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Not easily broken: Hampton friends go 40 years

(Courtsey of Walter Mebane)

(Courtsey of Walter Mebane)

Averi Collins | Features Editor

Walter Mebane of Norfolk, Virginia and Kenneth Campbell of Durham, North Carolina have been good friends for almost 40 years. They were students at Hampton University and were residents of James Hall. 

The men chose Hampton because it was familiar to them; they either had a friend or relative at the school and found it to be a good fit for them too. “I had an older brother that was already attending Hampton at the time I was looking at colleges,” Campbell stated, “I went with my parents to Parents Weekend and the rest is history. That’s when I became enamored with Hampton. It made me want to [go] there and be a part of it. I was able to see student life when I [visited] Hampton and it was very attractive to me.”

Mebane had a high school friend at Hampton that showed him around the campus. That is when he fell in love with the scenery and the positive energy the students possessed.

Originally, Campbell and Mebane only saw each other in passing. At that time the majority of the freshman boys stayed in James Hall.

“The school was smaller then, a higher percentage of students living on campus, and there wasn’t a lot to do. So, you were more likely to see people while on campus,” Mebane said.

The young men formally met at McDonald’s on Mercury Boulevard after a concert and realized they had a math class together.

Campbell said that their friendship was developed first through close proximity and after so many meetings, their commonalities sealed the deal.

“One of these centered around the fact that we were from the South. Another one of these centered around the fact that we were both interested in pledging a fraternity,” said Mebane. “We didn’t know we were interested in the same fraternity until we both attended a smoker. A smoker is a fraternity interest meeting. We also talked about living in a bigger city than where we grew up.”

Their differences also brought them together, according to Campbell. “Walter was the first guy I met that had a mind like an engineer. The way he processes information, I don’t process information like him. When I realized that is how he thinks I was like ‘Wow I’ve never met anyone like that.’ To this day this makes me want to run things by him. He thinks in feet and inches and time and distance. I never met a guy that thinks that way.”

To this day Mebane and Campbell still bounce ideas off of each another and use the other to get different perspectives of a topic almost every day.

Hampton changed these men in ways they were not aware of until they graduated. Campbell pointed out the importance of being around like-minded people. He realized upon leaving just how much other people will notice the change in you. It is more than just a regular matriculation at a regular college; it is becoming a Hamptonian.

Mebane recounted his own personal growth. “I knew I wanted to work in the science field. Hampton helped prepare me and it gave me the confidence to continue through the undergrad and graduate school. Another thing that amazed me was that there was always a percentage of around 25 percent of Hampton students that went back to school for grad school and so there was always peer pressure to go back to school.”

Hampton not only changed the men and helped push them into pursuing higher education, but it also helped shape them into the successful men they are today.

Hampton helped these men grow and opened the door for them to experience the world around them.

The fact that Hampton is not in a major city made it easier for these students to focus on academics and everything was centered around student life. They were not used to being the majority and seeing people push themselves to have the highest GPA’s in class.

“Hampton has a mantra that we were first told when we sat down at Ogden Hall freshmen year. Hampton is an education for life. Where I am from you don’t see a lot of African Americans in academia but then I came to Hampton and there are people rocking a 3.8 GPA. To see so many smart African Americans is something you don’t find everywhere,” stated Campbell on Hampton’s “Standard of Excellence.”

Since Campbell and Mebane graduated in 1981 with the lost class of Eminence, Hampton has changed a lot. Then, the school was small in number of students and the student body stayed on campus. Now, there are barely enough dorms for students to stay in and a lot of people move off campus their sophomore year. “For one it has become a larger school. Unlike many of the other private HBCU’s, it has been able to prosper financially and expand.

What I think has remained the same are the core principles. This has always been one of its advantages. It is a very conservative school. It has southern traditions and values.”

To this day Mebane and Campbell see each other often. They take their families on vacation together, spend holidays together talking about politics and reminisce on their past when they met at Hampton University their freshman year.

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