July 14, 2020

Hampden-Sydney College celebrated with Les Pugh '47 as he turned 100 this July.

Hampden-Sydney alumnus Leslie “Les” Pugh, Jr. ’47 celebrated his 100th birthday on July 7, with the College community joining in the celebration of his impressive milestone. Fellow Tigers sent the tech-savvy centenarian their congratulations via social media, while President Larry Stimpert enjoyed a phone conversation with Les on his special day.

Les and Evelyn Pugh are pictured in the first edition of Sports Illustrated at the Masters.The past century saw Les serve his country in World War II, emerge as a student-leader at H-SC, establish a successful career in sales, and most importantly build a close-knit family with Evelyn, his wife of 65 years. He also found time to remain active in athletics: competing in—and winning—amateur golf and tennis tournaments, establishing and coaching a girls tennis program for local schools, and attending the Masters golf tournament throughout the 1950s and 60s. He and Evelyn even appeared in the first issue of Sports Illustrated as spectators at the 1954 Masters.

Born in Lynchburg in 1920, Les came from humble means that were made even more difficult by the Great Depression. But the star athlete, who led E.C. Glass High School to a basketball state championship in 1940, earned an athletic scholarship to Hampden-Sydney and entered college with the Class of 1944.

Les Pugh '47 stands in his Marines uniform during World War IIHis time on the Hill was interrupted by the attack on Pearl Harbor, though. Young Les swiftly volunteered for the U.S. Marines, attended V-12 military training at Duke University, trained for anti-aircraft at Quantico and Camp LeJeune, then headed to the Pacific Theater as a Marine lieutenant. After taking part in the second wave of the invasion and occupation of Peleliu—one of the Marine Corps’ highest-casualty battles of the Second World War—Les was made Battery/Company Commander on the Island of Guam and served there until the war in the Pacific ended. He credits his survival of the war to the Holy Spirit.

What I loved about attending Hampden-Sydney College for four years was the overall college experience of being part of an outstanding institution. The closeness I felt with the students, the professors, my coaches and teammates, and especially my fraternity brothers—I still remember these things after all these years.

Les Pugh '47

Les made his way back to Hampden-Sydney in the fall of 1946, where he played on the golf team, earned the number two ranking on the tennis team, and led Tiger Basketball to a Little Six state championship as team captain. He excelled as a student leader beyond athletics as well, holding every office for the H-SC chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and being chosen for the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society. “Two of my best memories were the day I was inducted into ODK and our final basketball game of the 1946-47 season when we beat VPI,” Les recalls.