January 01, 2020|
Bassett’s Three Presidents
Recently on FaceBook in the group “Bassett- Looking Back. Moving Forward”, one of its members, Kathryn “Kak” Philpott Austin Keck, a 1960 Bassett High School graduate, posted the following question: “How many of you know that three of Bassett’s native sons became college presidents?” Several people “liked” the post and numerous comments were made, but it was clear that the majority of the people did not know this unique fact about Bassett. Well obviously “Kak” knew the answer. And to be honest, like some, I only knew two of them. This, to me, was an opportunity, with Kak’s permission of course, not to be missed!
Harry Melvin Philpott was born on May 6, 1917. He was one of the six sons born to Benjamin Cabell Philpott and Daisy Hundley Philpott. Along with his brothers, Harry attended area public schools until his family moved to Lexington, North Carolina in 1922. He received his undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in 1938 and began an administrative career as director of religious activities at W & L from 1938 to 1940. On September 15, 1943, he married Pauline Breck Moran in New York City, New York. He served as a Lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserves from 1943 to 1946 in the Chaplains’ Corps during World War II and saw action with the Third and Fifth Fleets in the Pacific Theater. In 1947, he received his Ph. D. from Yale University. Soon after his graduation, the University of Florida hired him as Assistant Professor/Associate Professor of Religion from 1947 to 1952. Between the years 1952-1957, he served as the Dean of Religious Life and Head of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Stephens College. Dr. Philpott became the Vice President of the University of Florida from 1957 to 1965. Then in 1965, he became Auburn University’s eleventh president and served in this capacity until 1980. Dr. Harry Philpott was a member of numerous organizations, a world traveler, and was presented many honorary degrees and deserving accolades over the course of his lifetime. He died at the age of 90 and is buried in Auburn, Alabama.
Phillip Carson Stone was one of the seven children born to Wilbert Morris Stone and Laura Elizabeth Nolen Stone. He attended area public schools along with his three brothers and three sisters and graduated from Bassett High School in 1960. In September 1963, he married Cherrill Darlene Kline in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater College in 1964, he then attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Economics, and received a law degree from the University of Virginia. With a law firm based in Harrisonburg, he practiced law for 24 years and served as the president of the Virginia Bar Association in 1997. While serving as the seventh president of Bridgewater College for sixteen years from 1994 to 2010, the enrollment of the college practically doubled in size. His extremely short retirement from college presidency happened on June 30, 2010. Mr. Stone was enjoying semi-retirement and working at the Stone Law Group with his children, a family practice in Harrisonburg, Virginia, when he was called to become the president of Sweet Briar College when it was close to closing in July 2015. After getting Sweet Briar back on its feet and moving in the right direction, he officially retired (again) in May 2017. Among his numerous titles, he has served as the chair of the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Associates of Colleges and Schools, the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, and the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia.
Michael Creed Maxey was born on December 7, 1951 to Jesse Creed Maxey and Doris Mae Pegram Maxey. He and his younger brother, Neil, and younger sister, Robin, grew up in Bassett with numerous relatives living close by in the area. He graduated with the Bassett High School class of 1970. Attending Wake Forest University, he received a bachelor’s degree in history as well as his master’s degree in counselor education. On May 28, 1978, he married Terri Lynn Petree in Bassett, Virginia. He also earned a certificate of advanced graduate study in counselor education at the University of New Hampshire and then attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. At the University of New Hampshire, he worked in academic affairs and worked in student affairs at both Averett College and Wake Forest University. Over the years, Mr. Maxey has worn many hats at Roanoke College. Beginning in 1985, he was appointed vice president for college relations and the dean of admissions and financial aid. He has also worked as the director of planned giving, the director of capital resources, and has also worked in the admissions office. From 1990 to 1992, he served as the vice president for resource development and admissions services. On July 1, 2007, he became the eleventh president of Roanoke College where he is still holding that position today.
These three gentlemen all came from well respected Bassett families who valued hard work and education. They have far exceeded their own expectations with no limits and the communities in which they have belonged have definitely reaped the benefits from the contributions that they have made. These three educators in their own time and place have touched the lives of people and have bettered the education for so many for close to one hundred years. It is examples like these three that give a new meaning to the term “River Rats” which is used for the students from Bassett.
(Information for this article found in the files at the Bassett Historical Center)