The Society of '91 is a year-long leadership certificate program inspired by the lives of eight members of the Class of 1791 who modeled greatness, leadership, and service. In their college years, these men represented not greatness, but the potential for greatness founded on the belief that those who would be great are those who are schooled to serve.

Members of the Society of '91 are a part of the Wilson Fellows Program  Members will engage in these sessions during their sophomore year.

Members of the Society of '91 meet twice a month for specially designed classes and experiences led by staff and faculty. These sessions are meant to equip them with the skills, information, and self-knowledge to:

  • work effectively with others to contribute to the common good.
  • be people worthy of emulation - with lives exhibiting honesty, integrity, and principle.
  • be active citizens of their communities throughout their lives.

Program Content

The monthly sessions explore various dimensions of leadership.  Sessions can involve specific readings, interactive simulations and discussions, videos, films, outside speakers and facilitators, self-assessment inventories, and experiential learning activities. Each participant will be provided a notebook of readings and resource materials.

Society of '91 History

In the spring of 1791, Hampden-Sydney College was just over sixteen years old. The official recognition of the College's status had been delayed by The American Revolution until 1783 when a charter was granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the first diplomas were awarded in 1786. Eight men were members of the Class of 1791; five were destined for high public office and three for less public lives.

  • William Henry Harrison, Major General in the United States Army, Governor of the Indiana Territory, Minister to Columbia, United States Representative and Senator, and Ninth President of the United States
  • George M. Bibb, Chief Justice of Kentucky, United States Senator, and Secretary of the Treasury under President John Tyler
  • James A. Jones, physician, Virginia State Delegate, United States Representative, and Surgeon General of the United States Army during the War of 1812
  • Moses Waddell, minister, principal of Willington Academy in South Carolina - where he taught John C. Calhoun - and founding president of the University of Georgia
  • William M. Watkins, lawyer, Virginia State Senator
  • John A. Morton, Captain in the War of 1812, went into business in Bordeaux, France, and served as American Counsel in Bordeaux
  • John M. Wilson, minister and principal of a boys academy in North Carolina
  • Andrew Brown, shortly after graduation, died

In the lives of the members of the Class of 1791 are examples of greatness, leadership, and service. Leadership may be marked by the attainment of high office, but the reality of high office is a call to greater service, and the importance of one's service is not truly measured by titles. Can we with certainty say that the men who commanded armies or balanced the finances of the Nation or deliberated in the United States Senate rendered a quality of leadership greater than the men who gave their lives to the service of their God and the education of young men? Is a life unrecorded by history of any less value to a man's family, friends, and community?

These eight men shared during a highly formative period of their lives an educational and social experience centered on a few brick and clapboard buildings "at the head of Hudson's Branch." They did not know who was destined for greatness and who would live only a few more years. We can assume that they studied together and ate together, that some pushed the limits of the patience of their teachers in the classroom and of President Lacy's tolerance outside the classroom. In their college years, they represented not greatness, but the potential for greatness founded on the belief that those who would be great are those who are schooled to serve.

From this rich heritage lies the challenge to all members of the Society of '91.