seeks to take people to a higher level/calling based upon reason and principle and purpose, while “leaders” too often seek to manage the reigning and changing passions of a moment without looking to the long term. Leadership always looks to the long term, the legacy to be created that provides the foundation for legacies to come, not the moment managed, however successfully. Leadership makes and can change history.

So well said. And as we work to create future legacies for the College based on those things that will not change, I want to assure you that the Board will maintain its bias toward action. We believe in President Stimpert’s ability to help us do that and to continue to strengthen the College in these challenging times. For those and many other reasons, one of our last acts at the August meeting was to extend his employment contract through 2028.

Thank you for all you do for Hampden-Sydney College.

Peebles Harrison '89
Chairman of the Board