Trible walks the talk

Published 11:00 am Monday, March 2, 2020

The Honorable Paul S. Trible Jr., a 1968 Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) graduate, recently addressed a crowd at H-SC, crediting his alma mater with modeling what a great college should look like and informing the framework with which he built up Christopher Newport University (CNU).

“Hampden-Sydney profoundly shaped my life,” he said. “Any success, any significance I have achieved in my life can in large measure be seen as the result of the four years I spent on this campus. I love this place.”

High praise from one of Hampden-Sydney’s most notable alumni. Trible has truly led a life of significance, from his time as a U.S. senator to his current position as fifth president of Christopher Newport University — a public college that Trible elevated from near extinction to national rankings.

“At Christopher Newport, we celebrate a speaking tradition and an honor code, customs that I learned here and took with me throughout my life,” he said in his Feb. 11 address to a crowd of students, faculty and community members in H-SC’s Crawley Forum.

The speaking tradition that Trible refers to is the simple act of acknowledging people with a smile and a greeting as they cross your path on the sidewalk, in the dining hall or at the gym.

Trible reminisced about a visit to one college where he noticed students did not acknowledge one another as they passed. He stopped a student to inquire about the reason for this and the student replied, “That’s just the way the world is.”

Trible reminded the audience that Hampden-Sydney “isn’t interested in conforming to the world but rather transforming the world.”

Trible dove deeper into the heart of his talk, titled “Transformational Leadership.”

“Respect for others is the essence of leadership,” he said. “We must learn to engage each other, to learn from each other, to work with each other.”

And that, according to Trible, is why a speaking tradition is so important. Leadership involves the flowing back and forth of ideas. He added we must believe that everyone that crosses our path has something important to impart. If we’re willing to listen, we can learn from others, and then great things are possible.

“Leadership and life demand great dreams,” he said. “If you’re going somewhere, gentlemen, make it a great adventure. We are put on this earth to contribute, to live a life of significance. Those are the things I learned on the Hill.”

The former senator recalled that when he first arrived at CNU and laid out an audacious plan to turn the floundering school into a prestigious university in short order, he was met with more than one doubtful countenance.

“But great dreams have great power and consequence,” he said. “Don’t waste your lives on modest dreams.”

As the evening drew to a close, Trible encouraged students to pursue excellence, to ask more of themselves and their fellow citizens.

“Care more than others think is wise, risk more than others think is safe, and dream far more than others think is possible,” he said.