In addition to President Larry Stimpert, who greeted the assembled guests and delivered a charge to the new alumni, the ceremony’s speakers included first honor graduate James Edward Garrison ’22, who delivered the valedictory address, and The Honorable Ben Sasse, who represents Nebraska in the United States Senate.
In his remarks, President Stimpert saluted the graduating seniors for their efforts to help lead the student body and younger students through the disruptions of the pandemic: “You have shown them how to be resilient, and how to thrive and achieve goals in the face of adversity. You have demonstrated a willingness to make personal sacrifices for the common good, and that here we are our brother’s keeper. We are grateful for the mark you are leaving on this College’s history and legacy.”
“Even as we have used the word ‘normal’ repeatedly during the pandemic,” Stimpert continued, “I would argue that what we seek to do at Hampden-Sydney is far from the norm. Given our mission, purpose, and legacy, we may be the most distinctive college in the country. Our mission to form good men and good citizens was surely one of the most important projects in higher education when Hampden-Sydney was founded in 1775, and it is an equally important project today.”
In his valedictory address, Garrison praised multiple professors for their dedication, mentorship, and support, including Professor of Philosophy Patrick Wilson, Thompson Professor of Philosophy Marc Hight, Assistant Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science Michael Strayer, and Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Sara Loeb. A Mathematics and Philosophy major, Garrison earned College Honors and Distinction in Mathematics and earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.993.
In remarks that touched on history, scripture, and the many complexities of today’s world, Senator Sasse gave the graduating seniors an assignment. “Set a plan for the month of June,” he said. “Figure out what habits you’re going to have when you no longer live in a community this structured. Are you going to read a book in the month of June? Are you going to learn to say ‘I was wrong’ at least once a day? Are you going to log your workouts? There are ways that leaving here and the euphoria of celebration can lead to drift. The way to beat that drift is to take the next two weeks and decide what kind of habits you want to instill for yourself for the experiment for the month of June, and then before May 31 comes, pick two of your buddies from this community and tell them your goals, so that now you have a built-in accountability partner for what you said you were going to accomplish. You will fail, but if you have an accountability partner, it’s easier to get back on the horse together.”
“Don’t let June 30 and July 1 be your failed moment to establish your new commenced adult habits as you head into the world,” Senator Sasse continued. “Because the rhythm of immediacy that comes from the super computer in your pocket requires you to recognize there are only about three things at the end of time: There is your identity about what you think happens in eternity, there are the habits about how you grind every day to live a life of gratitude trying to make a difference serving people, and there are the people with whom you do it.”