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Hampden-Sydney College is a liberal arts college for men located in Hampden Sydneymarker, Virginiamarker. Founded in 1775, Hampden-Sydney is the oldest private charter in the South, as well as the 17th oldest institution of higher education and one of only three four-year, all-men's liberal arts colleges in the United States.


Hampden-Sydney enrolls 1,106 students from 30 states and several foreign countries, and emphasizes a rigorous and traditional liberal arts curriculum.

Along with Wabash Collegemarker and Morehouse Collegemarker, Hampden-Sydney is one of only three remaining traditional all-male colleges in the US. The school's mission is to "form good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning." As such, Hampden-Sydney has one of the strictest Honor Codes of any college or university. Upon entering as a student, each man pledges that he will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do; this pledge is binding for life. The pledge takes place during a ceremony. This simply-worded code of behavior applies to the students on or off campus. The honor-code system is student-run, allowing for a trial of peers, adjudicated by a court of students. Notably, "behavioural" infractions such as attempting to drink underage do not rise to the level of an honor offense unless deception or theft is involved, thus, in effect, a two-tier system of student discipline is maintained: policies of the university regarding things like parking or drinking enforced by the Dean of Students' Office, and the Honor-Code system with more serious penalties for lying, cheating, or stealing, maintained by the students themselves.

Every student must prepare for and pass the Rhetoric Proficiency Exam, which requires passing a pure grammar proficiency test (testing whether the student know the rules of grammar) and a three-hour essay that is graded upon coherence of argument, quality of argument, style in which the argument is presented, and grammatical correctness. To prepare, the college requires each student to pass two Rhetoric classes that are usually taken the first two semesters a student is at Hampden-Sydney. The Rhetoric requirement is the same for students who decide to major in the humanities as those who follow a course of studies in economics. After graduating, many alumni have stated that the Rhetoric Program was the most valuable aspect in the Hampden-Sydney education, ensuring that no matter what else they chose to do, at least they could write about it.

Hampden-Sydney is the parent institution of Union Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) and the Medical College of Virginiamarker; founded 1812 and 1838, respectively. In 1968, the state legislature merged the Medical College of Virginia with the Richmond Professional Institute forming what are the MCV and Monroe Park campuses of Virginia Commonwealth Universitymarker.


The College's founder and first president, Samuel Stanhope Smith, was born in Pequeamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. He graduated as a valedictorian from the College of New Jersey in 1769, and he went on to study theology and philosophy under John Witherspoon, whose daughter he married on 28 June 1775. In his mid-twenties, working as a missionary in Virginiamarker, Smith persuaded the Hanover Presbytery to found a school east of the Blue Ridge, which he referred to in his advertisement of 1 September 1775 as “an Academy in Prince Edward.” The school, not then named, was always intended to be a college-level institution; later in the same advertisement, Smith explicitly likens its curriculum to that of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton Universitymarker). “Academy” was a technical term used for college-level schools not run by the established church.

Classes at Hampden-Sydney began in temporary wooden structures on November 10, 1775, on the eve of American Independence, moving into its three-story brick building early in 1776. The College has been in continuous operation since that date, meaning that college has operated under the British, Confederate, and United States flags. In fact, classes have only been canceled twice: for a Civil War skirmish on campus, and for a hurricane that knocked a tree into a dormitory building.

Despite the difficult and financially-strapped first years resulting from the Revolutionary War, the College survived with sufficient viability to be granted a charter by the Virginia General Assembly in 1783 — the oldest private charter in the South. Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, encouraged the passage of the charter, and wrote into it an oath of allegiance to the new republic, required of all professors.

Presumably under the influence of his mentor and father-in-law Witherspoon, Smith named the college for two English champions of liberty, John Hampden (1594–1643) and Algernon Sydney (1622–1683). Hampden lost his life in the battle of Chalgrove Field during the English Civil War. Sidney, who wrote "Discourses Concerning Government," was beheaded by order of Charles II following his (unproven) implication in a failed attempt to overthrow the king. These proponents of religious and civil liberties were much admired by the founders of the College, all of whom were active supporters of the cause of American independence.

The college was founded by alumni of Princeton University. Both Patrick Henry and James Madison, a Princeton alumnus, were elected trustees in the founding period before classes began. Smith hired his brother, John Blair Smith, and two other recent Princeton graduates to teach at Hampden-Sydney College. Samuel Stanhope Smith would later become President of Princeton University. John Blair Smith would later be the second president of Hampden-Sydney.

Hampden-Sydney became a thriving college while located in southside Virginia, which led to an expansion of the college. In 1812, the Union Theological Seminary was founded at Hampden-Sydney College. The Seminary was later moved to Richmond, Virginiamarker and is currently the Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education. In 1838, the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College founded the Medical College of Virginiamarker which is now the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth Universitymarker. During this time, the College constructed new buildings using Federal style architecture with Georgian touches. This is the style of architecture still used on the campus.

At the onset of the American Civil War, Hampden-Sydney students formed a company in the Virginia Militia. The Hampden-Sydney students did not see much action but rather were “captured, and...paroled by General George B. McClellan on the condition that they return to their studies."


The College has expanded from its original small cluster of buildings on 100 acres (0.4 km²) to a campus of over 1300 acres (5.25 km²). Before 2006, the college owned 660 acres (2.7 km²). In February 2006, the college purchased 400 acres (1.6 km²) which include a lake and Slate Hill Plantation, the historic location of the college’s founding. The campus is host to numerous federal style buildings. Part of the campus has been designated as a National Historic Preservation Zone.

The campus is currently undergoing major construction and renovation, beginning in 2004 with the opening of a new fitness center in Kirby Field House. During the summer of 2005, a new parking lot was constructed behind the Alphabet dorms. The original parking lot for the Alphabet dorms (directly across College Road) was torn out and grassed. In 2006 the new Hellmuth-Pritzlaff artificial turf lacrosse field was completed.

Lewis C. Everett of Kilmarnock, Virginiamarker gave Hampden-Sydney College $2.5 million to construct the Lewis C. Everett Stadium. Construction on the 1850-seat facility began in November 2006 and was completed in August 2007. The new stadium opened on September 1, 2007, for the opening football game against the Johns Hopkins University. The stadium replaced the 40-year-old Hundley Stadium adjacent to Fulton Field.

Most significant of all the construction projects is the new Walter M. Bortz III Library. Opened in the summer of 2007, the library houses over 245,000 volumes and subscriptions to over 800 journals and periodicals. Fanfare for the new building spurred many donations, including a collection of early maps of the Chesapeake Bay area (including a two-part Frye-Jefferson Map), and a collection of twentieth-century art that includes prints by Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí.

In autumn 2008, the renovation and expansion of Gammon Gymnasium into the Kirk Athletic Center was completed. The new facility sits next to Fulton Field. Future construction plans include renovations to Eggleston Hall (the former library) and Winston Hall (fine arts).

Student life


As one of only a few higher educational institutions for men, and being older than the nation in which it is located, Hampden-Sydney College has a unique culture. Typically, students are Southern, well-dressed, articulate, and conservative. Many take part in long-standing campus traditions—wearing jacket and tie to football games, greeting everyone they meet on campus, and active campus involvement, to name a few. Students are also issued a copy of To Manner Born, To Manners Bred: A Hip-pocket Guide to Etiquette for the Hampden-Sydney Man, which covers everything from basic manners, how to greet and introduce people, how to respond to invitations, how to dress, the difference between a black tie and white tie event, how to choose a wine, etc. The college publishes the book as a useful tool for existing successfully in a variety of social settings; as a result, Lisa Birnbach describes the College as “THE finishing school for Southern Gentlemen,” in her book The Official Preppy Handbook.


According to the Hampden-Sydney College website, the student body for 2004–05 is 94.1 percent White, 2.7 percent Black, 1.0 percent Hispanic, and 1.7 percent Asian. The majority (63%) of the student body is from Virginiamarker. The rest come from 35 other states and 10 different countries.

Clubs and organizations

According to the Hampden-Sydney College website, there are over 40 clubs on campus. Each club is run by the students, and the clubs come in a large variety. For example, there are political clubs, sports clubs, religious clubs, an FM radio station, a pep band, and multiple social fraternities. There are also volunteer groups such as the local volunteer fire department.

Union-Philanthropic Literary Society (UPLS) is the oldest student organization at Hampden-Sydney College. Established on September 22, 1789, it is the nation's second oldest literary and debating society still in existence today.


Hampden-Sydney College participates in eight NCAA-sanctioned sports: football, soccer, tennis, cross-country, golf, basketball, baseball, and lacrosse. The school is part of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). Basketball, baseball, and lacrosse teams are regular NCAA Division III national tournament contenders.

In late February and early March 2007, the Hampden-Sydney men's basketball team captured the school's tenth ODAC championship, its fourth this decade. The Tigers won its first-round NCAA Tournament game against Hood College, but lost in the second round to fellow ODAC foe (and 2007 National Champion) Virginia Wesleyan College.

Greek life

For freshmen, rush begins in the first semester and pledging takes place in the spring. If a student chooses not to rush and/or pledge as a freshman, sophomores and juniors may pledge in the fall or spring. Roughly 33% of the student body is involved in Greek life.

In addition to the social and professional fraternities listed above, Hampden-Sydney also has chapters of Pi Sigma Alpha, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Psi Omega.

Note: **A professional fraternity for chemistry majors; however Hampden-Sydney's chapter is unique in that biology and physics majors may also pledge.


Freshmen are required to live in one of three dorms that are set aside for freshmen. These dorms are Cushing Hall, the Carpenter Dormitories (X and Y), and the Whitehouse Quadrangle. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors have the option of living in any of the other dorms that they choose. Although an overwhelming majority of students live on campus or in campus-owned housing, the school does permit a small number of students (usually upperclassmen) to live off-campus.

Presidents of Hampden-Sydney College

Notable alumni

The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review ranks Hampden-Sydney in their list of "Best 361 Colleges" in the following categories:

Rank List Category
#14 Professors Get High Marks Academics
#17 Professors Make Themselves Accessible Academics
#1 Alternative Lifestyles Not an Alternative Demographics
#15 Homogeneous Student Population Demographics
#20 Lots of Hard Liquor Parties
#10 Most Politically Active Politics
#5 Students Most Nostalgic For Reagan Politics

Hampden-Sydney was also rated as the preppiest school in America, according to the The Official Preppy Handbook.

See also

:Category: Hampden-Sydney College alumni


  1. Programs of Study and Academic Catalogue
  2. Whitman, David. Wabash College, One of a Dying Breed, US News and World Report, 31 January 1999.
  3. Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1 September 1775.
  4. Brinkley, 5 and Appendix I, 847–50
  5. Brinkley, 15
  6. History of HSC at the college's official website
  7. "Hampden-Sydney College's Best 361 College Rankings". The Princeton Review. Retrieved September 2, 2007.


  • Brinkley, John Luster. On This Hill: A narrative history of Hampden-Sydney College, 1774–1994. Hampden-Sydney: 1994. ISBN 1-886356-06-8

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