Providing a Path to Lifelong Learning

Hansford Epes

Hansford Epes ’61

When you work on a college campus for half a century the way Hansford Epes ’61 did, you learn the kinds of students who inspire you most. For him, it’s those who “light the fire” in a classroom. That is to say they ask great questions, seek to understand both text and context and enjoy the journey of learning.

The Dr. Hansford Epes, Jr. ’61 Scholarship at Davidson College, supported through Epes’ estate, will aim to bring those intellectual fire starters to campus for years to come. He’s interested in supporting middle-income students for whom bridging the financial gap can be a challenge when looking at college options and allowing them to choose the best fit regardless of cost.

“The interesting part of education isn’t the answers you walk away with four years later,” he says. “It’s the questions that you’ll think about the rest of your life. We live in a political world where too many have the easy answers. I like people who show they’re never going to settle for that.”

Sometimes Epes has the easy answers—or the answers easily, rather—like when he won three straight rounds of the Jeopardy! Senior Tournament in 1992. Final Jeopardy got him in the end. But when it comes to Davidson, the answers aren’t settled in a 30-minute episode or even in a long career as a German and Humanities professor.

“About two-thirds of students indicate on their college applications something they may want to major in, and at least half of them change their minds,” he says. “The Humanities deals with ways of asking questions and trying out answers that apply to every area. It’s a rich area to explore, and you always learn something new, even after reading and re-reading the same material.”

Outside of teaching, Epes worked in study abroad and as the college’s registrar. He led the school’s College Bowl program for many years and was adviser to candidates for Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships for 25 years. Luckily, he was able to shift gears along the way without ever leaving home, the place he knew he was meant to be from the first time he visited campus as a high school student.

“I believe in Davidson,” he says. “It’s been good to me, and I’m glad to be able to give back.”