While the 232 members of Hampden-Sydney College Class of 2020 technically joined the nation’s No. 2 alumni network a year ago, their original commencement exercises were postponed multiple times by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, April 24, 2021, 173 of these accomplished young men finally returned to the Hill to enjoy a long-awaited and well-deserved commencement ceremony on the lawn of Venable Hall.
In greeting the assembled guests, President Larry Stimpert recalled that the arrival of this class as freshmen coincided with his arrival as president: “We came to this special place at the same time in 2016, and I had the privilege of watching you become the good men and good citizens this College forms during our four years together.”
Stimpert saluted the many accomplishments of the class before noting, “And yet, there is something much more to your experience here that a typical list of accomplishments can’t capture—and that is the brotherhood of Hampden-Sydney men.”
President Stimpert was followed by 2020 valedictorian and Gammon Cup honoree Eli Strong ’20, who reflected on the “crazy year” that has transpired since the members of this class were last together. Now in medical school at George Washington University, Strong saluted his classmates for their commitment to helping each other succeed, as well as their willingness to respectfully debate complex issues.
“Hampden-Sydney creates good men and good citizens — citizens who are ready to contribute to society in this manner,” Strong said. “I have witnessed that firsthand from the Class of 2020, and I am proud to call you all my brothers. I have no doubt that many of you will go out from here and live extremely successful lives, but do so with the honor and integrity that is so important to us here on the Hill.”
The 2020 commencement speaker was political theorist, New York Times best-selling author, and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will, whose remarks were titled “You Are Now Among the Elite. Get Over It.”
“Today you join — you really have no choice about it — the American elite.” Dr. Will told the members of the Class of 2020. “I urge you to embrace that membership unapologetically, proudly. And to live up to its responsibilities.”
Dr. Will reminded the graduates that “few, very few, enjoy the privilege of the kind of quality education that you have received,” and encouraged them to “wear your difference not with vanity or haughtiness, but with quiet pride and confidence.”
Dr. Will was awarded an honorary degree as part of the ceremony. His full remarks can be found here.