Hampton University


Legacy a Central Theme at Founder's Day


For 116 years, members of the Hampton University family have gathered to remember the man who began it all. Under Gen. Samuel Chapman Armstrong’s leadership, HU was founded in 1868 and his work changed the course of history. On Jan. 25, the university community gathered at Armstrong’s gravesite to honor the legacy he left behind.

Following the wreath-placing ceremony at the site, HU President Dr. William R. Harvey drew from recently-elected U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan when recalling Armstrong’s visionary leadership to educate newly-freed African-American men and women. “One-hundred forty-one years ago, Gen. Armstrong said, ‘Yes we can,’” said Harvey. “Let us emulate Armstrong’s leadership.”

Legacy continued as a central theme at the Founder’s Day Service at Ogden Hall later that morning. The Honorable Allyson K. Duncan, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, served as keynote speaker.

The witty second generation Hamptonian lived in the same dorm, Winona Hall, as her mother and graduated first in her undergraduate class in 1972. Duncan later graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1975. She is the first African-American woman to ever serve on the 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 2003, she became the first African-American and only the third female president of the North Carolina Bar Association.

To Duncan, the greatest characteristic that defines HU is the silhouette of the campus against the clear water. She centered her message on that image.

founders day

“Hampton is a port in a storm. Here students can stretch their wing in a place where they are safe. But the sea also has waves … one has to be challenged to grow,” said Duncan.

She explained to the students in the audience how the subjects and teachers that challenge them today are preparing them for the bosses they will one day meet. Duncan continued, stating how the ebbs and tides that “carry us out also bring us back.”

“These waves are the love we feel for our alma mater. [We must] do all we can to support that place we came from,” she said.

According to Duncan, alumni should always be aware that opportunities to give back to HU may present themselves in unique ways. For her, the opportunity appeared when she was employed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Duncan had swiftly risen through the ranks and was working on a settlement with General Motors where higher education scholarships were to be created. With Duncan’s support, HU’s name just so happened to end up at the top of that list. To date, 106 HU students have received support through the EEOC and General Motors Scholarship.

Whether one supports HU through a direct monetary contribution, volunteering of time, or in an indirect happenstance, it is a Hamptonian’s duty to leave a legacy and give back.

“It’s by cumulative return and ways of giving back. It is how we honor our founder,” Duncan concluded.

-Alison L. Phillips