Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

From Humble Beginnings to New Opportunities

James Hagelgans '79

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When local attorney James Hagelgans ’79 attended Franklin & Marshall, he walked home on Sundays to do his laundry. It wasn’t a quick trip around the block for this Lancaster native, however. It was an across-town trek. That weekly trip is emblematic of the one Hagelgans has made in his life, as well—a journey from home and back again, from humble beginnings to new opportunities.

“Growing up in Lancaster, I initially didn’t think of going to F&M. I thought I wanted to go away to college,” Hagelgans says.

And go away he did—for a year and a half—until he discovered the grass was just as green in Lancaster, and the city held compelling attractions for this hometown boy: family and friends, to whom he was continually drawn, and a first-rate College that could provide him with everything he needed.

He decided to transfer to Franklin & Marshall, a move made possible in part by scholarships. He supplemented this aid with loans and revenue from various jobs.

At F&M, he became a history major with an eye on law school. At first a commuter student, he eventually moved into a room in Hillel House, taking care of the house during the summer.

After graduation, he went on to Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville, an experience that wasn’t a huge culture shock because of F&M’s own diversity.

Hagelgans credits F&M’s small size and excellent professors for his academic success.

“At Vanderbilt, I was in classes with students from Harvard and Dartmouth,” he says, “and I never felt they were any more qualified than I was.”

Today, Hagelgans is a successful lawyer with his own practice, doubly grateful to F&M—for his education and for the College’s efforts to improve the city he loves. In addition to his private practice, the Judges of Lancaster County have appointed Hagelgans to serve as a Chairman of Civil Arbitration Panels.

Now that he is able to give back, he supports the College so that others of limited means might have the same opportunities he had. “I would not have been able to go to F&M without scholarship help,” he says. “And if I’d not gone to F&M, I probably wouldn’t have gone to law school.”