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.
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.
His 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.