By CNN's Kylie Mohr
“He was very professional and he enforced a dress code in class – you couldn’t wear flip flops.” So says a recent graduate from Randolph-Macon College about Professor David Brat. The same David Brat who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary Tuesday that sent political shockwaves from the Richmond, Virginia suburbs up I-95 to the U.S. Capitol.
“He was very serious about preparing his students for the future,” said Alyssa Warren, Randolph-Macon’s 2013 valedictorian. Violations to the no jeans, no t-shirts, no flip-flop dress code resulted in an ethics paper assignment.
Although some students grumbled about that, 2012 graduate Lara O’Brien really appreciated how Brat equipped students for internships and beyond. “He wanted us to get a feel for real life, and not just bumming around campus,” she said laughingly.
Raymond Scott is a 2012 alumnus from the small Ashland, Virginia college who currently works in investment banking. He was Brat’s personal assistant during his freshman year. Scott said Brat would come into the classroom with a Wall Street Journal and grill students on the news. When they were unable to answer questions Brat would declare, “That’s what’s wrong with your generation.”
Students described Brat as a friendly, approachable and extremely intelligent professor. They always felt comfortable engaging him during class, office hours or around their tight-knit campus. He ate with students every day in the dining hall and frequently attended sporting events.
Brat heavily emphasized dialogue in his classes, a tactic that might work well on Capitol Hill if he succeeds in the House of Representatives race for Virginia’s 7th district.
“We had conversations in his class, he didn’t just talk at us,” O’Brien said. “He wanted to engage and discuss, not just force things down your throat.”
O’Brien completely disagreed with Brat’s political views, but said his demeanor made him one of her favorite professors. She took two classes with Brat and counted him as a close ally and adviser. He even convinced her to stay at Randolph-Macon when she became homesick for Texas during her freshman year.
Perhaps his charm explains why students of varying political views continue to rave about Brat. Warren described him as a “very charismatic, likeable person.” O’Brien agreed it felt genuine.
Brat’s strong opinions and clear values compliment his charm. Even O’Brien admires him for sticking to his guns politically. She said, “He’s a good role model, he’s going to do whatever he thinks is best based on a clear set of inherent values.” Adding, “He’s transparent.”
Alumni are excited to see Randolph-Macon in the news, and one way or another the college will be well represented in Congress. Brat’s Democratic opponent is another professor at the school Jack Trammell. 2013 graduate Connor Wolf is a D.C. based political reporter now and was surprised at the turn of events, “When you think of politics, you don’t think of Randolph-Macon.”
“I see both of them as having great character,” he said. “I’m really hoping this is a demonstration of how politics can be.”
Alumni even started the hashtag #Brammell on Twitter as a show of joint support.
Alyssa Warren is actually happy she won’t be able to vote. “I’m glad it’s not my district,” she said. “Because how can you vote between two people who you really like and you know both are really great?” The general consensus from past students is that the House of Representatives will be lucky to have whoever may win.