Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L’s Panhellenic Council Wins Award at Atlanta Conference

Washington and Lee University’s Panhellenic Association has been awarded the Gamma Phi Beta College Panhellenic Award by Gamma Phi Beta International Sorority. The award “recognizes the Panhellenic association that successfully develops and implements a program to enhance the Greek image on campus and in the local community.”

According to Elizabeth Ahlemeyer Quick, Panhellenic Affairs vice president for Gamma Phi Beta sorority, “The association’s Halloween Carnival certainly accomplished this goal! Gamma Phi Beta International applauds the Washington and Lee University Panhellenic Association on its outstanding contribution.”

The W&L Panhellenic representatives received a certificate and a check for $250 at the Southeastern Panhellenic Association Conference that was held in Atlanta in March.

“It is an honor for Panhellenic to be awarded the Gamma Phi Beta Panhellenic Award. W&L has worked very hard to improve relations with the community. Receiving an award such as this shows that progress is being made among Greek students, and we are moving in the right direction,” commented Lauren Travis, past Panhellenic president.

Dana Smith, assistant director of student activities and Greek life, added, “This is a great reflection on the entire Greek community at W&L. Both sororities and fraternities have participated in the Halloween Community Carnival at some point since it was started three years ago. Panhellenic Council (sororities) organizes and plans the entire event and receives funding support from the Interfraternity Council (fraternities).”


Mini-Language Classes Offered to Alumni During Reunion Weekend

Washington and Lee University’s Tucker Multimedia Center (TMC) and the departments of modern foreign languages will again offer W&L alumni the opportunity to attend mini-language courses over Reunion Weekend, May 1-3, 2008.

Mini-language classes being taught by modern foreign language faculty at Washington and Lee include French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Classes will be approximately 30 minutes each, and run from 3:00-5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 2.

All classes, with the exception of Japanese, will be held in Tucker Hall. Japanese classes will be offered in the newly constructed Japanese Tea Room in the Watson Pavilion on front campus.

Now in its second year, the popular program is spearheaded by Dick Kuettner, director of the TMC and a professor of French and Spanish. “We are unique in offering our alums language classes centered around a central theme,” says Kuettner. “Language study is one of those useful commodities. Who wants to look the fool when traveling abroad or when negotiating a business deal with foreign clients? As we educators stress more and more the necessity and actuality of globalization, it would do us all good to be completely at ease and independent while communicating with others.”

Professors providing instruction are Roger Crockett (German), Patricia Hardin (Italian), Janet Ikeda (Japanese); Greta McCaughrin (Russian), Ivelise Faundez-Reitsma (Spanish), and Dick Kuettner (French).

“The mini-lessons are so much fun to teach because no one is there to complete a distribution requirement,” said Roger Crockett, head of the German department. “There is no homework, no test, nothing that makes us traditionally unpopular with students. And the atmosphere is relaxed, something like an educational KaffeeKlatsch.”

“The TMC and language departments constantly seek to bring the wide world of foreign cultures and languages home to the Washington and Lee campus. And we are very happy to have found another means to this end,” said Kuettner.

For additional information about the Tucker Multimedia Center for Foreign Languages, its services to the community and to the region, please visit http://tmc.wlu.edu/.


W&L Donates Parcel of Land to Rockbridge Historical Society

Washington and Lee University has recently donated a parcel of land to the Rockbridge Historical Society. After lengthy negotiations, the 4,090 square foot sliver of land adjacent to Varner Lane was donated to the RHS for its continued use as a picnic area within downtown Lexington.

Leanne Shank, university counsel, was instrumental in the legal processes that preceded this donation. “President Ruscio recognized the significance of the contributions that the Rockbridge Historical Society has made to the community,” said Ms. Shank. “After deliberations with the RHS that were consistent with the current property deed restrictions, President Ruscio and the Board of Trustees were happy to facilitate the donation of this property to the RHS, so that they may continue its use as an attractive green space.”

Located in front of the Lexington Visitor’s Center, the land will be utilized by tourists. “We are pleased to receive this gift from W&L,” said George Warren, director of the RHS. “With only two green spaces within Lexington’s downtown, this land is really appreciated.”


Locy Named First Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Legal Reporting

Toni Locy, a veteran of 25 years covering the American justice system at all levels, has been named Washington and Lee’s first Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Legal Reporting.

Locy, currently a visiting professor and Shott Chair of Journalism at West Virginia University, will join W&L’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communications on July 1. She will teach courses in reporting on the civil and criminal justice systems. Some of those courses will be offered in collaboration with the university’s School of Law and its legal clinics.

Locy’s three-year position is made possible by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The Reynolds Foundation began the department’s Business Journalism program with an endowment in 1999 that established the Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism. The foundation’s gifts to Washington and Lee now total more than $4 million.

Dean of the College Hank Dobin appointed Locy upon a recommendation by a search committee headed by Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism Pam Luecke. Locy was selected from a nationwide pool of applicants.

“We are delighted that Toni Locy will be joining us,” said Department Head Brian Richardson. “Her experience, her energy, her love for her profession and especially her courage will serve as a guide and inspiration to our students and her new colleagues.”

Locy is currently appealing a contempt citation by a federal district judge after refusing to reveal the names of several confidential sources. She face fines of up to $5,000 a day. She was recently recognized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors at its annual convention, and she has met with Capitol Hill staffers to voice her support for a federal shield law pending before Congress.

The contempt citation arose from Locy’s coverage of the Justice Department for USA Today in 2001 and 2002. Unidentified sources told several reporters, including Locy, that former Army scientist Steven Hatfill was a possible suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people. In 2002 then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Hatfill a “person of interest” in the investigation.

Hatfill sued, with his lawyers contending that his reputation had been damaged. On March 7, in response to a motion by Hatfill’s lawyers, Federal District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered Locy to reveal her sources or pay up to $5,000 a day in fines from her own pocket. Four days later a higher court granted a stay while Locy appeals the ruling. A hearing is set for May 9.

In addition to her five years at USA Today, Locy has covered the Supreme Court and legal affairs for the Associated Press, federal courts for The Washington Post, criminal justice for The Philadelphia Daily News and federal courts for The Pittsburgh Press. She has also worked for The Boston Globe and U.S. News & World Report. She has a master’s degree in the studies of law from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev., it is one of the largest private foundations in the United States.


Mitchell Awarded Fulbright to Teach in Ukraine

Phylissa Mitchell ‘01L, visiting assistant professor of journalism, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach at a university in Ukraine, although the exact institution has yet to be announced. Mitchell will teach a comparative course on free-press constitutional guarantees, focusing on broadcast writing and public affairs.

Mitchell says that the recurring question of whether freedom exists if there is no one there to freely report it, has always fascinated her. “After all,” says Mitchell, “the world knows about the Orange Revolution in 2004 because Ukrainian reporters utilized the internet to inform its people and the world about that tainted election. Because people were informed, they were outraged. Because they were outraged, they gathered. And because they gathered, the power structure was forced to concede.”

Brian Richardson, department head of journalism and mass communications, says Mitchell “brings a lively, engaging teaching style to the classroom that students respond to enthusiastically. We are delighted for her, and also for the students she will teach. She also brings her legal education and a wealth of experience as a journalist at all levels — from network television to community newspapers.”

Mitchell earned her J.D. at W&L in 2001 after years of producing news, working for ABC, NBC, CBS and KCTS-TV, as well as the PBS-affiliate in Seattle.


Benefiel Awarded Fellowship from Archaeological Institute of America

Rebecca Benefiel, assistant professor of classics at Washington and Lee University, received the Olivia James Traveling Fellowship from the Archaeological Institute of America for 2008-2009. It’s designed to support field research in the Mediterranean, and there is only one fellowship of this kind given out per year. The award is $25,000.

Benefiel will spend this fall and next spring on-site in Pompeii and in Rome working on her book, “Pompeii and Her Neighbors: Civic Identity, Social Interaction, and Ancient Graffiti.”

More than 11,000 inscriptions (ancient “graffiti”) on the walls of ancient Pompeii have been discovered and recorded since excavation of the site began in the 18th century. These writings provide interesting information about the social interaction taking place among residents of different communities. Benefiel said that they show there is a “good amount of civic pride and civic rivalries, especially between Pompeii and her closest neighbor, Nuceria.”

“I am thrilled about this opportunity,” she said. “It’s the best fellowship I could have gotten for my project because it is designed to support research in the field. For my research, being on-site in Pompeii is invaluable. Published photos exist for fewer than 1% of these graffiti.

“I have gone to Pompeii for brief research trips and every time I go, I encounter something unexpected that affects my approach to, my thinking about, and my understanding of these ancient writings. There is no substitute.”

Benefiel received her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.


W&L Freshmen Hamscher and Mou Chosen as Kemper Scholars

Washington and Lee students Eric Hamscher ’11 and Chengpeng Mou ’11 have been chosen to receive Kemper scholarships. They will join Steve Rivior ’08, Becca Taylor ’09 and Cale Grove ’10 as W&L students participating in the program.

Each year, the James S. Kemper Foundation selects one first-year student from each of its participating schools to serve as Kemper Scholars. “It is very rare for more than one student to be chosen from a single institution in a given year,” said Rob Straughan, associate dean of the Williams School.

Kemper Scholars receive financial aid during their sophomore through senior years and participate in an annual fall conference in Chicago. They are also employed as a not-for-profit intern in Chicago following their sophomore year, and a for-profit internship in a mutually agreed upon location following the junior year.

Hamscher, of Erie, Penn., plans to major in economics, politics or both. He also hopes to become fluent in Spanish and to possibly complete a concentration in the Shepherd Poverty program. Hamscher is currently involved in the Bonner Leader program, Freshman Leadership Committee, Freshman Orientation Committee and Mock Trial. He is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

“I am very interested in this Kemper scholarship because I will be able to complete internships within both non-profit and for-profit organizations,” said Hamscher. “I believe the internships will help me to learn different management techniques as well as improve my leadership skills.”

Chengpeng Mou, of Chengdu, China, is interested in majoring in mathematics and economics. He plays second violin in the school orchestra and is leader of the University’s ping-pong team and. He is involved with the Shepherd Poverty program and a new member of the University Scholar program and the R.E. Lee Research program. This spring he will be traveling to Barbados and St. Vincent to study how tourism economy has affected the small Caribbean islands.

Mou believes that his natural intellectual curiosity and his hopes of a future business career make him a good fit for the Kemper Scholars program. “Kemper Scholar Program will no doubt help me in some tremendous ways: it makes me more financially independent, it offers me great internship opportunities, and it gives me access to a wide variety of mentors and motivated peers,” said Mou.

Washington and Lee University is one of only fifteen schools invited to participate in the program.


Strong Appointed Associate Provost

Dr. Robert Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics in the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics at Washington and Lee University, has been named Associate Provost at the University effective July 1, 2008.

As associate provost, Strong will help to coordinate the many programs and initiatives that cut across school lines, including faculty and student development grants; implementation of W&L’s new Academic Life program; Advising Task Force recommendations; and reviews of the Faculty Handbook, the committee system, and structural support for interdisciplinary programs.

He will also be the director of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, with responsibility for coordinating the annual lecture-symposium series, student internships, and the post-enrollment program for Johnson Scholars.

“Bob brings solid credentials and deep institutional memory to the associate provost position,” said W&L Provost June R. Aprille. “His many years of service as department chair and on key committees that cross school boundaries have earned him the respect of colleagues and the experience needed to be effective in this new role.”

Strong came to Washington and Lee in the fall of 1989 after spending a year working on Capitol Hill as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Before moving to Lexington, he taught political science and international relations at Tulane University and the University College of Wales.

While head of the politics department at W&L from 1989 to 2005, Strong served on the Advisory committee and on major committees reviewing the transition to co-education and general education requirements in the undergraduate curriculum.

A graduate of Kenyon College, Strong received his M.A. from Northern Illinois University and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. His research involves the presidency and modern American foreign policy; his published work includes articles on arms control and books on Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter and a recently completed second edition of Decisions and Dilemmas: Case Studies in Presidential Foreign Policymaking (M. E. Sharpe).


W&L Receives $1.3 Million Grant to Support Biological Sciences

Washington and Lee University has received a $1.3 million grant from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) to support the University’s undergraduate biological sciences programs. W&L was one of only 48 institutions out of 192 applicants to receive a grant.

“This grant will help to lift all of our science departments to a new level of energy and collaboration for the benefit of students and faculty alike,” said June Aprille, W&L’s provost. Aprille holds a Ph.D. in physiology and specializes in cellular metabolism.

The core features of the proposal:

  1. An HHMI Fellows Program will engage students in two years of study including research preparation, summer research, travel to laboratories and professional meetings, and on-campus programs. “It will be an enriched and expanded version of our current R.E. Lee Research Program,” said Helen I’Anson, W&L’s HMMI program director and professor of biology and neuroscience.
  2. Two new faculty positions will add expertise and leadership in bioinformatics and computational biology. Current faculty will be able to attend workshops or visit other laboratories. “The biosciences are becoming increasingly quantitative and much more interdisciplinary, as research teams tackle problems at the interface of biology with other sciences,” said I’Anson. “These faculty members will spearhead our move to improve the quantitative skills of our current faculty and students.”
  3. Development of the bioscience curriculum. “This feature provides us with an opportunity to revamp our curriculum to reflect a more interdisciplinary and quantitative bioscience world,” said I’Anson.
  4. New service-learning courses will enable W&L students to develop science modules and teach them in local K-5 classrooms. W&L will offer a related Summer Science Institute for science instruction to local teachers. “The HHMI grant is great for W&L and our students,” said Fred LaRiviere, assistant professor of chemistry, “and since it will allow us to greatly expand our science education outreach efforts with the local elementary schools, the benefits of this grant will extend into the community as well.”

A committee of W&L faculty and staff composed the grant proposal last spring and summer. The committee included I’Anson; Paul Cabe, associate professor of biology; James Eason, assistant professor of physics and engineering; Mimi Elrod, director of summer scholars; Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology; Larry Hurd, professor of biology; LaRiviere; Simon Levy, assistant professor of computer science; Tyler Lorig, professor of psychology and neuroscience; David Marsh, associate professor of biology; Rance Necaise, associate professor of computer science; and Frank Settle, professor of chemistry.

HMMI encourages institutions that apply for a grant to be creative in their proposals, and to recognize novel strategies that work well in a variety of settings.

“The HHMI grant is going to be especially important for the Neuroscience Program at W&L,” said Tyler Lorig, professor of psychology and neuroscience. “When most people think of neuroscience, they think about brains, neurons and microscope slides. That’s certainly a critical part of what we do, but neuroscience has grown to encompass even more. Computer modeling has become an important part of the discipline. This grant will make sure our students are prepared for this new quantitative emphasis in our field.”

I’Anson and the HHMI Advisory Committee will launch the program this September. In addition to I’Anson, the members of the Advisory Committee are Provost Aprille; LaRiviere; Levy; Lorig; Marsh; Irina Mazilu, assistant professor of physics and engineering; and Lena Ojure, director of teacher education at W&L.

HHMI, a nonprofit medical research organization, is dedicated to discovering and disseminating new knowledge in the basic life sciences. Established in 1953 by the aviator and industrialist Howard Hughes, HHMI is one of the largest philanthropies in the world, with an endowment of $14.8 billion in 2005.

“Liberal arts colleges—particularly some of our grantee institutions—have long been successful in educating future scientists,” said HHMI President Thomas R. Cech. “The undergraduate years are vital to attracting and retaining students who will be the future of science. We want students to experience science as the creative, challenging and rewarding endeavor that it is.”


Mellon Grant helps W&L’s Jenefer Davies Plan Aerial Dance Performance

Jenefer Davies, visiting assistant professor of dance at Washington and Lee University, has been awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Grant through the Associated Colleges of the South.

The $7,700 grant will be used to create an aerial dance performance on the side of Wilson Hall. The performance will be a combination of dance and climbing. Davies and James Dick, W&L’s director of campus recreation, have been working on this concept for over two years. They hope to stage the performance in May 2009.

“I will develop the vocabulary of movement based on the freedoms and limitations of the apparatus (climbing gear), teach the students this vocabulary and choreograph the dances,” said Davies. James Dick will collaborate with a professional rigging company who will come to W&L and oversee the technical aspects of the rig.

The performance event will have students rigged in mountain climbing harnesses, lowered onto the side of Wilson Hall from the roof. The side wall of the building will serve as the stage for the performance.

“This student-based performance project was inspired by my past experiences using professional dancers,” said Davies.”One year I created a show in which dancers were suspended 60 feet from the top of the Center in the Square building in downtown Roanoke.”

This type of performance is very physically demanding. The dancers must have the strength to hold themselves parallel to the ground, while being graceful and fluid in their movements. “It is my hope that the physicality will inspire both male and female students to participate,” said Davies.

“It will be great working with students in a way much different than on natural rock on the side of a cliff,” said Dick. “Some of our students who learn the technical aspects of rock climbing anchors use that knowledge later on in life in many ways. I look forward to getting them out of their comfort zones on top of a building right here on campus.”