May 16, 2023

On Saturday, May 13, under cover of cloud but with spirit of sunshine, the Hampden-Sydney College class of 2023 earned their diplomas and turned their tassels.

students in regalia in attendance at their commencementThe front lawn of Venable Hall teemed with energy as students, faculty, and staff were celebrated for their accomplishments and contributions to the College. President Larry Stimpert welcomed the crowd with ruminations on the challenges that this graduating class faced over the last four years—four years that began with the interruption of their freshman year by a global pandemic, which then impacted years two and three, only to finally conclude with a normal senior year. A college experience unlike any other.

Dr. Stimpert commended the class on how they handled the challenges and implored them to continue welcoming challenges throughout their lives: “Like a muscle not flexed, a life without challenge will remain underdeveloped. Indeed, ability and even genius are squandered without hard work, discipline, and resilience.”

First Honor Graduate Andrew Michael Rehak reminisced on his full circle journey to the cap and gown, noting that the first event he ever attended on the Hill was also on the lawn of Venable when his brother, Matthew Rehak ’21, joined the College community. “It is fitting then that this be where I officially end my time as a Hampden Sydney student,” Andrew continued. “I’m a big fan of when things end where they began; it’s as if the universe is letting you know that you’ve fully completed the journey.”

Similarly for his classmates, the conclusion of their time on the Hill also ended the way it began as Student Body President Trey Grimes IV noted that four years ago on their very first day on campus, the skies were grey then, too.

Neil deGrasse Tyson addresses the class of 2023Even the ceremony’s lauded commencement speaker, renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, noted that this academic year in some ways represented a full circle moment for the College—with the dedication of the Pauley Science Center in the fall hearkening back to the very first purchase made on behalf of the College by President Samuel Stanhope Smith: scientific equipment. Dr. Tyson went on to encourage students to not look longingly to the past for meaning, to not rest on what they have already learned, but to view their time at Hampden-Sydney as a chapter successfully completed and then to go out and continue writing the books of their lives.

One notably absent member of the College community was Lecturer in Government and Foreign Affairs Lt. Col. Rucker Snead ’81 (U.S. Army, Ret.) who passed away on May 3, 2023. Yet though he was physically absent, Col. Snead’s presence was felt throughout the ceremony, from the moment of remembrance at the start of the ceremony, to Andrew Rehak’s memories of Col. Snead’s pep talks as academic advisor to the swim team, to the U.S. Army commissioning ceremony of four new soldiers, whom he mentored as the ROTC advisor over the course of their four years in the program.

In a ceremony packed with full circle remembrances, the 2022-23 academic year came to a close right where it started. We were reminded that the duty of becoming and being a good man and a good citizen is never really finished. Though these young men have now moved on from the Hill, their contributions to the College will be eternal, as are the memories of their too-soon-departed brothers like Col. Snead. Such is the legacy of the sons of Hampden-Sydney.

Student, Faculty, and Staff Awards

The Cabell Award: Dr. Gregory Dempster, Elliott Professor of Economics and Business
Created by the Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation to assist the College in attracting and keeping professors of high ability and integrity and given annually to “a Hampden-Sydney faculty member in recognition of outstanding classroom contribution to the education of Christian young men.”

Thomas Edward Crawley Award: Dr. Jana M. DeJong, Associate Professor of Modern Languages
An award given annually in honor of Professor Thomas Edward Crawley to “that professor most distinguished for devoted service to the ideals of Hampden-Sydney and the education of her sons.”

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion: Loyal T. Grimes IV ’23, Justin Lee Stimpson ’23, and Chief of Police Thomas Mark Fowler
Given annually by the New York Southern Society in honor of its first president, Algernon Sydney Sullivan. The recipient of this award is a member of the graduating class who has distinguished himself for excellence of character and generous service to his fellows. Other recipients may be chosen from friends of the College who have been conspicuously helpful to the institution in its efforts to encourage and preserve a high standard of morals.

Samuel S. Jones Phi Beta Kappa Award: Yue-Bo Jia ’25
The Phi Beta Kappa Award for Intellectual Excellence was established by Samuel S. Jones, Class of 1943, to recognize intellectual excellence as manifested in outstanding student research. 

Anna Carrington Harrison Award: Ian Charles Novak ’23
An award given as a memorial to his mother by the late Mr. Fred N. Harrison of Richmond, is awarded to the student who shows the most constructive leadership in a school year.

The Gammon Cup: Nicklas Konrad Morgan ’23
Given in memory of Dr. Edgar G. Gammon, a member of Hampden-Sydney College’s class of 1905 who was captain of the College’s football, baseball, and track teams is awarded to the student-athlete in the graduating class who has best served the College, who shows not only athletic ability and scholarship, but embodies Dr. Gammon’s outstanding character.

Senior Class Award: Dwayne R. Bowyer ’92, Associate Dean of Students for Student Conduct & Character & Director of Greek Life
Given by the senior class to a community member for their contributions to the College, its students, and the community.

  • graduates in regalia process in a line
  • graduates in regalia seated at commencmeent ceremony
  • faculty in regalia leads the commencement procession
  • President Stimpert speaks to the Class of 2023 at commencement
  • students smiling in their seats at commencement
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson speaks to the Class of 2023
  • students in ROTC uniform at the commissioning ceremony
  • students smiling as they leave graduation
  • students smiling as they leave graduation
  • a graduation cap sits atop someone's head