The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Hample's Aug. 21, 2008 Convocation Speech

3 min read

Honor is one of the most cherished principles at the University of Mary Washington. In choosing to attend UMW, you have chosen to enter into an environment that is truly “different by design.” As new students to the University, and I as a new President at UMW, we are together entering a very special community. The University strives to educate principled leaders and citizens. Later this afternoon when you pledge to the Honor Code, you are committing to integrity, respect, responsibility, and accountability in everything you do.  This System will work, however, only through the collective efforts of all students.
I am sure that many of you have seen the movie, “A Few Good Men”—a movie mostly about an unwritten code of conduct, but much of the movie focused on the obligations of a Marine to uphold his Code of Conduct. Can’t you still hear the exchange between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson as Marine Colonel Jessup explaining that when his orders aren’t followed, people die, and that his Marines follow a code with no flexibility that is greater than any one man?  While violations of the Honor Code at UMW won’t bring the same drastic results as in the Marines, the personal shame and unhappiness of one found guilty of violating the Honor Code could be similar.  I’m sure that you remember the immortal wailing of Iago in Shakespeare’s  Othello {Act III Scene II, abridged version}: “Who steals my purse steals trash;….But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”  Or in the more simple words of Benjamin Franklin, “…Reputations, like china, are easily broken and difficult to repair.”
The Honor Code is more than words on paper to which you will pledge; it is your personal commitment to live an exemplary life where you respect yourself and others and behave in a disciplined manner worthy of emulation. In making this pledge, you promise to be a person of integrity and trustworthiness, willing to live and work in a manner whereby you treat others as you would have them treat you.  And in the words of the great Winston Churchill, you are promising to “never give in –never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
Last week before most students and faculty members arrived on campus, I used the opportunity to visit some out-of-state alumnae and alumni. Among the alumni there is still strong adherence to the philosophy and practice of the Honor System, and it is remembered fondly. I was struck, in particular, by one alumna’s business which is modeled very much on the version of the Honor System she lived with as student at Mary Washington.  I had the privilege of meeting several of her employees and getting a feel for the workplace environment. Her colleagues talked about feeling empowered and how they couldn’t wait to get to work in the mornings. Please believe me when I tell you that you don’t see such behavior every day in the business world.  In applying Honor System principles and investing trust and confidence in her employees, she is reaping great benefits—financial and personal.
The Honor System at UMW has indeed become a way of life. As young men and women you will do the right thing just because you know it is the right thing to do. Mutual trust characterizes relationships between students and faculty, and a spirit of personal honor and integrity pervades our student body.
I have confidence in all of you that you will ensure the successful continuation of the long-standing Honor Code and Honor System Tradition at UMW.  I personally look forward to partnering with you as we go forward to do so.