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Hampden-Sydney receives second-largest gift ever

Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) announced Tuesday, Aug. 4, that it had received a $6 million gift from Rob and Cindy Citrone to support Compass, the college’s experiential learning program. 

Larry Stimpert

The gift is the second largest in the college’s 245-year history.

“Compass is Hampden-Sydney’s most important curricular innovation since the Rhetoric Program was formalized in 1978, and the Citrones’ generous support will provide crucial funding to expand the program’s capacity and enhance the educational opportunities it offers our students,” H-SC President Dr. Larry Stimpert said. “Rob and Cindy have long been devoted champions of the college’s mission and our efforts to strengthen the experience we offer young men. We are grateful for their support for a program that will raise the profile of the college, strengthen our educational program and even better prepare students to compete for top jobs and graduate programs.”

College officials noted in the press release that capitalizing on two of Hampden-Sydney’s greatest strengths — an immersive, engaging learning environment and the strong relationships between professors and students — Compass enables students to learn by doing through guided access to a variety of opportunities, including internships, study abroad, research, service learning and hands-on classroom experiences.

“Hampden-Sydney introduced me to novel ideas, outside-the-box thinking and unparalleled mentors whose guidance helped to shape my approach to life,” Rob Citrone, a H-SC trustee and the founder, managing member and sole principal of Discovery Capital Management LLC, said. “We are thrilled to support this innovative educational program that applies Hampden-Sydney’s enduring strengths to a new method of learning that will even better help students find direction and derive the most value from their college experience.”

Compass began with pilot courses in 2018 and officially became a graduation requirement for incoming students in the fall of 2019. To satisfy the program’s requirements, students must take at least three experiential learning courses, one of which must have a primarily off-campus component, such as an internship or study abroad experience, from across multiple divisions and programs of the curriculum.

“The college has never received a gift that will strengthen our academic program in the way that this will,” Dean of the Faculty Mike McDermott said.

This academic-led initiative harnesses the resources of the entire Hampden-Sydney community. Outside the classroom, students will find mentorship and guidance from advisers and Ferguson Career Center staff, as well as alumni, parents and friends of the college. And helping each student connect all the pieces will be the trained, committed faculty members leading and guiding students through their Compass experiences.

The program will continue to grow this fall under a revised academic schedule that was designed by the faculty in anticipation of further pandemic-related uncertainty. Under the new “10-4” calendar, each student will take three or four classes in the first 10 weeks of the fall semester and just one or two courses in the final four-week period.

“Across society, the past six months have been defined by disruption, adaptation and innovation,” Cindy Citrone, who is a pediatric occupational therapist and former H-SC trustee, said. “Hampden-Sydney’s nimble shift to remote instruction this spring and inventive approach to the fall schedule, all while maintaining a personalized touch, reinforced for us the college’s ability to adapt and innovate in the face of unexpected disruption. 

“But in addition to navigating a global pandemic, our society is also engaged in a movement to bring social equity to all,” she continued. “It is more critical than ever that colleges expose students to experiences that broaden their perspectives as well as their skill sets and strengthen their abilities to reflect on and apply what they learn and experience.”

The Citrones’ gift will support programming and staffing for a variety of elements of Compass, including funding to facilitate students’ off-campus study and internships as well as expansion of the Ferguson Career Center. Future Compass-related initiatives may also include educational programming for alumni and friends of the college.

“Our world is constantly evolving, and predicting the skills that students will need in the workplace in five or 10 years is challenging,” Dr. Sarah Hardy, the assistant dean of the faculty charged with directing experiential learning, said. “But through Compass, we can guide students as they practice and reflect on solving open-ended problems. And wherever this work happens — in a lab, an art class, abroad or in an internship — students learn how their mistakes, their choices and their accomplishments can translate into success beyond college.” 

The Citrones are also deeply committed to students’ emotional and mental health and have previously sponsored Hampden-Sydney’s ongoing participation in the JED Foundation’s emotional health and suicide prevention efforts, which are a natural complement to Compass, given the program’s focus on helping students find purpose and direction in their lives through critical reflection.

“This exceptional gift will have a profound impact on Hampden-Sydney students now and for generations to come,” Vice President for College Advancement Heather Krajewski said. “This gift reasserts our most deeply held value of extraordinary care for our students and their futures and at the same time gives our faculty necessary resources to innovate in important and impactful ways.”

Rob Citrone graduated as the valedictorian of the Hampden-Sydney class of 1987 with a degree in honors math and economics, and he received his Master of Business Administration from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia in 1990. A current trustee of H-SC, Citrone has been a leading global macro investor focusing on emerging markets for more than 30 years.

Cindy Citrone is a summa cum laude graduate of Ohio State University who currently serves on the President’s Council for Student Well-Being at Carnegie Mellon University. A member of the advisory board of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, Citrone also serves on the board of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The Citrones are members of the Pittsburgh Steelers ownership group, and they are the proud parents of four children.