Union-Philanthropic Society

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The Union-Philanthropic Society's Previous Hall (Formerly known as the Patrick Henry Room).
Winston Hall at Hampden-Sydney College. The top floor facing Via Sacra Road was previously inhabited by the Union-Philanthropic Society.

The Union-Philanthropic (Literary) Society (UPLS) is a college literary society at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, Virginia.

For over two centuries, the Union-Philanthropic Society has offered Hampden-Sydney a unique forum for discussion. Whether debating the ethics of slavery — in 1810 — or discussing the various views of the historical Jesus — in 1996 — the Society has continually provided the College with an unparalleled source for the oratorical and literary improvement of her sons.

Rather than narrowly focus on a single subject, the Society has long complemented the College's liberal curriculum by addressing topics from a variety of issues. Each week, the Society analyzes a different item from literature, politics, or the arts. The Society's exercises quickly train its members to think clearly, argue coherently, and speak forcefully on any topic.

The Union-Philanthropic is the oldest student organization at the College and the second-oldest literary society in America (the oldest being the American Whig-Cliosophic Society at Princeton University); however the UPLS is the oldest continuously-existing society of its kind in North America. It was founded on September 22, 1789. Edward Henry, the son of Virginia's greatest orator, and William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States, were among its early members. Yet the society has never been simply a student organization, and its influence has never stopped at the College gates. Men and women from all backgrounds, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Robert E. Lee, have been awarded — and have accepted — honorary membership.

The Union-Philanthropic Society faces the future confident in its traditions but cognizant of the need for innovation. While reinforcing its ancient emphasis on private discussion among its members, the Union-Philanthropic is now exploring new arenas for public discussion, including debates, round-table talks between faculty and students, activities with the women's colleges in the region, and hosting guest lecturers.

Membership in the Society is an honor which is bestowed upon students who demonstrate an interest in public discussion, a thirst for learning, a friendly manner, and good character. The Society summons several men to become members each term.

The Union-Philanthropic Society currently meets in the Brinkley House, a 1920s era home that was previously the residence of longtime Critic and former President of the Society, John L. Brinkley '59. Meetings are held every Sunday evening when classes are in session at 6 o'clock in the evening.


A tracing board of the Union-Philanthropic Society.

The regalia of the Union-Philanthropic Society combines the historic regalia of the Union Society and the Philanthropic Society, which merged into one organization in September 1929.

The Union Society:

  • Name: The Union Society (Concordiæ Societas)
  • Established: September 22, 1789
  • Motto: Me Socium Summis Adjungere Rebus ("I Wish to Ally Myself With the Greatest Things")
  • Colors: The badge should be displayed with the emblem in silver (or white) with a light blue background
  • Badge: The Union Society badge incorporates elements from the Society's history: the fasces, stars, quills, and scroll

The Philanthropic Society:

  • Name: The Philanthropic Society (Fraternitas Philanthropica)
  • Established: March 1805, re-established 1807
  • Motto: Aude Sapere ("Dare to Be Wise")
  • Colors: The badge should be displayed in gold on a dark green background
  • Badge: Includes: an eagle, scroll, and star

Current officers of the UPLS[edit]

  • Jacob Shenk (President)
  • Zachary Berry (First Reviewer)
  • Nathan McVey (Second Reviewer)
  • David Bushhouse (Clerk)
  • Dr. Robert Irons (Critic)
  • Shelby Hannah (Treasurer)

Notable honorary members[edit]

Other American collegiate literary societies[edit]