Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Be yourself. Be accountable. Be courageous.
September 4, 2014

Be yourself. Be accountable. Be courageous.

Those are the three “Be’s” outlined by Dr. Christopher B. Howard, the president of Hampden-Sydney College, told Culver Academies students they need to follow during an all-school presentation Wednesday.

Howard is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, earned a doctorate degree at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and received a Masters of Business Administration from the Harvard School of Business. While in the Air Force, he served as a “Huey” helicopter pilot and an intelligence officer. He retired as a lieutenant colonel. He is now one of the youngest college presidents in the country.

Be Yourself

Growing up in Plano, Texas, Howard decided to wear a tie to school in seventh grade. In addition to the ties, he added the uniform of the Junior ROTC, which he was required to wear once a week. So four days a week he wore a tie and one day he wore the JROTC uniform. It wasn’t conventional, he said, but it was what he wanted to do. By the time he was named JROTC battalion commander as a senior at Plano High School, he had added an array of medals to his uniform and carried a saber. “I’d tell people, ‘Back off! I’ve got a knife,’” Howard laughed.

While Howard made light of his clothing choices, he was also a member of Plano’s state championship football team. But not everything ran smoothly. “There were the chances to smoke, to drink, and to touch,” he said, but he rejected them because that was not who he was or what he wanted to be.

“You have to be yourself,” Howard said. “Please, just be yourself.”

“You have to be yourself,” Howard said. “Please, just be yourself.”

Be Accountable

At the Air Force Academy, Howard said he was greatly influenced by Hall of Fame football coach Fisher DeBerry. One phrase that DeBerry used during a practice especially rang true with him. In his South Carolina drawl, DeBerry challenged each member of the team to consider how good the Falcons would be “if everybody practiced like you. What would the team be like if everyone played like you?”

Being accountable to yourself and others falls under “categorical imperatives,” German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy that certain obligations are universally binding. And, Howard added, accountability “increases over time.”

Without the leadership of the senior class, “there is no Culver Academies,” Howard said. The student-run Honor Code is an example. There are underclassmen who think there is “nothing cooler” than the seniors and will follow their lead. Be accountable because “people are watching you.”

Be Courageous

When he was in pilot training, Howard said he was practicing a maneuver when something went wrong. He was forced to eject and the plane crashed. He wasn’t seriously injured but it took two investigations and six to nine months before he was cleared to fly again. He had to decide whether he wanted to risk flying or take a ground position.

Dr. Christopher B. Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College, told students to Be Yourself, Be Accountable, and Be Courageous. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

Dr. Christopher B. Howard, president of Hampden-Sydney College, told students to Be Yourself, Be Accountable, and Be Courageous. Culver photo/Jan Garrison

While he weighed his options and considered the consequences, Howard thought about the courage his father and uncle showed fighting in Vietnam, only to come home and show a different kind of courage when confronted by racism. He also remembered the Tuskeegee Airmen during World War II. Facing racism inside and outside the Army, they continued to train and became the first African American pilots in the military. When flying escort missions over Germany, the Airmen never lost a bomber.

Remembering those acts of courage are why he decided to fly again. Being courageous often comes in the face of physical, emotional, and spiritual deprivation, Howard said. Doing the right thing takes courage.

Share This:
Posted in Alumni Culver Academies Parents Sports Student Life
Related Stories