June 22, 2020

With a combined tenure of 113 years, three beloved H-SC professors have put down their gradebooks to step into retirement. On behalf of our entire community, thank you for your years of dedication and service to the College and her students.

Robert Herdegen headshotBob Herdegen

Professor of Psychology

Time at the College: 39 years

Campus Involvement: I spent four years as Associate Dean of the Faculty and four years as Dean of the Faculty. I’ve served on all major faculty committees and countless ad hoc and search committees. I served as a freshman and major advisor; did several stints as chair of the psychology department; advised student clubs and organizations; and supervised student research projects, independent studies, and off-campus internships. I also served a dozen years on the Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department.

How did you end up at H-SC? I attended a conference in Clearwater Beach, FL, in January of 1981. While there I ran into Dr. Donald Ortner, chair of H-SC’s psychology department at the time. He was advertising a faculty position in experimental psychology that perfectly matched my credentials and my interest in a teaching (not primarily research) position. An on-campus interview convinced me that H-SC was a terrific fit. Since August of 1981, I’ve never had a desire to be any place else.

Favorite thing about teaching: Teaching has been my raison d’etre at H-SC, and when I left my position in academic administration I often joked that I was finally able to go back to my day job. What I like most about teaching is the interaction with students. Because of the size of the College and our classes, there is greater opportunity to get to know them personally. I enjoy tremendously watching a student grow and mature between his first days on campus and his departure four years later. I find it gratifying to hear from students after graduation that they’re successfully applying the lessons learned at H-SC in their program of graduate study or chosen profession.

Favorite Class: If I had to pick one, it would be Psychology of Hunger, Eating, and Food, which grew directly out of my course in the psychology of motivation. It explored a wide range of topics related to why we eat (and drink) and what we choose to eat; the neurological and biological mechanisms underlying hunger, thirst, and smell; social and cultural aspects of food and eating; psychological dimensions of eating too much or too little; and issues related to food production. “Food Fridays” allowed me to introduce the students to a wide variety of new foods.

Bob Herdegen in the labFavorite H-SC Memory: Memories of my career are like a mosaic: from a distance one may discern a pattern of tremendous satisfaction and enjoyment, but close examination reveals the specific elements contributing to the gestalt—travel with students to professional conferences, interactions with colleagues current and long-departed, notable commencement ceremonies, thrilling come-from-behind athletic contests, presentations by significant figures in literature, powerful artistic performances….and the list goes on. It is a joy to look back on all of them.

Plans for Retirement: Mary and I plan to keep Farmville as our base of operations. We are eager to spend more time at our beach cottage on the panhandle of Florida, and we look forward to visiting children and grandchildren, scattered between New York City and Tampa. We hope to do much more travel as well—in Virginia, across the country, and across the globe.

What will you miss most about the College? While my regular paycheck will be replaced by other sources, what are not easily replaced are interactions with people on campus: informal discussions with my colleagues outside our offices; waving good morning to people on my way to my office; hearing from colleagues about their children whom I’ve watched grow up; and conversations with students in my office about their lives outside the classroom.


Robb Koether headshotRobb Koether

Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

Time at the College: 39 years

Campus Involvement: I served as faculty advisor for the Outsiders Club for several years in the ’80s and led several groups on Outdoor Options hikes in the ’90s.

How did you end up at H-SC? I was looking for a position at a small, private school in a rural setting. Hampden-Sydney was a perfect fit.

What is your favorite thing about teaching? Hearing from alumni that they are doing very well in their careers. It is gratifying to think that we played a part in achieving that.

What was your favorite class? The most enjoyable classes were the upper-level computer science classes where the students would build large, complex systems beyond anything they imagined they could do. Three examples are a web-based social media application, a C compiler, and an interactive race track in 3D graphics.

Robb KoetherFavorite H-SC Memory: There are so many memories that I had trouble choosing just one. But I’ll go with a story. On several occasions, I led a group of incoming freshmen on 40-mile backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail. One year, I submitted an equipment list to the dean of students that included eating utensils. Our first evening on the trail, we cooked spaghetti for supper and I noticed that none of the freshmen had any eating utensils. They said that the Dean told them the utensils would be supplied and they took that to mean that I would be carrying everyone’s eating utensils in my pack. We had a good laugh over that, and then we figured out how to eat spaghetti without any utensils. Later in that trip, at our fourth camp, I was mooned for the first and only time in my life. Again, we all had a good laugh. It was a great trip, where students and faculty all interacted together simply as good friends. Many of those students went on to become, in my opinion, some of our most outstanding campus citizens.

Plans for retirement: I plan to catch up on reading, do some traveling, and go backpacking more frequently.

What will you miss most about the College? I will miss the interactions with my colleagues in the math/computer science department.

How did COVID-19 impact your final semester on campus? My answer might surprise you: I have been on phased retirement for the past two years, which means I was teaching half-time. We are allowed to distribute our half-time teaching load in any way we choose, provided it's ok with the department. Like most others, I chose to do all my teaching (full-time) in the fall and none in the spring, and I am extremely grateful that I did that. The only advice that I gave to my colleagues this semester was to not get depressed, it will pass. And to go easy on the students—it's as hard on them as it is on the professors.


Bill Anderson headhotBill Anderson

McGavacks Professor of Chemistry

Time at the College: I have been at H-SC more or less since July of 1985. I have spent occasional years at the University of the Virgin Islands or the School of International Business at Liaoning Normal in Dalian, China, but I’ve spent most of the past 35 years at the College.

Campus Involvement: Outside of being the “early guy” in Gilmer—where I washed cups, made coffee, and pretended to prepare for classes—I spent 20 years as a deejay on Monday nights and as advisor for WWHS-FM.

How did you end up at H-SC? In 1983, Drs. Porterfield and Sipe invited me to give a seminar at the College. When a chemistry faculty position opened up at H-SC, Dr. Sipe wrote to me and asked if I had a new Ph.D. student who would like to teach here. I volunteered.

Favorite thing about teaching: Well, there is the obvious, grading. There is also the memory of a former student—now a physician—who slammed his books down and yelled “I HATE this course!” in the middle of class. He understood.

Favorite Class: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8:30 a.m.

Ben Anderson in the Chemistry lab with studentsFavorite Memory: Watching our son, Cooper Anderson ’10, graduate on time and in good standing.

Plans for retirement: Get all that piled up grading done.

What will you miss most about the College? My colleagues, faculty in and outside of my department, and our dedicated and competent staff.

How did COVID-19 impact your final semester on campus? Well, I had a bang-up lecture scheduled for my last class, but the wind left those sails. 

Any advice or lessons learned from the experience?Never just use last year’s notes, always revise them. My areas of focus—biochemistry and instrumentation—change by about five to ten percent every year. Neither field looks anything like it did when I started here. It is really difficult to unlearn things that are now known to be wrong, but you must.


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