The Columns

My W&L: Hugh Gooding ’16

— by on September 5th, 2016

Hugh Gooding '16

“We often do not realize the opportunities afforded to us as students at this prestigious university tucked away in such a beautiful town.”

Unlike many students here, Washington and Lee was not my first college choice. I was dead-set on attending the United States Naval Academy, and for those familiar with the process, I spent a significant portion of my high school years preparing and completing the arduous application process. I received a nomination from South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, a Washington and Lee alumnus, but I was not granted an appointment into the academy. My dad has always said that it worked out for the best, and after coming to Washington and Lee, I could not agree with him more.

After arriving in Lexington, I began to realize that W&L is a special place, and we often do not realize the opportunities afforded to us as students at this prestigious university tucked away in such a beautiful town. The culture at W&L is especially unique from other universities, where we have a friendly and inclusive atmosphere embodied in the ‘speaking tradition.’ Friendships are easily made on this campus, and the small class sizes encourage students to actively engage and interact with professors. The Honor System is the backbone of W&L, and it demands that students conduct themselves with the highest level of honor and integrity both academically and socially. The student-run Executive Committee enforces the Honor System, which is the peak of student self-governance that is so prevalent and unique to W&L.

The end of this semester will also mark the end of my stint as one of the two Executive Committee representatives to the class of 2016. It has been, without a doubt, my most rewarding experience at W&L. The Executive Committee handles all matters relating to student government and upholding the Honor System. As I said before, the Honor System is the backbone of the university of which every W&L student promises to follow. It was a privilege to be trusted with this responsibility by my peers. My personal relationship with the Honor System goes back to my small hometown of Allendale, South Carolina, where my parents, especially my dad, prioritized the importance of maintaining one’s character and reputation. Once that reputation and trust is jeopardized, recovery is difficult. The Honor System at Washington and Lee echoes this idea, and it was humbling to be selected by my peers to uphold its virtues.

The W&L culture encourages students to become involved with campus life and in the Lexington area. For me personally, it was not long before I was travelling the world singing with the University Singers; a member of the peer counseling program helping freshmen transition to college life; a board member on the Generals Activity Board bringing entertainment to campus; the South Carolina state chair for Mock Convention; a member of Southern Comfort, W&L’s only all-male a cappella group; a math tutor for a sixth grade girl at a local middle school; and one of the two senior class representatives on the Executive Committee. I feel as if I can honestly say that I have been involved in every aspect of Washington and Lee throughout my four years. From opportunities I would have never thought of pursuing to befriending people I never would have otherwise met, Washington and Lee allowed me to shape my college years, and for that I am grateful.