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Alumni Magazine Readership Survey Available

We need your feedback to evaluate and improve W&L: The Washington and Lee University Alumni Magazine. The online readership survey for the spring issue of the magazine is now available, and your participation is invited. To provide comments, criticism and suggestions on the current issue and on the alumni magazine in general, please go to the following page and complete the survey. The magazine Web site also includes electronic editions of the past three alumni magazines.

Dashiell '80 Wins Major Broadcast Award

Joe Dashiell, a 1980 Washington and Lee graduate, was presented with the George A. Bowles Jr. Award for Distinguished Performance in Broadcast News by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters on Friday (June 27) at the organization’s annual meeting in Virginia Beach. The Bowles Award goes annually to the broadcast reporter or news director in Virginia who is distinguished in the field of broadcast news. According to the VAB Web site, Bowles’ candidates “must have longevity in Virginia broadcasting and be respected by his or her peers and the local community.” Joe certainly qualifies, having started at Roanoke’s WDBJ7 immediately after his W&L graduation in 1980. Since then he has manned all three WDBJ newsrooms, spent five years covering the general assembly in Richmond and is now a senior reporter. Way to go, Joe.

W&L Professor Has Mixture of Pride and Fear for His Native Iran

As he has watched events unfold in his homeland of Iran in recent days, Hojat Ghandi of Washington and Lee University has felt two principal emotions — pride and fear.

Ghandi, a visiting assistant professor of economics at W&L, credits the people in Iran for protesting the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the same time, he is pessimistic that the protests can successfully avoid what he fears may be at least 20 years of a police state and a dictatorship.

“It is very difficult to protest against the government in Iran,” said Ghandi, who came to the United States in 2001 to study at Virginia Tech.  “I have been in some of these demonstrations when I was a student in Iran. It is a very dangerous thing to do. You are arrested. They beat you. And for a young person, a student, to be arrested for protesting in a country where almost all of the job opportunities are with the government, that is very difficult, because you won’t have any chance getting a job in the government, or with a company doing business with the government.”

Given those dangers, Ghandi said that he is proud of those individuals who are trying to resist what is happening in his country. But his pride is tempered by his belief that the chances for the protests to result in new elections are all but nonexistent.

“I am afraid that the little bit of the political freedom that we had in Iran is gone now, and that feels really bad,” Ghandi said. “That is not what I wanted to see.”

In Ghandi’s opinion, the government’s ability to deprive the protestors of the tools they need to coordinate the protests is a critical factor in keeping the protests from spreading. Without the use of such communication technologies as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or text messaging, the protestors are unable to contact one another.

“Even calling into the country is difficult now,” he said. “I have tried to phone members of my family and have had considerable difficulty reaching them.”

Ghandi said that before the protests began, several newspapers in Iran had criticized Ahmadinejad and the government, but these papers have since been taken over by the Revolutionary Guard. Because the newspapers continue to operate and now write in support of the government, he believes many Iranians are unaware that stories and columns in those papers are no longer being written by the people who were previously writing them.

“It would be as if someone else took over Paul Krugman’s column in the New York Times after Krugman had been put in jail,” Ghandi said. “Every newspaper that matters is like this. We had a few newspapers that were against the government, but now they are all gone, and that is the first time it has happened in the history of the country.”

Ghandi believes a response to potential protests was well-planned in advance of the elections, resulting in a kind of coup against anyone who would challenge the regime in Iran.  At this point, he said, those people who matter — the key human rights advocates, reformists, writers — have been arrested.

“If people let this happen, and if the world lets it happen, we will have 20 more years of a pure police state and a pure dictatorship very close to what we saw in Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq,” Ghandi said.  “That means one person is controlling the state, and everybody who is against him is in prison and is not free. That’s my fear, unless people don’t let it happen, and I don’t know how people can resist.”

Update: Meredith Attwell Baker Gets the Nod

As expected, President Obama said Thursday that he was going to forward Meredith Attwell Baker’s name as his nominee to a Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission. The probability of that nomination had been widely reported, including on our page earlier this week. In the Reuters story announcing the president’s decision, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, said that “Meredith Baker will be a strong, independent voice.” And, at the same time, Verizon issued a statement in support of the nominee.  Susanne Guyer, Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs, said: “This is yet another smart nomination. Meredith Attwell Baker has the experience and qualifications to be a very effective commissioner.”  She also received strong support from the Consumer Electronics Association which issued a statement applauding the nomination and adding “In her earlier role at NTIA, Baker handled implementation of the vital coupon program for digital television converter boxes, and she deserves credit for helping to ensure the success of the DTV transition. Baker has spent her career as an advocate for new technologies and her policy decisions have been in favor of innovation and economic growth. She is a strong proponent of broadband technology and has worked to build a national broadband strategy.” The full slate of nominees for the FCC is Chairman Julius Genachowski (D) and Commissioners Michael Copps (D), Robert McDowell (R), Mignon Clyburn (D), and Meredith Attwell Baker (R).

W&L’s Public Safety Department Shines

Washington and Lee University’s Public Safety department was recognized at the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (VACLEA) summer conference in Virginia Beach, Va.

Not only was one member of the department, Steve Tomlinson, elected president of the organization, but awards were given to Mike Young, director of public safety and Jamie Brown, public safety officer.

Tomlinson is associate director of public safety at W&L. He will serve as president of the statewide organization for 2009-2010. He was vice president last year. He joined W&L in 1983 and was promoted to associate director of public safety in 2001.

Young, director of public safety who has been with W&L since 1991, received the Robert C. Dillard Award for Outstanding Contributions to Campus Law Enforcement.

For the past few years, Young has been working on the training and certification process mandated by the Virginia legislature for all campus security officers. It will begin this summer and Young will be one of the primary instructors.

The certification of campus security officers statewide is a major step in providing better protection to all students, faculty, staff and visitors to college campuses throughout the Commonwealth. “Apparently, the board of directors of VACLEA felt that was significant. I am very proud to have received this award from my peers,” said Young.

Brown, public safety officer, received the Award for Valor for his heroic actions taken on March 12 during a fire at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house that resulted in saving a student’s life. He has been with W&L since 2008.

Dawn Watkins, vice president and dean of students, said, “Safety and security on college campuses is frequently questioned. The public safety staff at W&L, from the leadership to the officers ‘on the ground,’ practices the tried and true method of knowing our students and the campus. I appreciate that the VACLEA recognizes the importance of knowing the individual in supporting the total environment.”

VACLEA is the professional voice for all public and private campus law enforcement and security departments in Virginia.

W&L’s Community Grants Committee Announces June 2009 grants

Washington and Lee University’s Community Grants Committee met recently to evaluate the second round of proposals from local agencies and organizations for the 2008-09 fiscal year. The purpose of the community grants program is to support non-profit organizations in the Lexington/Rockbridge community.

Twenty-one organizations submitted proposals for a total of $153,780 in requests. Eleven grants totaling $20,000 were made. Those organizations are:

  • The Community Dance Connection Theatre
  • Fine Arts In Rockbridge
  • Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center
  • Lexington Boy’s Middle School Lacrosse Team
  • Mission Next Door
  • Project Horizon
  • Rockbridge Area Conservation Council
  • United Way for its Community-Based Capacity-Building Initiative
  • Valley Program for Aging Services
  • YMCA
  • The Rockbridge Regional Library’s Youth Literacy Program

W&L’s President Kenneth P. Ruscio noted, ” We are pleased to be able to continue to support the efforts of so many dedicated individuals and organizations in the Rockbridge area.”

Washington and Lee will award a total of $50,000 during the program’s 2009-2010 cycle. Proposals may be submitted at any time but will be reviewed semiannually. The submission deadline for the first round of consideration is November 16, 2009. Interested parties may access the Community Grants Committee Web site and download a copy of the proposal guidelines.

Please call 540-458-8417 with questions. Proposals should be submitted as electronic attachments (word or pdf) via email at kbrinkley@wlu.edu. If an electronic submission is not possible, materials may be faxed to 540-458-8745 or mailed to:

Washington and Lee University Community Grants Committee
Attn: James D. Farrar, Jr.
Office of the Secretary
204 W. Washington Street
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, VA 24450

Just 10 Spots Behind Oprah

Each June the Chicago Web site Newcity Lit, which is part of Newcity magazine, publishes a list titled “Lit 50: Who really books in Chicago.” The list is designed to be a pecking order of the most important writers and publishers in Chicago. So it’s not necessarily any great surprise that Oprah Winfrey is No. 1 on the list based on her book club picks and the success of her “O” magazine. Ten spots below Oprah is where you’ll find Washington and Lee alumnus Christian Wiman, Class of 1988. Christian is editor of Poetry magazine, and his entry in the Lit 50 list reads as follows: “As editor of Poetry magazine, Christian Wiman has been upholding the traditions of the 97-year-old publication, which remains an independent voice for poetry and has been known to champion young writers publishing for the first time. The June 2009 issue features pieces by D. Nurske, A.E. Stallings, Averill Curdy and more. Wiman’s 2007 collection of personal essays, “Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet,” beautifully revealed as much about the writer as his books of poems.” If you haven’t ever read any of Christian’s poems, you can start with this week’s New Yorker, where you’ll find “Five Houses Down” on pages 60 and 61. Or you can read it online by following this link. You can also read a fascinating interview with Christian from this past March on the Web site Bookslut.

Law Professor Benjamin Spencer Appointed Special Assistant United States Attorney

Original story at:

R.T. Smith Named W&L’s Writer-in-Residence

R.T. Smith, editor of Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review, has been named W&L’s Writer-in-Residence, effective July 1.

Born in Washington, D.C., Smith was raised in Georgia and North Carolina. He received his B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, his M.A. from Appalachian State University and also studied at Georgia Tech.

Smith taught at Auburn University for 19 years, serving as Alumni Writer-in-Residence for the last 12 years there. He has been at W&L editing Shenandoah since 1995.

In addition to editing Shenandoah at W&L, Smith also teaches creative writing and literature courses.

Smith is the author of over 12 poetry collections including “Outlaw Style: Poems,” “The Hollow Log Lounge,” “Brightwood” and “Messenger.” He has written two collections of stories, “Faith” and “Uke Rivers Delivers,” and a third, “The Calaboose Epistles,” is forthcoming in October. His current project is a book-length poem about Flannery O’Connor; Smith will be teaching a course on O’Connor’s fiction this fall.

Smith has received one fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, two Virginia Arts Commission fellowships, three Alabama Arts Council fellowships and the Alabama Governor’s Award for Achievement by an Artist. He also received three fellowships for an individual artist from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Smith’s writings have won the Pushcart Prize three times, have been published five times in New Stories from the South, and have also been published in Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, Atlantic Monthly, Southern Review, among others.

He has been the winner of the Library of Virginia Poetry Book Award twice for “Messenger” and “Outlaw Style: Stories.”

He and his wife, poet Sarah Kennedy, live in Rockbridge County.

W&L Alumni Get New Assignments in Congress

At least two Washington and Lee alumni have recently been given new assignments in Washington. After spending the past two years as deputy press secretary for Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, Washington and Lee alumna Justine Sessions, class of 2005, has been elevated to the position of press secretary for the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which Dodd chairs. Even before that announcement was made on June 17, Justine was being quoted on a variety of banking-related issues. Meantime, over at the Committee on Education and Labor, Lillian Pace, a 2002 graduate, has been appointed policy advisor for the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education by U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, the committee chairman. Lillian had been serving as legislative director for U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), a former member of the House Education and Labor Committee. She’d also served in communications and legislative roles for three other congressmen.