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My W&L: 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.

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Hometown: Allendale, S.C.

Major: Economics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Executive Committee Representative to the Class of 2016
  • Peer Counselor
  • South Carolina State Chair for Mock Convention
  • University Singers
  • Southern Comfort

Off-Campus Experiences: I was a participant in the 2014 Hollins Study Abroad program in London where I took a British Contemporary Politics course at the University of London and also interned as a research analyst at Venture Business Research. Last summer, I interned with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in their equity research department.

Post-Graduation Plans: I have accepted an offer to work with Stephens, Inc. in Little Rock, Arkansas.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? My friends know this, but I grew up in a town about half the size of Lexington in a place called Allendale, South Carolina. My parents own a small law firm in the town and I spent much of my time outdoors on our farm. I would not have had it any other way. As I grow older, I have come to appreciate values and principles, such as honesty and humility that a small town culture like Allendale instills in children.

Why did you choose W&L? I went to a small high school with an honor system structured around the W&L honor system. I enjoy a smaller environment where you can come to know everyone and establish lasting friendships. Students first experience this during orientation week, and the friendships last throughout students’ undergraduate career. Even more specific to W&L is the honor system, where each student is expected to play a role if they choose to be a part of our community. It’s the backbone of the school, and it’s a way of life that continues beyond our years as Washington and Lee students.