Usually when I call to mindthe biography of one who has served the University of Lynchburg, it is a member of the faculty, but this week I wish to remember an editor of The Critograph who later joined the senior staff and served his Alma Materin a number of roles until his retirement in 2007. Hugh McNeil Scrogham, Jr., a native of Staunton, Virginia, entered Lynchburg College in the fall of 1962. He earned his B.A. in Political Science in 1966, and a MEd. in School Supervision and Administration. During his senior year, he edited The Crit, having become involved in publications as the business manager of The Prism while still a sophomore. He never wasted a minute, but at various “free moments” in his college career Hugh was elected to membership in Kappa Delta Pi, Pi Delta Epsilon, Blue Key, and the President’s Council.
For over a decade, I have had the chance to share the history of the college with the campus community, so to begin closing this academic year I should like to introduce you to the person, who, in a very special sense, was responsible for our Alma Mater. Of course, the names that immediately come to mind are Josephus and Sarah LaRue Hopwood, but the Hopwoods would never have moved to Lynchburg had it not been for F.F. Bullard. When Frank Fontaine Bullard, the pastor of First Christian Church, notified Josephus Hopwood of the availability of the defunct Westover Hotel as a home for a college, he changed the history of higher education in Central Virginia. Born in 1857, this Southwest Virginia graduate of Milligan College was descended from a long line of ministers. During his student days, the Hopwoods had been like surrogate parents, and after he left Tennessee, he regularly corresponded with them. When the Hopwoods decided to leave Milligan, Bullard quickly offered them a new opportunity for service.
Last weekend, I indulged in a hobby that I share with thousands—reenacting.
My period of expertise is World War I, and I am a member of an Imperial German Unit, the IR63. Since I impersonate a retired veteran recalled back into service, I have a clerical job. I interview enemy soldiers taken prisoner during the various raids and engagements that fill the hours of an event. It is a hobby that I share with my son, and I enjoy it for many reasons. I must assume and maintain a persona that I have carefully researched and created over the years—after all, I entered Lynchburg College with a drama scholarship. Using German, French, and sometimes Spanish gives me a chance to hone my language skills. [English has not proven a problem—yet.] It also gives me a great deal of time to devote to contemplation. This weekend, I devoted a great deal of my “quiet time” to thinking about the many contributions veterans have made to the University of Lynchburg.
I graduated from a high school that had a total of 1,000 students, with 250 of them being in the class of 2018. To some people, that may sound like a big group, while others consider it small; regardless, my school was overcrowded compared to the other schools in my county. A typical class size at THS was 25-30 students, and the smallest class I had was 16 students.
Last week we honored the graduates of the classes of 1954, 1959, 1964, and 1969; this week we shall recognize the accomplishments of our current students. On Friday, Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi will induct their new members, and the college family will gather to honor academic achievement and faculty service. For over four and a half decades, the Academic Awards Banquet has marked the beginning of the end of the college year. It one of the traditions of which I am most pleased.
Westover Weekend is just around the corner. Beginning on Friday, the campus will be filled with alumni ranging in age from their early sixties to—well, never matter. The Westover Society, which is composed of the College’s senior graduates, and this year the Class of 1969 will hold its Fiftieth Reunion. Dr. Robert Whitmore and I were the sponsors of this remarkable group of alumni. Unfortunately, Bob, who was a member of the Class of 1959, died several years ago.
This week’s pleasant weather filled with the promise of languid spring days yet to come convinced me that winter is finally done, and my thoughts began to wander back over the years to the water balloon mania that “gripped” the campus every year during second semester. Before I precede, let me admit that I was hit one Sunday afternoon in May by a soccer player whom I dubbed “Wrong Way Walker” because he had accidentally kicked a goal for our opponent in a particularly crucial game. He had waited for months to take his revenge—but I deserved it. Most of the recipients of a water balloon were innocent victims. Nobody was ever hurt; they just were soaked.
Walking past Carnegie Hall in the late afternoon was particularly dangerous. Without warning seemingly dozens of missiles would appear from as many windows. Most of them missed their marks—but not always. There was one young woman who tempted fate on a regular basis by walking very close to the building and taunting the projectile crews. As they responded to her challenge, she pushed the button on a large black umbrella. The balloons burst, but their target went her way dry and very self-satisfied. Then one day her flirting with disaster ended. Two enterprising “gunners” secured several plastic garment bags from a local dry-cleaning establishment, sealed them at one end with a warm iron, and filled the giant “balloon” using a garden hose borrowed from a town student. When their tormentor appeared on schedule, they pushed the “balloon” out of their third story window. Then up when the umbrella and down fell the missile with a loud smack. The umbrella looked as if it had been struck by lightning. The young woman was soaked—she never tried that trick again.
When I joined the faculty in 1965, I learned that the Dean of Women had a plan to stop water ballooning forever. All women who came into their dorms with wet hair after a water balloon incident had occurred would be “campused” for a week. This meant that you would be restricted to your room except for classes and meals. Students with a note from a professor could go to the library. This administrator was not popular with many faculty members, so some of them helped these young women avoid this form of punishment by providing them with head scarves which were duly washed, ironed and returned to their owners. Most of the young women in question were not participants but innocent bystanders. The Dean Christine K. Wells was not pleased, but there was nothing she could do.
In time water balloon battles went the way of goldfish swallowing and phone booth stuffing. When the 1970s arrived and Americans were dying or being maimed in Vietnam by the thousands such innocent collegiate pleasures seemed juvenile and shallow. Yet as I grow older and I count my years at Lynchburg College in decades I long that other time when life seemed so simple and the future lay before me—a straight road with no twists and turns. One afternoon in early spring, I saw eighteen people climb into a Volkswagen that was parked in front of Memorial Gym, now Hall Campus Center—but that is another story.
One word in the latest edition of The Critograph—nostalgia—sent me tumbling back through the decades to my freshman year at Lynchburg College. High school was, for me, five years of drudgery. Arriving on our campus on September 3, 1958 was like leaving a dark tunnel and coming into the sunlight of a summer morning. Later, after studying classical philosophy as a junior, I probably compared it to Plato’s analogy of the cave. Time has softened all those memories, but that does not negate the fact that my freshman year was the turning point in my life.
A friend of mine was the first person I knew who had the chance to study abroad. He was enrolled in a program sponsored by the University of Birmingham at Stratford upon Avon during the summer of 1960. The chance to study under Allardyce Nicoll, one of the recognized authorities on British drama, made the program particularly attractive. When he returned in September, I asked my friend about his experience. He enjoyed working with Dr. Nicoll, but he did not hesitate to tell everyone he knew that the course on Shakespeare taught by Dr. Dora Jean Ashe, was better than one he had just finished in England. Those of us who had taken one or more of her literature courses were not surprised. Dr. Ashe was the best of the best.
Winter passed its half-way point on Monday, Feb. 4, and the milder temperatures this week have me thinking of spring. While enjoying a bit of warm sunshine, I suddenly remembered a campus tradition that passed into history decades ago—The Senior Sneak. Many of the women who last participated in this activity are grandmothers now!
Cleaning out one’s office is like an archeological dig, even if the “debris” dates back to 1965 and not to 1665. Recently I found something I “lost” twenty years ago. Now at least I know where it is, although I cannot remember why I needed it in 1999! Last week my wife, who is helping me, found a copy of the address I gave at Freshman Convocation almost forty years ago. As I read it, I realized that some of my comments are still pertinent today. I did a bit of editing to fit the limits of my column, and I trust my readers will find something of value.
January is the “longest” month of the year, but it is almost done! There was a time, not so long ago, when the first month of the year seemed even longer. Exams were not given before the Christmas holiday, but in early January. Despite the best of intentions, very few students were ready for finals. As the first month of the year ended, a new semester finally began, and many the activities, both academic and social, centered around Memorial Gymnasium, now the Hall Campus Center.
On November 1st my wife and I flew to Albuquerque for the annual meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. Dr. Scott Amos, the Chair of the History Department and I both read papers. Over the years, I have enjoyed the opportunity of sharing my research with other scholars in my discipline. I traveled all over the United States and Canada from coast to coast thanks to the generous support of our university, but this was the last time, and I shall miss the chances to share ideas and theories with colleagues from all over the globe. I am glad the meeting was held in New Mexico, which is my favorite state—after Virginia of course. The sky was turquoise and the cottonwood trees glowed like burnished gold.