To say this year has been different and challenging would be an understatement. Despite the challenges facing the College, the Wilson Center, and the world beyond our gates, we persevered and enjoyed the meaningful interactions that make Hampden-Sydney special.
Three memories remain etched in my mind. Each provides a great leadership lesson:
- The importance of relationships. Students suddenly left campus in March of 2020 and did not return until August of 2020. We rarely go that long without interacting with students. The lack of interaction, along with the uncertainty associated with the pandemic, forced many of us to evaluate how we spend our time and what we prioritize. When students finally returned in August, faculty and staff were more excited than normal. Working with the outstanding young men at Hampden-Sydney College and in the Wilson Center is a calling, not just a job. When we are not able to enjoy those meaningful interactions, we are lessened. Being forced by the pandemic to cease in-person interactions for an extended period of time enabled us to remember how impactful personal interactions can be. “Colloquy between student and mentor,” as General Sam described, is at the heart of the Hampden-Sydney experience, and we must treasure it and prioritize those relationships with every action and decision.
- The importance of flexibility and patience. Students at Hampden-Sydney were able to enjoy in-person instruction throughout the 2020-21 academic year, an experience many other college students did not receive. However, the price included severe restrictions on in-person gatherings, rigorous testing protocols, and enforced contact tracing. Each time a student came in contact with a student suffering from a cold, seasonal allergies, strep throat, or COVID-19, he was required to quarantine for the protection of his fellow peers, staff, and faculty. This required students to return home or move into the quarantine dorm while joining classes via Zoom—not an ideal environment for receiving one-on-one instruction. Despite the challenges, I had a number of students in quarantine say, “It’s ok, I will figure it out.” They didn’t complain; they simply adjusted and did the best they could given the circumstances. Students this past year demonstrated an exceptional amount of patience, flexibility, and resilience—qualities that will serve them well as leaders moving forward.
- The importance of being part of something bigger than yourself. We all had a wonderful time welcoming back the class of 2020 for a delayed, but joyous commencement on April 24th. Mixed emotions ruled the day—joy welcoming the young graduates back to celebrate with their families; pride learning about their accomplishments in the year following graduation; sadness that they did not get to have a typical senior year experience and that their graduation activities were somewhat abbreviated. We take solace knowing these graduates will no longer be on the Hill, but pride in that they will be part of this special community for the rest of their careers and lives. As Professor Brinkley said, “While they may leave Hampden-Sydney, Hampden-Sydney will never leave them.” Each graduate will be part of something bigger than himself for the rest of his life.
We look forward to welcoming you back to campus this fall! Please visit the Wilson Center during football games and join us in person for one of our lectures. Take care, and please keep in touch.
Dr. Ryan Pemberton ’00
Director of the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest
When he was selected as president of Hampden-Sydney College in the summer of 1992, General Wilson noted, “The single most important person walking this campus is the student, followed closely thereafter by the faculty and staff who serve as his mentor. The single most important thing that happens on this campus is that colloquy between the student and his mentor. All else is secondary and supporting.”
Faculty and staff are called to help these superior young men become the very best versions of themselves. These “men of character who will lead lives of consequence” are worthy of our support and guidance.
Hampden-Sydney Week in D.C. Trip
Dr. David Marion and Dr. Ryan Pemberton ’00 took students in their INDS 385: Leadership in the U.S. Constitutional Republic class to Washington in May. Students networked with alumni and friends and enjoyed the unique culture of Washington during a whirlwind excursion to our nation’s capital. Read more…
Wilson Center Events
In spite of the ongoing pandemic and our inability to host lectures, talks, and symposia, the Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest, in conjunction with the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement, held seven virtual talks for the greater community this spring. Read more…
Each year, top students in our Leadership in the Public Interest Minor (Harvey B. Morgan Award) and our National Security Studies Minor (James Y. Simms Award) are recognized. Read more about our recipients, Kevin Canny ‘21 and Christopher Thompson ‘21…
Wilson Archival Update
The Lt. General Samuel V. Wilson Archival Project continues to take shape. To learn about the College’s efforts to digitize and catalog General Sam’s papers, read more here…
Wilson Center in the News
Wilson Center faculty and alumni continue to lead important civic conversations. For thoughts from Dr. John Hillen, and Dr. David Marion, read more here…
Support the Wilson Center
Wilson Center students are worthy of your support! Now more than ever, the world needs leaders who the display the traits and bedrock values evidenced in the life of Lt. General Samuel Wilson and embedded in the ethos of Hampden-Sydney College and the Wilson Center. Support our outstanding young men and this worthy endeavor of preparing “men of character for lives of consequence.”