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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:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=592.


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.


Catch Up with Andrew Keller in Creativity

Andrew Keller, class of 1992, is co-executive creative director for Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which is widely considered one of the hottest ad agencies in the country these days. Earlier this month Creativity magazine did a Q&A with Andrew that is a great read. You can read the online version of the interview here. Among the many interesting aspects of the interview is Andrew’s contention that a recession is not the time to pull back in terms of advertising and marketing but the time to go for it. He compares the current economic climate to the immediate post-9/11 period, when Crispin Porter + Bogusky won several major awards for launching the MINI in the U.S.–the campaign that Andrew credits with “making him” in the business. You can see examples of Andrew’s work for MINI and for such other products as Volkswagen, Burger King and Hulu at BestAdsOnTV.com.


W&L Alumna May Be New FCC Commissioner

Meredith Attwell Baker, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1990, is considered the odds-on choice to be named to the vacant Republican seat on the Federal Communications Commission. The Wall Street Journal reported that Meredith was the choice almost a month ago, and the actual appointment could come at any point, apparently. Meredith most recently served as acting assistant secretary for communications and information and acting administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under President Bush. In that role, she was on the front lines of the transition to digital television and the distribution of coupons that helped individuals buy converter boxes for their old TV sets. A major feature story in TVNewsday, an industry publication, traces Meredith’s career from W&L, where she majored in journalism and Spanish, to now. The article labels her a “light-handed regulator.” Stay tuned.


Check Out the Shepherd Bloggers

The Shepherd Alliance, a program developed by Washington and Lee as part of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, involves students, faculty, and staff from four Berea, Morehouse and Spelman collegs with W&L undergrad and law students for the eight-week, full-time summer internships with non-profit agencies across the eastern United States. This summer the participants, including 39 from W&L, are writing about their varied experiences on the Shepherd Alliance Internship Blog. You can read Emily Leary’s observations from her internship with Covenant House or Danielle Ausems’ reports from her internship at Frontier Nursing Services in Wendover, Ky. or Graham Sheridan’s dispatches from Camp Interactive in New York City. It’s a really varied group of placements, and the students will be sharing their experiences throughout the summer.


Sally Wiant to Retire as Law Library Director

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=586.


Law Professor Participates in SEC’s 75th Anniversary Program

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=587.


W&L Aims for Healthy Employees

A dollar spent could be three dollars saved at Washington and Lee University.

That’s because W&L’s increased emphasis on boosting the health of its employees will ultimately save on health care costs, said Mary Katherine Snead. She was appointed to the new position of assistant director for work/life initiatives in October 2008, and promoting the wellness of employees and students is a major part of her work.

“The research shows that healthy employees experience less sick time, take fewer disability days and suffer less risk of premature death,” Snead said. There is also a reduction in workers compensation, and what she calls “presenteeism,” where employees are at work but not getting anything accomplished because of stress in their lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75 percent of an employer’s health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices. And each dollar invested in wellness programs saves three dollars in health care costs, according to the Wellness Council of America.

Snead pointed out that W&L has several programs aimed at helping employees be healthier.

One of the most popular perks of working at W&L is the free fitness center.

Patti Colliton, a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach, offers a free personal training assessment for all employees. She also has a background in sports medicine so can work with employees with physical limitations.

The center offers different “Learn by Doing” mini-clinics each month. Some feature different speakers on wellness issues; others are more interactive. The most popular so far was the April Fitness Challenge in which people earned points to win prizes by working out. “We had 75 people take part,” said Colliton, “with a good mix between students and employees. We’re definitely seeing more faculty and staff in the fitness center and having these different offerings helps.”

W&L also offers group fitness classes. Employees pay $100 for a year, or $2 per week, and can go to as many classes as they want. “It’s a great value for both the employees and W&L,” said Snead. Included are different forms of yoga, kickboxing, Pilates, a step class and group cycling.

Walking is big on this campus.

A walking group encourages people who walk anyway to walk together. “Sometimes having buddies makes you more accountable so you show up more regularly,” said Snead.

Another popular program is Walking Works. W&L purchased 90 pedometers which it loans to employees. Participants track their steps or miles on a Web site, with the aim of reaching 10,000 steps a day.

A group of employees and faculty have also recently published a walking map of the campus that shows the distances between points on campus and on the back trails. Snead calls the map “very handy.”
For those who want to de-stress, there is a meditation group in the library where employees can experience a moment of serenity.

There are also two Weight Watchers meetings.

“At the first Weight Watchers session we had 51 participants and over 17 weeks they lost 900 pounds,” Snead said. “Quite frankly that’s amazing.”

Because Weight Watchers requires payment up front, W&L decided to make it easier for employees to afford. The college pays half the $100 cost and employees can arrange to have their half deducted from their payroll if they wish. “It makes it more accessible,” said Snead.

Employees who produce documentation from their doctor that they need to lose weight for medical reasons, can use pre-tax dollars from their flexible spending account.

W&L also pays half the cost of classes for smoking cessation through hypnosis, and plans to start a weight loss hypnosis group.

On top of all this, W&L plans to host a Health & Wellness Fair scheduled for this fall.

“We’ll bring together local health care resources,” said Snead. “We’ll also give people personal health risk assessments. They’ll fill out a questionnaire to give their weight and height and say whether they smoke, wear their seat belt, or talk on their cell phone while driving, etc. We’ll feed the answers to our healthcare provider and they will give us aggregate information. We’ll find out, for example, whether we have a critical mass of employees with risk factors for heart disease. In that case we will distribute targeted information about heart disease.”

Snead is quick to point out that she is responsible for only one or two of the wellness programs and many were already in place before she arrived.

“Different programs on campus grew out of different efforts across campus. We’ve been able to come together and begin working in tandem. As a result of our collaboration, the programs have gained visibility. We’re trying to market what we’re doing as a whole and be more collaborative.”

Snead cites the following people on campus as critical to the success of W&L’s wellness program:

James Dick, director of campus recreation, and Ray Ellington, assistant director of campus activities, organize the group fitness classes.

Dick and Ellington also published the campus walking map in conjunction with Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology, and Chris Wise, environmental management coordinator.

Barbara Rowe, associate university registrar organizes the walking group, as well as the meditation class.

Patti Colliton runs the Walking Works program.


Another Cy Twombly Exhibit

Last month we cited the new Cy Twombly (Class of 1953) exhibit opening at the Art Institute of Chicago. But if you’re summer travels don’t include the Windy City, you can also see a major retrospective of Cy’s work in Vienna this summer. “Sensations of the Moment” is at the Museum Moderner Kunst and comprises around 200 drawings, paintings, sculptures, collages and photos. artdaily.org wrote a piece about the exhibit earlier this month, noting that the artist has worked with photography since the early 1950s but the Vienna exhibition is the first time that his photographic work will be shown with his other works. The article goes on to say that the photographs “offer insight into the environment surrounding his creative process — evoking the images of Constantin Brancusi’s studio — whether in his adopted country of Italy, in Rome, in Bassano di Teverina, or the coastal village Gaeta, or, more recently, in the city of his birth Lexington, Virginia.” So you may see a little of Rockbridge County in Vienna. If you’re fluent in German, you’ll enjoy a YouTube video that promotes the Vienna exhibit on the MUMOK Web site, which features a special section on the exhibit. Here is a link to the video.


Schwartz Designs Payout System for World Series of Poker

For Adam Schwartz, the problem was simply irresistible.

An associate professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University, Schwartz has played poker on occasion but does not consider himself a great poker player and certainly doesn’t endorse gambling, especially for the students he teaches.

But when a former student asked Schwartz to design a new payout system for the World Series of Poker, the challenge of applying his expertise to such a real world problem was too much.

It started in 2005, when Jack Effel, tournament director of the World Series of Poker and one of Schwartz’s students at the University of Mississippi called. Effel now manages more than 1,000 employees, and his tournament schedule from May through July grosses more than $200 million and has many different events. The goal for the players in any event is not only to win one of the coveted bracelets, but also a share of the prize money. The problem was designing an equitable payout structure for a single event which could have over 6,000 players.

Schwartz said that many of his former students call him when they are stuck with financial computing problems because they remember his class. “I’ve done implied binomial option models, executive option valuation models, real estate options, corporate performance measures, but this particular problem was from left field. In finance we would say it’s an application of a constrained capital budgeting problem,” Schwartz said, “I liked the problem. The World Series has access to many great mathematicians, and it was a pleasure to work with them. In fact, a lot of people become interested in math by learning about games of chance. I found myself talking payouts with many poker celebrities including Barry Greenstein and Andy Bloch, a member of the original MIT blackjack team.”

Schwartz designed an optimization using Newton’s method, a solution well known in numerical mathematics. “In 2005, the first year that I consulted, we did the payouts on the fly. The tournament does not know how many people will play until the third day. So, I plugged in the numbers, got a quick solution and e-mailed it to them. The people at the tournament looked at the payout structure, moved some dollars around among the winners, and then announced on the floor of the Rio (Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas) what everybody would be getting paid about 20 minutes after the number of players was determined,” said Schwartz.

The tournament amended Schwartz’s framework slightly in 2006 and 2007. Then, in 2009, they decided to go back to Schwartz and ask for further changes. The top winners were winning too much prize money and organizers wanted a “stimulus special.” In the new payouts, lower prizes will be slightly higher, with a smoother transition between the players.
So Schwartz adapted his model incorporating suggestions from some of the world’s top players. In an article on cardplayer.com recently, Effel said that although he may tweak the new model in the future, he believes he now has a sound payout system thanks to Schwartz’s model.

“If 6,000 people play, that’s almost $60 million in prize money,” said Schwarz. “How do you divide that among the winners? They try to pay about 10 percent of the players, which would be 600 people. In the old days, the top person would get 50 percent, second place 30 percent and third place 20 percent, or something like that. Now the winner gets about 13 percent, second place around seven percent, and you don’t have to go too far before it becomes a pretty neat problem trying to get all the numbers to add up to 100 percent. We want the percentages to transition smoothly from the top players down to the bottom players. The approach is about the same as finance guys use every morning to make a smooth yield curve from a limited number of traded bonds.”

Schwartz said that making the payout appealing and logical to the players is important because the poker tournament “is a business like any other for the people who run it. What they are selling is the chance to play against the world’s best players and they want the structure to be attractive. I can make countless different solutions which divide the pot among 600 people, but it needs to look right to the players and meet their expectations.”

Schwartz used a mathematical formula to smooth out what he calls the second derivative, or the rate of change between the payouts. He said it took him an hour or two to write the program and then he consulted with Effel and Greenstein via e-mail to get it just right.

“My area is financial modeling and derivative pricing,” said Schwartz. “This was a real world application of a constrained budgeting problem with over 20 constraints. I think it is interesting that the payouts in poker tournaments are not that different from compensation schemes in corporate America. The drop from the amount of money the CEO makes to the amount the second person makes, on down to the least compensated employee, is about the same as the drops we see in poker tournaments.”

Schwartz said he was aware of the research possibilities when he took the problem on. “I knew there would be the possibility for me to get some really good data for a research paper. I have been thinking about how compensation works in corporate America. I am working on a survey to pin down the preference of the players. The World Series of Poker has more than 50,000 people register for the different events each year. That is some serious untapped survey data. What do poker player preferences tell us about how rewards in the private sector might best be structured? Maybe paying the field in the World Series (over $12 million to one player in 2006) will help teach us something about the thorny issue of incentives needed in the private sectors.”

As he has become involved in the World Series project, Schwartz has been keenly aware of the fact that college students are more and more involved with sports betting and online poker. His experience has led him to offer his own advice on gambling.

“I can’t tell students, or others, not to play, and hope to have them take my advice to heart,” he said. “So if they do play, I want to be sure that they assume their online opponents know all the odds and will have more information than they do many times.”

Schwartz said that there is a formula for how much to bet, which may keep people from ruin. The Kelly Criterion works for stock investors the same as it works for sports bettors, he said.

“There is a good book by William Poundstone called Fortunes Formula that does a nice job of explaining the Kelly system,” said Schwartz. “In summary, that system holds that if you don’t have an edge (as is common with the lottery, sports bets, and online poker), you should bet nothing or consider any bet a form of costly entertainment (as opposed to an investment). If you do perceive an edge (as sometimes with undervalued stocks), be careful to consider not only the edge, but also the risk. The optimal wager is usually a small bet as opposed to a large one.”


The Little Red Pedometer That Could

It’s a little red box that attaches to your waistband and looks like a beeper. But it’s a pedometer and it’s proving popular on Washington and Lee University’s campus this summer.

People were lined up out the door on Monday, June 8, to sign up for them, according to Patti Colliton, fitness/wellness program coordinator at W&L’s fitness center. “We ran out of them,” she said. “Human resources ordered 50 and I thought that would be more than enough. But they just went, so now I have a new batch on order.”

The reason behind this enthusiasm is a new program called Walking Works, a challenge to reach 10,000 steps a day-a standard measure of a reasonable activity level that translates into five miles. Participants use the pedometers to track how many steps they take. After one week, they get an idea of their daily average and Colliton then helps them set their goal for the six-week program. “We want people to be more aware of how active they are on a daily basis,” said Colliton.

“Usually people try to increase the number of steps they take by about 25 percent,” said Mary Katherine Snead, assistant director for work/life initiatives, who ordered the pedometers. “We loan the pedometers to participants. We bought a better pedometer at about $10 each. You can buy pedometers for just a couple of dollars but we read some research that says the less expensive ones can be inaccurate. That makes people frustrated and less likely to use them.”

Colliton pointed out that there’s also some interdepartmental challenging going on. “That’s fun,” she said. “You need something to motivate people to do more if they haven’t been doing much in the first place.”

“It’s a little friendly competition,” said Mary Woodson, publications director. “We compare how many steps we do.”

So how many steps do people take in a day?

Woodson says she does about 7,000, “but I didn’t have it on during step aerobics.”

Denise Watts, graphic designer, said she doesn’t know her average yet but thinks she’s in good shape. “I walk my dog in the morning and I do almost 10,000 steps a day. It’s amazing how many steps you take in one day.”

The walkers can track their progress online at www.walkingworks.com, where they can watch their weekly and monthly progress, track their miles and see how their group is doing.

While any increase in walking will help promote good health, says the Walking Works Web site, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 30 minutes a day, on five or more days a week, or 10,000 steps daily, to produce the best long-term health benefits for most individuals.

Sportline makes the pedometers, and according to their Web site http://www.sportline.com/benefits.php, walking is the most popular participation sport in the world, needing no special skills, equipment or clothing.

It seems walking has many benefits besides making you feel better and increasing your energy. It burns almost as many calories as jogging, eases back pain, slims the waistline, lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of heart attack and slows down bone loss due to osteoporosis.

“I think it’s exciting that we got this many employees, because summer is a hard time to get people to do something like this,” said Colliton.

The program ends July 24, but people can sign up for their little red pedometer at any point.


W&L Students Participate in Shepherd Alliance Internships

Thirty-nine Washington and Lee University undergraduate students are participating in internships this summer as part of the Shepherd Alliance.

The W&L students are joined by students from Berea, Middlebury, Morehouse, and Spelman colleges in serving in the eight-week, full-time summer internships with non-profit agencies across the eastern United States.

Through the internships, the students learn first-hand about the multiple dimensions of poverty. The agencies in which they are placed are located in both urban and rural sites and focus on education, healthcare, legal services, and community-building efforts.

The W&L interns are placed in such varied agencies as Legal Aid of West Virginia in Charleston and Partners for the Common Good in Washington, D.C.

Participants all took part in an opening orientation session are will reconvene in August for a closing conference that provides the opportunity to share experiences and to discuss how the work has impacted their views on issues of domestic and international poverty.

Interns have been recounting their experiences on a The Alliance Internship Blog.

The Washington and Lee interns are:

Name Hometown Agency Location
Summer Lollie Mesquite, TX Boys, Girls, Adults Community Development Center Marvell, AR
Joan Oguntimien Springdale, MD Division of Personalized Nutrition and Medicine (DPNM) at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) Marvell, AR
Ellie Simmons Jacksonville, FL Delta Bridge Project Helena, AR
Whitney Clark Cos Cob, CT Legal Aid of Arkansas Helena, AR
Vanessa Ndege Alexandria, VA Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County Helena, AR
Kate Donnelly Houston, TX Coopers University Hospital Camden, NJ
Charles Gentles Winnetka, IL Coopers Ferry Development Association, Inc. (CFDA) Camden, NJ
Rob George Middletown, NJ Greater Camden Partnership Camden, NJ
Elizabeth Gorman Hudson, OH Legal Aid of West Virginia Charleston, WV
Emily Leary Loveland, OH Covenant House Charleston, WV
Eric Hamscher Erie, PA Jane Addams Resource Corporation Chicago, IL
Emily Darling Mission Hills, KS Tenacity Dorchester, MA
Van Nguyen Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam VietAID Dorchester, MA
Grace Barnett Baton Rouge, LA Texas Children’s Cancer Center Houston
Virginia Dickinson Memphis ,TN East River Development Alliance New York
Caroline Helms Charlotte, NC Camp Interactive New York
Chris Ivey Fairbanks, AK Bellevue Hospital Addiction Rehab. Program New York
Graham Sheridan Greensboro, NC Camp Interactive New York
Greg Kurkis Roswell, GA Fan Free Clinic Richmond, VA
Michael Rao Ocala, FL Fan Free Clinic Richmond, VA
Stephanie Schaefer Alexandria, VA Refugee and Immigration Services Richmond, VA
Cara Sullivan Kensington, MD Central Virginia Legal Aid Richmond, VA
Crighton Allen Thomasville, GA D.C. Public Defender Washington DC
Katie Harris Richmond, VA Partners for the Common Good Washington DC
Ginny Hodges Martinsville, VA Bread for the City (Medical) Washington DC
Kara Karcher Highlands, NC DC Central Kitchen Washington DC
Summer Sterling Silver Spring, MD Housing Works (DC) Washington DC
Danielle Ausems Alexandria, VA Frontier Nursing Services Wendover, KY
Brooks Vardell Larchmont, NY SuperKids Camp Baltimore, MD
Jessica Guzik Annandale, VA Community Law Center Baltimore, MD
Micah Jost Harrisonburg, VA Legal Aid Harrisonburg, VA
Jonathan Lockwood Claxton, GA Department of Public Advocacy London, KY
Alexandrea Anderson-Tuttle Lexington, Va Department of Public Advocacy London, KY
Josh Shaw Centerville, OH Community Legal Services Philadelphia
Kamyle Griffen LynneHaven D.C. Public Defender Washington DC
Shamira Ibrahim New York City, NY Wild Flower and Vieng Ping Children’s Home Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kristen-Kaye Goulbourne Jamaica Hope Health Clinic & French Assemblies of God Health Clinic Swaziland & Mali
Rebecca Beeson Lynchburg, VA Peru 109 Peru
Caitlin Edgar De Pere, WI Bethesda Centre South Africa

Debating Health Care Reform

Tim Jost, Washington and Lee’s Robert L. Willett Family Professor of Law and an expert on health care law, is weighing in on the debate over health care reform that is ramping up these days. Tim has written widely on the subject. He is a co-author of a casebook, Health Law, and the author of Health Care Coverage Determinations: An International Comparative Study; Disentitlement? The Threats Facing our Public Health Care Programs and a Rights-Based Response; and Readings in Comparative Health Law and Bioethics. Now he is adding his expertise to The Arena, a feature of Politico’s Web site. You can read his posts here. Earlier this week Tim responded to the question: “What is the most significant obstacle President Obama faces in achieving his proposed overhaul of the U.S. health care system?” Here’s his response to that question.


Guggenheim for Filmmaker Henry Hills '70

Henry Hills of the Class of 1970 has been making films since the mid-1970s when he was in San Francisco, studying filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute. He’s made 22 experimental films, several of which are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Archives du Film Experimental d’Avignon, and several other art institutes and libraries. Henry has just received a 2009 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and a DVD anthology of his films, “Selected Films (1977-2008),” is being released this month by Tzadik. The release event will be on Sunday, June 28, at the Anthology Film Archives in New York City’s East Village. You can also view many of Henry’s films, including MONEY (1984), at the University of Pennsylvania’s PennSound. While you’re on the PennSound page, you can also hear a conversation with Henry on a program called “Close Listening” from this past January.


W&L’s Tabb Named CoSIDA Academic All-American

Original story at:
http://www.wlu.edu/x33192.xml.


W&L's Washington Symposium on C-SPAN

Back in May, Washington and Lee was host to the Washington Term Symposium at the National Press Club where Bill Connelly of th politics department led a panel in a discussion of the balance of powers between the Obama Administration and Congress. The symposium was titled “President vs. Congress: An Imbalance of Powers?” A telecast of the event has been playing on C-SPAN the last few weeks, but you may not be able to catch it unless you’re checking the C-SPAN schedule on a pretty regularly or happen to see the Washington and Lee banner while channel surfing. But there is a way to watch on C-SPAN’s Web site now. Here’s the link to the video. The panel comprised Terry Eastland, publisher of The Weekly Standard; Shailagh Murray, congressional correspondent for The Washington Post; Chip Reid, chief White House correspondent for CBS News; and Don Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. The C-SPAN Web site described the findings this way: “The panelists agreed that the George W. Bush Administration significantly expanded the authority of the Executive Branch, while disagreeing about the implications of this expansion on the perception of Congress on the presidency.” Have a look.


W&L Awarded CASE-WealthEngine Awards for Educational Fundraising

Washington and Lee has been recognized with a 2009 CASE-WealthEngine Award for Educational Fundraising in the category of Overall Performance. The award is the University’s second consecutive Overall Performance award, and its third such award in the past five years.

This most recent award also earned Washington and Lee a 2009 CASE-WealthEngine Award for Sustained Excellence in Fundraising, reserved for those few exemplary fundraising programs that have garnered a CASE-WealthEngine Award for Educational Fundraising in either Overall Performance or Overall Improvement in three of the last five years.

The CASE-WealthEngine Award for Educational Fundraising in Overall Performance honors exemplary advancement programs and activities, as well as the highest levels of professionalism and best practice in fundraising efforts. In selecting Overall Fundraising Performance winners, judges use factors to recognize institutions that show solid program growth; breadth in the base of support; and other indications of a mature, well-maintained program.

Of the more than 900 higher education institutions eligible for this award, only 39 four-year colleges or universities were recognized in 2009.

“The CASE award reflects the remarkable generosity of our alumni, parents, and friends and their commitment to Washington and Lee,” said Vice President of University Advancement Dennis Cross. “They are dedicated to the mission and educational goals of W&L and are willing to give personal resources in order for today’s students to receive an outstanding education we know will influence and be an integral part of their adult lives.

“We receive the 2009 CASE-WealthEngine Award for Educational Fundraising on behalf of our alumni, parents, and friends whose loyalty, involvements, interest, and support make the recognition possible.”


Black Lung Victories

The Washington and Lee School of Law’s Black Lung Clinic has scored another pair of victories in the courts. W&L law students argued two cases involving Black Lung benefits disputes at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In both instances, the arguments were successful. Here’s the complete story, and you can find background on the clinic here. The wins are not entirely surprising since the W&L law students prevail in these cases at a success rate about five times the national average. Established at the law school in 1996, the clinic has represented about 200 clients since then.


Lesley Wheeler Poem on Poetry Daily

Lesley Wheeler, professor of English and chair of the department, is the featured poet on Poetry Daily today (Thursday, June 11). Her poem, “The Unbeliever Takes a Hike,” is the poem of the day on the site. It is an account of a walk on Woods Creek Trail and was published originally in the Winter 2008 edition of The National Poetry Review. Lesley’s latest book, Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present, was published in 2008 by Cornell University Press.


Washington and Lee Participates in Yellow Ribbon Program for Veterans

Washington and Lee University is among the colleges and universities participating in the new Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008.

The Yellow Ribbon program allows degree-granting institutions to form a voluntary agreement with the Veterans Administration (VA) to fund tuition expenses that exceed the highest public, in-state, undergraduate tuition rate. The institution can contribute up to 50 percent of those expenses, and the VA will match the same amount as the institution.

“Washington and Lee is proud to join the Yellow Ribbon program. It is our honor and duty to help those who have served our country,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio.

W&L is offering five scholarships for undergraduates and law students for the 2009-2010 school year. These scholarships, when combined with other VA benefits, provide up to full tuition to qualifying applicants.

The VA defines eligibility as individuals who served an aggregate period of active duty after Sept. 10, 2001, of at least 36 months, were honorably discharged from active duty after serving at least 30 continuous days since that date or dependents eligible for Transfer of Entitlement under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The Yellow Ribbon program was included in the new GI Bill at the insistence of former Sen. John W. Warner, a Washington and Lee alumnus who was honored by his alma mater earlier this year with The Washington Award. Warner attended W&L after having served in the U.S. Navy and wanted to add the Yellow Ribbon provision so that qualified veterans could afford to attend the best schools just as veterans did following World War II.


Three W&L Grads to Study at ‘Oxbridge’

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and Cambridge is the second-oldest. The two institutions are collectively known as Oxbridge and they are at the forefront of world learning, teaching and research.

Three Washington and Lee University students have been accepted to study at Oxbridge for the academic year 2009-2010. All three received their bachelor’s degrees from the University on June 4.

“I am not aware of any previous year when this many W&L graduates went off to these prestigious British universities,” said Associate Provost Bob Strong.

Wesley O’Dell majored in a politics, history and classics and will be pursuing a one-year M. Phil. in modern European history at Clare College, Cambridge, the second-oldest college at the university. O’Dell said he is looking forward to exploring the beautiful gardens for which Clare is famous.

He is also anxious to study under some of the leading scholars in his field. “My program is both taught and research-based, so I hope to be able to learn a great deal generally in my subject area” he said.

O’Dell is undecided on his long term career but is considering either further graduate education toward a Ph.D. in history, or possibly law school.

O’Dell said he owes a great deal to W&L, and that studying three majors gave him the opportunity to get to know some great mentors in the faculty.

In particular, he mentioned Theodore DeLaney, associate professor of history; Mark Rush, the Robert G. Brown Professor of Law and Politics; Holt Merchant, professor of history; Richard Bidlack, associate professor of history; Miriam Carlisle, associate professor of classics; and Kevin Crotty, professor of classics.

“They’ve all been great with letters of recommendation and advice for years now,” said O’Dell. “Without a doubt the best reason to come to W&L is getting to work closely with people like them.”

Erik Ball majored in classics and will be reading towards a Classics M. St. in Greek and Latin languages and literature at Magdalen College, Oxford.

“My long term goal is to enroll in an American Ph.D program in classics and be a professor,” Ball said. “I would like to specialize in Greek culture and literature during the time of the Roman Empire. I am really looking forward to studying at Oxford, since it has the largest classics faculty in the world.”

Ball said he would never have been a classics major and would never have had the chance to go to Oxford without the without the guidance of his classics professors. “I’m really thankful that I came to a school like W&L where I had the chance to interact personally with my professors,” he said. “I am particularly grateful to Kevin Crotty and Scott Johnson in the classics department.”

Richard Cleary majored in politics and French with a concentration in the University Scholars program.

Cleary, who was president of the student body executive committee as a senior, will study at Trinity College, Cambridge, working towards an M. Phil in International Relations, and said he is looking forward to the academic challenge. He would like to play a role in Euro-American relations in his future career. “I am especially interested in international cooperation on energy issues,” he said.

His interest in energy issues was clear in his honors thesis on the role of civilian nuclear energy in French diplomacy. Information for the thesis came partly from a trip in April 2009 to visit French nuclear facilities, when he met with government and business leaders. The trip was organized by Frank Settle, Visiting Professor of Chemistry.

Cleary said he owes a debt of a gratitude to many professors, including, but not limited to Settle; William Connelly, the John K. Boardman Professor of Politics; Domnica Radulescu, professor of Romance languages; and Robert Strong, associate provost.

Even after graduation, Cleary will continue his work with Settle for a short while. They have been invited to a luncheon with the French ambassador in Washington in July to discuss their visit to France.

Three W&L students will spend their junior years studying at Oxford.

Granvil George, a double major in philosophy and neuroscience and a University Scholar from Charleston, W.Va., has been chosen as the University College, Oxford, exchange student for 2009-2010.

The exchange program between Washington and Lee University and University College, Oxford, was established in 1986. Students spend a full year at Oxford, doing a course of studies in a subject or subjects for which there are tutors in the college. They live in college rooms, and eat in the college dining hall with the other students. They enjoy the same borrowing privileges, etc., as any other Oxford undergraduate, and can participate in the college sporting teams and extracurricular activities.

University College, Oxford, which is one of the thirty-eight colleges and six permanent private halls that make up the University of Oxford, was founded in 1249. It is one of the oldest colleges of Oxford, as well as one of the largest. Past students include Percy Bysshe Shelley, Edmund Cartwright, Clement Atlee, V. S. Naipaul, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Clinton. Its alumni also include the philosophers F. H. Bradley, Peter Strawson, and Peter Singer.

In addition, Lucy Simko, a double major in classics and computer science from New York City, will be studying for the year at Lady Margaret Hall, while Carson Haddow will be at St. Peter’s College, studying Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Haddow is majoring in English and Medieval and Renaissance Studies at W&L.


Memphis Piano Man

John Boatner(Karen Pulfer Focht/The Commercial Appeal photo)

If you’ve ever been to The Peabody, a historic hotel in downtown Memphis featuring the famous march of the Peabody Ducks every day, you might have heard Washington and Lee alumnus John Boatner, Class of 1961, performing on the grand piano. Millburn Noell Jr. (Class of 1951) sent along an article about John that appeared in Tuesday’s Commercial Appeal, noting that John had also performed for the Mid-South Chapter’s 250th anniversary celebration. The article has this great lead: “John Boatner switches from Rachmaninoff to Radiohead on The Peabody’s grand piano as easily as someone changes a radio channel.” And it gets better along the way. The Commercial Appeal piece is in advance of a concert this coming Sunday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in the Menphis suburb of Cordova where two of John’s own compositions will be featured: “Mass for Unison Voices” and “Easter Cantata for an Unbeliever,” which were composed in 1969. In addition to his gig at The Peabody, John is also the pianist and organist for St. Francis of Assisi, and he tells the Commercial Appeal reporter that his composition are for everyone: “It’s Easter for anybody. Somali sea pirates, atheists — anyone will appreciate this.” If you can’t make it to Memphis, though, you can listen to some of John’s play on his Web site. Here’s a sample, A Brook in Spring:


W&L Law Professor's Congressional Testimony

Washington and Lee law professor Erik Luna made his second appearance before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security last Thursday. His testimony was on the issue of federal funding for indigent defense. You can read his testimony by downloading a pdf file here. While Luna supports efforts to require states to meet their Sixth Amendment responsibilities, he objects to the creation of a new federal agency, the National Center for Defense Services, and worries that such an entity would become a policy making body with powers outside the established Constitutional framework. There is a video archive of the testimony at the Committee on the Judiciary site. Eric’s first appearance in front of the committee was in March, and he talked about it with Peter Jetton of the law school at that time. You can read about the testimony and hear Lunda describe it on the law school’s Web site.


Crossing Lines Wins Gracie Award

Crossing Lines, the documentary by Washington and Lee journalism professor Indira Somari that was cited here last week, has been honored by the American Women in Radio and Television with a Gracie Award. The award was presented last week during a luncheon in New York. The award was for “Outstanding Documentary, Short Format.” This is the latest in a series of awards for the documentary that chronicles Indira’s trip to visit her father’s extended family for the first time after his death. Other awards include a best documentary award from the California Arts Association Digital Short Film Festival and a nomination for Best America Documentar at the Heart of England International Film Festival. The Gracie Awards, established in 1975, honor programming and individuals of the highest caliber in all facets of radio, television, cable and web-based media, including news, drama, comedy, commercials, public service, documentary and sports.


Commencement Remarks by W&L Student Body President Richard Cleary

Thank you, President Ruscio, for your introduction and for inviting me to speak today before the assembled members of the Class of 2009, Board of Trustees, Faculty and Staff, and guests.

My name is Richard Cleary, and I have had the honor of serving as the President of the Executive Committee of the Student Body this past year. I would like to welcome all of my classmates, their families and friends convened for this signal and exciting moment.

As you know, at Washington and Lee it is customary for a student, rather than a holder of public office or some other nationally recognized figure, to address his classmates and those gathered to honor the graduates. These speakers of national stature are chosen for the insight, accrued from a successful life, that they might bring to a graduating class, as well as for the prestige that their visit might direct to a particular university.

Here at Washington and Lee, we enjoy a different tradition, leaving me with the daunting task of doing justice to the legion accomplishments of the Class of 2009 during our years in Lexington. The attainments of our class range from the individual to the collective, with recognition coming from the local level to national and international institutions. Our class has thrown itself into extracurricular undertakings with vigor, excelling on the athletic fields, in artistic productions and in leadership positions in a host of clubs. We owe many of the hallmarks of our college experience — Mock Convention, Fancy Dress, Buffalo Creek, the oversight of the Honor System- to the hard work and dedication of our fellow students. As we prepare to go forth from Lexington, the Class of 2009 is acutely aware that many of the most meaningful moments are ones that are intangible. They include climbing House Mountain with friends, shooting the breeze around a campfire on Windfall Hill, floating down the Maury River and lounging on the green sloping hill in front of Lee Chapel. Orientation week freshman year, our first spring term and our last Parents’ Weekend are memories that will stay with us forever.
 
Our experience in the classroom has prepared us for the world we enter, and underlying our academic success is the dedication of Faculty and staff, who support, encourage and draw out the best in us. Profound concern for students’ success, mastery of, and zeal for, the subject matter characterize faculty at Washington and Lee. Perhaps the most meaningful aspect of our academic experience will be the personal relationships formed with faculty members. Each of us can remember the time we visited a professor’s office with a specific question, only to leave an hour later after talking about everything from points of interest in the subject matter to summer plans and career aspirations. Dinners at professors’ homes and meetings after class to discuss pending papers are commonplace. The empathy of professors in assisting students in the preparation of work and in granting extensions when appropriate is especially appreciated. In the current economic downturn, professors have been willing to help us positioning ourselves for careers.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Honor System, the central tenet of our time at Washington and Lee, something that has defined and distinguished our college experience. Just as we can recall time spent with professors, so too can we provide examples where we left laptops overnight in the library, backpacks outside of the D-Hall, completed take-home tests, took exams days after our roommates without discussing them, or gave the tough answer to professors or DC’s when asked. The twin aspects of the community of trust — on one side the benefits we enjoy, and, on the other, the rigorous standard to which we hold ourselves — are present in these anecdotes. The transition for many of us from high school to college was marked by awe at the utopian ethos of this place, which appeals to our better angels. This is a place where character is expected, and in the words of James Q. Wilson, where “character counts.”

The Honor System, anomalous in higher education, is essential to the unusual educational model put forward by Washington and Lee. This paradigm accounts for the development of the whole person- producing an alumnus disposed not only to thinking clearly and critically, but also to making ethical decisions. The Honor System, it must be added, is not simply one of self-preservation- present in its core is a regard for others and the impact of one’s choices on those around him or her. The attendant traditions of respect and civility testify to the other-regarding aspect of the Honor System. Returning to Washington and Lee’s educational model, it is one that invokes a seminal concept of the western philosophical tradition, arête loosely translated as virtue. For Aristotle, there were two species of virtue, an intellectual one and a moral one, both cultivated by habit. The members of the philosophy department will forgive me for my rude and incomplete treatment of the subject, but I do think that this concept is useful because of its pertinence to our experience at Washington and Lee, where education is not limited to the simple assimilation of facts and figures, or even the sophisticated evaluation and analysis of the great liberal arts subjects. Education extends to the development of a sense of self, inside and outside of the classroom. And, in true Aristotelian fashion, it is habit-forming. After four years, in addition to the academic requirements enumerated by the registrar, a more profound obligation to the Honor System has been met.

The example of alumni illustrates the lifelong influence of the ethical virtue we adopt during our years in Lexington. In a recent visit to campus, former Senator John Warner, a W & L alumnus, recalled a Senate ethics hearing, the consequence of which, in the case of a finding of misconduct, would be dismissal from this sacred body. The Senator described this moment:
“I remember I was sitting next to one colleague, and I could see the angst in his face and I could feel the sorrow in the faces of all of them when they have to do these duties. And this man uttered ‘there, but for the grace of God, go I’. And I said to myself, I wouldn’t have said that: there but for the grace of God, I will never go, because I am a graduate of Washington and Lee and the Honor System. That system has given me enormous strength throughout my public life… it is an intangible, which is so vital as these young people leave this university and go out into this tumultuous world, a world that is far more complicated and challenging and dangerous than the world that I entered in 1949, when I left this great university.”

We go forth into a world that is, to say the least, uncertain, with crisis at home and abroad. Our completion of the requirements of this institution indicates not only an intellectual capacity to meet these challenges: it also signals that we are men and women of character, that we emerge from Lexington equipped to deal with what President Ruscio has called the complex moral questions of our day.

The values of Washington and Lee are not something to be taken for granted, however. The Honor System relies on the sustained dedication of students, especially those in a position of direct involvement in the judicial branch of the system, as well as the active support of Administration and Faculty. As alumni, we will have a special obligation to this place. Our first responsibility will be the maintenance in our own lives of these habits formed at W & L. Second, as alumni we must work with those on campus to uphold these fundamental values.

Before I come to a close, I would like to thank President Ruscio for his leadership. It is reassuring to know that we are leaving Washington and Lee with President Ruscio at the helm, a person who has, in the tradition of Robert E. Lee, dedicated himself completely to this institution. President Ruscio’s understanding of Washington and Lee, as well as a thoughtfulness, balance and ability to appreciate both the big picture and the smaller components that make it up, make him an exemplary steward for our soon-to-be alma mater.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to our families for all their support, sacrifice and love; which they have provided so that we could enjoy these years at Washington and Lee to the fullest. I would especially like to thank our parents.

Today, like the songwriter of Shenandoah, the song we have heard so many times during our years in Lexington, we will leave this place. Like him, who mourned his separation from this valley, we will guard our memories of this place with zeal. As this writer recognized, departure from Lexington does not mitigate its effect on us; leaving the Shenandoah does not erase the friendships formed here, the values instilled or the intellect harnessed. Whenever we talk to an old friend, email a former professor or display resolve in the face of a world fraught with moral hazard, we will be back. So, let us enjoy today, knowing that we too shall carry with us an indelible and perpetual memory of this place, which has become a part of us.


Remembering W&L

As members of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2009 were milling around on Stemmons Plaza and waiting to get in line to march to Commencement, Sarah Tschiggfrie, the news director in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs, did a little experiment. Sarah had just gotten Flip Video Recorder, randomly picked out some graduates and asked them to tell her what they’d remember about Washington and Lee. Amid the hustle and bustle of preparing for the big event, their responses were interesting and it’s a pretty cool way to hear (and watch) some of W&L’s seniors talk about the University in the waning moments of their careers. The video is posted to YouTube and Facebook and you can watch it below, too.


Profiles of the Class of 2009

The 415 men and women who comprise Washington and Lee University’s Class of 2009 hail from 39 states and 11 countries.
Each student has a story to tell of his or her experience at W&L — the friendships they’ve made, the faculty who have guided them and the accomplishments that made them proud. All took part in the traditions and rites of passage of W&L students, and all will hold certain memories dear.

Some students made their mark in helping the local community or leading campus organizations, others distinguished themselves in academics or on the playing fields, others excelled at helping their fellow students, and some did all this and more.

Not all the stories can be told in this space, but the four seniors profiled here provide a sample of the Class of 2009’s distinctive character.

  • Elizabeth Webb Continues Mission Against Melanoma
  • Isaiah Goodman on Target for Success
  • Elizabeth (Eli) Polanco Heads Onto World Stage
  • Vance Berry Runs with “Crazy” Idea

W&L’s Webb Continues Mission against Melanoma

Washington and Lee University’s 2009 Valedictorian Elizabeth Webb ’09, a biochemistry major, will marry her college sweetheart Vance Berry ’09 on July 25 in historic Lee Chapel on the W&L campus.

But one important person will not be there to see it.

Webb’s mother died from the deadly cancer melanoma when Webb was 13 years old. “She had melanoma twice,” Webb says, “once when I was three years old and then it resurfaced in her brain when I was 13. It was very rapid and progressive, and I saw the way she suffered. That event has absolutely inspired my future career.”

Webb says she wants to help prevent other people from going through the same suffering. In pursuit of that dream she will move with her new husband to Australia following their honeymoon.  Funded by a Fulbright award, she will research melanoma for 10 months at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. “Queensland has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world,” says Webb, “so it’s the perfect place to study it.”

It will be just the next step in Webb’s quest to conquer the cancer.

Back in the summer of 2008, Webb was looking for an internship when she saw that the University of Colorado Cancer Center offered undergraduate internships in melanoma research. “That sparked my interest,” she says. Webb grew up in Colorado before the family moved to Virginia in 1998. “I actually got to meet my mother’s doctor, and later on he helped me make contacts in Australia so I could pursue my research there.”

Webb says she feels like she is on a mission. “I want to do as much as I can with this,” she says. “I want to be a dermatologist after I go to medical school and then continue researching and hopefully make a dent in melanoma. One of the ideas I’ll take with me from W&L is that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

“Elizabeth is an exceptional young woman,” says Erich Uffelman, professor of chemistry. “She possesses a wonderful intellect, terrific people skills, and a commitment to excellence in anything she undertakes.”

She has already made a start on medical school with an NCAA post graduate scholarship, which she won as a varsity track and cross country runner at W&L. In fact, running is something both Webb and her future husband have in common.

The couple met at a cross country meet in their freshman year. Since then, they have both earned numerous awards for running. Berry even proposed at an indoor track meet at the Armory in New York City. “I was told it was the first proposal in the history of the Armory,” Berry says.

“She had just crossed the line after setting the school record in the mile. She was very tired. I was holding three roses and I had the ring in my pocket. I proposed right there next to the track. Everybody started pointing and there were gasps from the crowd, and then Elizabeth started screaming with excitement…”

It’s a story any mother would want for her daughter.

You can read about the proposal at on the Armory’s Web site.


W&L’s Goodman on Target for Success

Washington and Lee University’s loss is Target’s gain.

Isaiah Goodman will graduate this month from W&L with a major in business administration. And it’s certainly true that this Heinz scholar&rsrsquo;s excellent academic achievements will serve him well. After graduation he will take a position at Target’s Corporate Headquarters in his home state of Minnesota, where he interned during his sophomore year.

“I’ll be a business analyst for merchandise planning,” says Goodman, “and I’m really excited about it.”

His classroom experiences include providing consulting services, with other students, to a project in Brazil. He was also CEO of an advertising class, which designed an ad campaign for an international competition. “We actually won for best planned book for the competition, and were runners-up overall” says Goodman.

“It was a great experience and I was able to lead a lot of students in that project. I could see what it felt like to run a business, or at least an advertising agency. I think experiences like that are important. I’ll be able to look back and say that I led a class for 12 weeks.”

But Goodman feels his non-academic experiences will be equally important.

In his first year of basketball team in 2005-06 season, the General had a 4-19 record. But things improved dramatically over his career. As a junior, he captained the 07-08 team that was 15-11 and became the first squad to be better than .500 in a decade.

Then came his senior season when Goodman helped the Generals reach the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship game.

They didn’t win the title, but the 16 wins was the most in two decades. “To be able to say that we made it to a conference final and we did something that nobody expected felt awesome,” says Goodman. “It’s really neat to work hard and then see the payoff. Of course we wish we could have won, but it was still a great experience.”

Besides captaining the basketball team for two years, Goodman is chair of the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). It serves as the liaison between the student athletes and the NCAA. Goodman says that without basketball he would never have been able to have that kind of experience.

He also helped create the campus’s SAAC, which provides a voice for student athletes on campus to help them meet their needs.

Added to that, he founded the Captain’s Council. This first for W&L provides clinics for the captains of sports to help them understand their roles and develop their leadership skills. “I was selected as a sophomore going into my junior year to be a captain,” says Goodman, “and I had no idea what that really meant. So I thought it would be good to create a group that helps captains deal with issues that might arise.”

Goodman says he thinks his experience as captain of the Generals will definitely help him in his future career. “I think it’s going to make me very prepared and probably ahead of the curve.”

But Goodman’s campus activities also include some surprises.

In 2008, he joined a hip-hop dance crew called “The Klazics,” which has performed three times on campus. He also participated in the aerial dance performances at the Lenfest Center for the Arts at the end of May. To the delight of the crowd, he performed a basketball-themed dance that he choreographed himself.

“I think coming to W&L has provided me with a wide variety of amazing experiences,” says Goodman. Let’s hope that Target will give him even more opportunities to shine.


International Student Heads Onto Global Stage

It’s a competitive global economy out there for graduating students.

“The competition is no longer sitting across the aisle or down the road at Davidson. They are sitting in Moscow, Mumbai, Shanghai, Vienna, Sao Paolo and Katmandu,” says Laurent Boetsch, director of the Center for International Students at Washington and Lee University.

When Elizabeth (Eli) Polanco, from the Dominican Republic, graduates this year from W&L with a major in economics, she will be ready to take on that global competition.

Included in her arsenal are five languages. She is fluent in English and her native Spanish, grew up learning Italian and French and “I can speak enough Chinese to get by,” she says.

Polanco will be heading off onto the global stage of investment banking. After an internship in J.P. Morgan’s New York office, she was offered a job in its London office. She will be working with European clients, most notably from Spain. “I chose the firm because of its international offices and the chance of world travel,” she explains.

“I’m a little nervous about moving to London, but excited at the same time. One of my best friends from W&L is also moving to London, so at least I’ll have a familiar face. I know it will work out,” she says.

She’s a young lady open to new experiences. Just by being at W&L, Polanco has been “studying abroad” for the last four years. Despite that, she says that she wishes she had traveled abroad more.

Polanco spent six weeks in China during a 2008 spring term class organized by the department of East Asian languages. She studied the Chinese language and attended lectures on Chinese culture, literature, art, history, painting, tai chi, oriental gardening and food. She went on field trips to the landmarks of Shanghai, watched a famous Chinese acrobatics show, and took a cultural tour to the ancient cities of Xi’an and Beijing.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “Both my New York internship and the trip to China gave me the confidence that I can work anywhere and try anything, regardless of where I’m from and who I know.”

During her time at W&L, Polanco was chair of the service program English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which is very active in providing translating and tutoring services for the local community in Lexington, Va. She also helped organize an ESOL service trip to her native Dominican Republic during spring break 2009, which included teaching English to some of the school children.

One of the things Polanco says she’s enjoyed the most during the past four years has been working on Washington and Lee University Student Consulting (WLSC) at W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics. “We’ve been working for the past year with a small village in Brazil, trying to help them find ways to use this amazing fiber they have. I thought it was wonderful that because of work we do here at W&L, we can impact a small village in the Amazon.”

“Eli is a true international scholar,” says Amy Richwine, a student advisor at the W&L Center for International Education. “She has utilized her broad interest in international affairs, languages and cultures to make significant contributions not only on campus but in the Lexington/Rockbridge community and back in her home country of the Dominican Republic.”


Vance Berry Runs with “Crazy” Idea

When W&L graduating senior Vance Berry runs, which he does a lot, he gets ideas.

“I did a really hard run a few weeks ago and a crazy question just popped into my head. I wondered if one of my favorite books, Running Formula by Jack Daniels, the world’s greatest running coach, had ever been translated into Spanish?” says Berry. “And, if not, then I wondered why not offer to translate it?”

The idea made sense, because Berry will be graduating from Washington and Lee University this year with a major in Spanish. He was the first person at W&L to win the Spanish award in his junior year, and the first to win the inaugural senior award in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He also participated in the inaugural English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) service learning trip to the Dominican Republic in conjunction with the San Diego Padres and studied abroad in Costa Rica, interning with a municipal attorney.

The idea also made sense because Berry knows running. While at W&L, he has won numerous awards in cross country events, including the Old Dominion Athletic conference all four years. He also set both the indoor 5,000 meter school record and the outdoor 3,000 meter school record.

So Berry asked W&L cross country coach John Tucker, a longtime friend of the author Daniels, if he could find out whether the book had been translated into Spanish. “I knew it had been translated into Japanese and German, and maybe one other language, but I wasn’t sure about Spanish,” says Berry.

Sure enough, his instinct was right, and Daniels was excited at the prospect. Daniels, Berry and the publisher, Human Kinetics, have been busy since then setting up the deal. “It’s 300 pages and it could take me more than a year to translate it,” says Berry.

Tucker says that Berry is an outstanding runner and “one of the most dedicated I’ve ever coached.”

He adds that, while he speaks only English himself, he understands that translators bring nuances and some of their own personality to a translation. “Vance will definitely bring his knowledge and love of the sport into his interpretation of the book,” says Tucker.

While Berry is busy translating, he will be in Australia with his new bride, fellow W&L graduating senior Elizabeth Webb. She will be researching melanoma on a Fulbright award at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The couple will wed July 25 in Lee Chapel on campus.

Long term, Berry wants to use his knowledge of Spanish to focus on international law. “It’s powerful to have a bilingual background, especially with 13 million people in the U.S. who only speak Spanish. There’s a lot you can do with the law to help these people if you speak the language,” he says.

W&L’s School of Law is his top choice. “I feel that I’ve really had a great four years at W&L. It’s been really special,” says Berry.  “I’d love to spend another three years here.”


W&L’s Webb Continues Mission against Melanoma

Washington and Lee University’s 2009 Valedictorian Elizabeth Webb ’09, a biochemistry major, will marry her college sweetheart Vance Berry ’09 on July 25 in historic Lee Chapel on the W&L campus.

But one important person will not be there to see it.

Webb’s mother died from the deadly cancer melanoma when Webb was 13 years old. “She had melanoma twice,” Webb says, “once when I was three years old and then it resurfaced in her brain when I was 13. It was very rapid and progressive, and I saw the way she suffered. That event has absolutely inspired my future career.”

Webb says she wants to help prevent other people from going through the same suffering. In pursuit of that dream she will move with her new husband to Australia following their honeymoon.  Funded by a Fulbright award, she will research melanoma for 10 months at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. “Queensland has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world,” says Webb, “so it’s the perfect place to study it.”

It will be just the next step in Webb’s quest to conquer the cancer.

Back in the summer of 2008, Webb was looking for an internship when she saw that the University of Colorado Cancer Center offered undergraduate internships in melanoma research. “That sparked my interest,” she says. Webb grew up in Colorado before the family moved to Virginia in 1998. “I actually got to meet my mother’s doctor, and later on he helped me make contacts in Australia so I could pursue my research there.”

Webb says she feels like she is on a mission. “I want to do as much as I can with this,” she says. “I want to be a dermatologist after I go to medical school and then continue researching and hopefully make a dent in melanoma. One of the ideas I’ll take with me from W&L is that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

“Elizabeth is an exceptional young woman,” says Erich Uffelman, professor of chemistry. “She possesses a wonderful intellect, terrific people skills, and a commitment to excellence in anything she undertakes.”

She has already made a start on medical school with an NCAA post graduate scholarship, which she won as a varsity track and cross country runner at W&L. In fact, running is something both Webb and her future husband have in common.

The couple met at a cross country meet in their freshman year. Since then, they have both earned numerous awards for running. Berry even proposed at an indoor track meet at the Armory in New York City. “I was told it was the first proposal in the history of the Armory,” Berry says.

“She had just crossed the line after setting the school record in the mile. She was very tired. I was holding three roses and I had the ring in my pocket. I proposed right there next to the track. Everybody started pointing and there were gasps from the crowd, and then Elizabeth started screaming with excitement…”

It’s a story any mother would want for her daughter.

You can read about the proposal at on the Armory’s Web site.


Washington and Lee University Awards Degrees to 415 Seniors

Washington and Lee University President Kenneth P. Ruscio encouraged members of the graduating Class of 2009 to live in the “complicated center” of life during the University’s 222nd commencement exercises on Thursday, June 4.

A rain shower punctuated the ceremonies during Ruscio’s remarks and the conferring of honorary degrees. The graduates unfolded the ponchos that had been provided for that eventuality while family and friends huddled beneath umbrellas to stay dry until the shower passed just as the graduates were to begin receiving their diplomas.

By tradition, the W&L president is the principal speaker for commencement. In his remarks to the 415 graduates, Ruscio said that he worries about the state of public discourse in these days when it has seemingly become impossible to disagree respectfully.

• Read President Ruscio’s remarks.

“We mistake the harshness of one’s rhetoric for the depth of one’s convictions,” he said. “Decibel levels do not correlate with the quality of one’s reasoning. Certitude is not the same as clarity; stridency is not the same as sincerity.”

Asserting that it is “intellectually lazy” to seek the less complicated path, Ruscio said that a symptom of such laziness is the tendency to “caricature the positions of those who think differently. . . and then to personalize the disagreement by labeling those with whom you disagree as unreasonable, not rational and even morally deficient.”

Instead of choosing a path where “you won’t have to think as much or work as hard,” Ruscio challenged the graduates to live a more difficult life, “somewhere in the complicated center, where the courage of your convictions blends with humility and respect for others. It will make for a challenging life, but a fulfilling and meaningful one for yourselves and for those whose lives you will surely touch.”

During the ceremony, the university also awarded three honorary degrees to author Charles Johnson, a winner of the National Book Award and a professor of English at the University of Washington; journalist Alex Jones, a 1968 graduate of W&L, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize and the director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and Susan Tifft, a Duke University professor who specializes in journalism ethics and who, with Jones, has co-authored two acclaimed books on newspaper families.

The class valedictorian was Elizabeth Webb, a biochemistry major from Middleburg, Va., who earned a 4.075 grade point average on a 4.0 scale and will study in Australia on a Fulbright Research Grant next year.

Webb also won the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which the university gives each year to two graduates, a man and a woman, on a vote of the faculty. It recognizes the recipients’ ideals, spiritual qualities and service to others.

Christopher Martin, of Shreveport, La, a politics major and a leader in the university’s Shepherd Poverty Program, received the other Sullivan Award.

The 415 graduates had an average grade point average of 3.335, the highest on record at the university. The graduates completed 36 different majors; 28 percent of the graduating class had more than one major, while two students finished with three majors. The Class of 2009 came from 39 states, the District of Columbia and 11 countries.

Other honors included:

• Taylor Profitt Lawch, a business administration major from Bethesda, Md., was selected by the Executive Committee of the student body to receive the Frank J. Gilliam Award, as the student who has made the most valuable contribution to student affairs in more than one field.
• Two graduates received the Edward Lee Pinney Prize, awarded by the Student Affairs Committee for extraordinary commitment to personal scholarship and to the nurturing of intellectual life at Washington and Lee. They are Emily Taylor Mathews, a philosophy and business administration major from Baltimore, Md., and Wesley Ben O’Dell, a politics, history and classics major from Millwood, W.Va.
• Two graduates were selected by W&L’s Celebrating Student Success Initiative as the John W. Elrod Unsung Generals of the Year. Hunter Coleman Branstetter, an English major from Nashville, Tenn., was honored for his contributions to the Honor Advocate Program. Jenna Elise Walls, a biology major from Zionsville, Ind., was honored for her contributions to Nabors Service League and the men’s basketball program.
• In addition to Webb, three graduates won Fulbright Fellowships to study and work abroad for a year, beginning this summer. Katherine Leah Bagley, a German and politics major from Midlothain, Va., will teach in Germany. Katherine Michelle Bastian, a politics and German major from North Wales, Pa., will conduct research in Germany. Paul Sinton Stack, an English and French major from Baltimore, Md., will teach English in the Lorraine region of France.
• Kelly Jeanne Bundy, a French and politics major from Moseley, Va., has been awarded a Teaching Assistantship in English through the French government.
• Two graduates were awarded Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships for study abroad next year. Joseph Hansen Babington, an English and Spanish major from Mobile, Ala., will travel to Madrid, Spain. Michael Thompson, a geology major with a concentration in environmental studies from La Jolla, Calif., will travel to Santiago, Chile.
• Eduardo Ignacio Rodriguez, a business administration major with a concentration in poverty and human capability studies, has been awarded a grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program to establish a language laboratory in his home town of Pehuajo, Argentina.
• Three graduates received National Collegiate Athletic Association Postgraduate Scholarships. They are Paul Davidson Crook, a chemistry major from Nashville, Tenn., Anne Van Devender, a computer science major with a concentration in women’s and gender studies from Jackson, Miss., and Elizabeth Webb.


Commencement Address

Remarks to the Class of 2009
by
Kenneth P. Ruscio
President, Washington and Lee University

At Washington and Lee, the president provides the commencement address, a custom I strongly endorsed until I actually had to write one.

We impose this duty on the president not because of some lofty principle, but rather to avoid a repeat of an occasion many years ago when an elderly speaker approached the podium with a stack of jumbled index cards, and held forth for quite some time as he went through them…not once, not twice, but three times.

The wise and fiscally prudent Board determined that in future years our graduates and families should rest easy knowing that if they had to endure a worthless Commencement address, it would at least be inexpensive.

But it would not guarantee full satisfaction.

Last year, a few days after commencement I received a charming hand-written two-page letter from the grandmother of one of our graduates. This is the abridged version.
“President Ruscio,” it began, “I wanted you to know the ceremony was beautiful and meaningful, a memorable event for everyone. However, it was very hot, especially for the graduates, and I have a few suggestions. You could build an awning to protect them from the sun.

“I understand, though, that may not be feasible, so I have a couple additional thoughts. Rather than having each graduate walk across the stage, they could stand as one and pick up their diplomas later. But that may go against your traditions of individual recognition. So my final suggestion is this: you could shorten your remarks.”

My theme last year was civility, and I was pleased that it took my correspondent two polite pages to get to her real reason for writing. Still, I have summarily rejected her first two suggestions. It remains to be seen how I will deal with her third—although I will say, for the record, that my remarks last year were not that long.

So in my final few minutes with you, I will speak directly, first with words of praise, then with a challenge.

You are an outstanding group of young men and women, among the best I have known. Your parents left you here four years ago with evident and justifiable pride in what you had already accomplished, and with hope and perhaps a touch of anxiety for what might lie ahead. You have fulfilled their hopes and eased their anxiety.

Think back to when you first met in Lee Chapel. You didn’t know it then, but you were among future winners of Fulbright Fellowships and classmates who would be honored with membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa. There was an editor of the Ring-tum Phi and a future EC president within your ranks, a few fraternity and sorority presidents, some who would venture into the community to address problems of poverty, others who would call attention to women’s issues here on campus.

The future 2009 ODAC men’s and women’s scholar-athletes of the year sat in the Chapel that day, alongside a young man who would become the national student chair of the NCAA Division III committee. Your musical, theatrical and artistic talents were not apparent to us then, but they certainly are now; and we have enjoyed your many creative contributions these last four years.

Each of you has achieved in ways you never imagined, perhaps by receiving a hoped-for but unexpected grade from a tough professor; or perhaps by just passing a course you feared would be your downfall. In countless ways, some known only to you alone and some well known to all of us, you have done well. You have every reason to be proud.

And just as you were unsure in the unfamiliar setting of Lee Chapel four years ago how success would reveal itself, so do you sit here today…not knowing precisely what the future holds but confident that among you are scientists who will make great discoveries…doctors who will save lives…attorneys who will represent individuals when they need it the most…politicians who will change the world…teachers who will change the lives of young people…and business leaders who will serve society with their innovative and ethical spirit.

Last month, I met with alumni from the Class of 1959, returning to campus for their fiftieth reunion. They had such dignity, such a sense of lives well lived, such admiration for each other and what they had accomplished.

They heard from former Senator John Warner, Class of 1949, here for his sixtieth reunion.

They also saw former W&L professor Bill Jenks, class of 1939, here for his seventieth reunion. There was a smaller turnout from Professor Jenks’s class, but he represented them well. His august presence alone sent the clear message that their legacy of excellence and honor is now yours and mine to uphold.

You will return here some day to meet as they did, and you will look back upon this graduation moment fondly. They fulfilled their promise, and you will just as surely fulfill yours.

Now for the challenge.

It is this college’s burden to offer not just a college education, but a particular kind of college education. We send you into the world with a keen intellect but also with a sensitivity to the demands of character. It is part of our institutional DNA.

George Washington was a man of strong intelligence. But the foundation of his greatness was judgment; and the foundation of his judgment was character.

We forget or at least understate his connection to this University.
His decision to donate his James River Canal stock to Liberty Hall Academy means, quite simply, that you are able to sit here today. By today’s standards that gift of about $20,000 worth of stock seems small. It wasn’t small then, and the endowment it established not only saved the institution but bolsters the University’s finances to this very day.

As the eminent historian Gordon Wood has explained, Washington’s decision to donate that stock provides one of the clearest glimpses into the heart of our first president. He was greatly conflicted when the company offered him the stock. Of course, he could not keep it for himself. Personal gain from serving the public good was outside the code of gentlemen. But neither was it gentlemanly to embarrass a sincerely motivated giver by refusing the gift.

Washington agonized over what to do. He wrote for advice to all his contemporaries: Madison, Hamilton, and Jefferson among them. Gordon Wood notes wryly that it would have been comical were he not so serious. Washington wanted to avoid, in his own wonderful phrasing, an “ostentatious display of disinterestedness.” Wearing moral sensitivity on his sleeve was not part of his character.

We are the happy beneficiaries of his ethical dilemma, but the price we pay is the obligation to send graduates into the world fully aware that they, too, will faces lives of difficult moral choices.

So before handing you your diplomas let me make one last final calibration of your moral compasses.

This is the message. Do not enter this morally complex world with a simplistic moral approach.

That seems obvious, but it is more challenging than you imagine. Modern culture will tempt you to seek simple answers where there are none.

I worry a lot these days about the state of public discourse. It leaves a lot to be desired. We are apparently unable to disagree respectfully.

We mistake the harshness of one’s rhetoric for the depth of one’s convictions. Decibel levels do not correlate with the quality of one’s reasoning. Certitude is not the same as clarity; stridency is not the same as sincerity.

Yet we cede public platforms too often to those who are certain they have it all figured out and who seek to prevail rather than persuade. Their positions are reflexive impulses from political ideology, or mistakenly simplified religious doctrine, or fashionable academic theories. “Those who rest on such comfortable beds of dogma,” says Isaiah Berlin, “are victims of self-induced myopia, blinkers that may make for contentment, but not for understanding what it is to be human.”

It is intellectually lazy to seek the path of least complication; and one symptom of this laziness is, first, to caricature the positions of those who think differently…and then to personalize the disagreement by labeling those with whom you disagree as unreasonable, not rational and even morally deficient.

Viewing the world in shades only of black and white is a form of moral color-blindness, although it makes for an easy life. You won’t have to think as much or work as hard. You could, sadly, become the person depicted in Joseph O’Connor’s novel, Star of the Sea: “the kind of radical who is secretly relieved that injustices exist; morality being so easily attainable by saying you found them outrageous.”

Let me leave you with this image.

I have in mind a Washington and Lee graduate entering the arena of public debate. Off to one side is a cacophony of voices, loud and harsh. On the other side are the silent ones, wracked by self-doubt who avoid the great issues of our time. It would be easy to gravitate to one or the other. I wish for you a more difficult life, somewhere in the complicated center, where the courage of your convictions blends with humility and respect for others.

It will make for a challenging life, but a fulfilling and meaningful one for yourselves and for those whose lives you will surely touch.

You have the best wishes of the faculty, of the staff, and the 25,000 alumni whose ranks you will momentarily join. And you have my own sincere wishes for a life well-lived. With congratulations and appreciation I wish you the very best.


Washington and Lee Awards Three Honorary Degrees

Washington and Lee University bestowed three honorary degrees during its commencement exercises on Thursday, June 4, 2009.

• Charles Johnson, award-winning author and the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Professor for Excellence in English at the University of Washington, received an honorary doctor of letters;

• Alex Jones, a 1968 graduate of Washington and Lee, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, received an honorary doctor of humane letters;

• Susan Tifft, co-author with Alex Jones of critically acclaimed books about the newspaper families behind the New York Times and the Louisville Courier Journal, and the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies at Duke University, received the honorary doctor of humane letters.

On May 9, during the law school commencement, the University conferred upon Lord Nicholas Addison Phillips, president of the newly formed Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, an honorary doctor of laws degree..

From left, Alex Jones, Susan Tifft and Charles Johnson
Charles Johnson is the author of 16 books, more than 20 screenplays and numerous essays, articles, short stories and literary reviews. He has also worked as an editor, cartoonist and journalist and has published more than 1,000 drawings in national publications.

His novel “Middle Passage” won the 1990 National Book Award in fiction in 1990, making him the first African-American male to win this prize since Ralph Ellison in 1953. Johnson has received NEA and Guggenheim fellowships, a Writers Guild Award for his PBS drama “Booker,” and numerous other prizes, honorary degrees and awards, including a MacArthur genius grant.

In recognizing Johnson, W&L noted in the honorary degree citation how he “challenges the assumptions and beliefs of his readers and refuses all simplifications of the complexity of American reality, whether in terms of race, gender, history, politics or religion.”

Jones, a member of a Tennessee newspaper family, moved from a newspaper in his home state to the New York Times, where he covered the press from 1983 to 1992 and won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the collapse of the Bingham family’s newspaper dynasty in Louisville, Ky.

With his wife, Susan Tifft, Jones co-authored “The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty” and “The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times.” From 1993 to 1997, Jones hosted National Public Radio’s “On the Media,” which examined all aspects of news coverage and media issues. He has also served as host and executive director of PBS’ “Media Matters.”

In 1998, he and Tifft were jointly named the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism at Duke University. In 2000, Jones joined Harvard in his current capacity as the director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

W&L recognized Jones for “his sterling career as an award-winning journalist and author.”

Tifft began a prolific career in journalism at Time magazine, where she was a national writer and associate editor from 1982 to 1991. She published hundreds of articles in such widely ranging and widely read publications as Time, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Glamour and Working Woman.

In 1999, Tifft co-authored with her husband, Alex Jones, the best-selling and award-winning book “The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times .” She and Jones had previously co-authored “The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty.”

Tifft, currently the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies at her alma mater, Duke University, was recently honored with the creation there of the Susan Tifft Undergraduate Teaching/Mentoring Award.

In the citation marking her degree, W&L praised Tifft for bringing to her readers “remarkable insight into print and broadcast journalism, and a profound understanding of the media, its owners and the influences that shape it.”


Pursuing Honor

When Charlie Myers, a 1967 Washington and Lee graduate, wanted to introduce an honor code to the high school where he was teaching, he knew where to go. According to a feature article that appeared recently in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, Myers is retiring this year from his current position as teacher of history, government, and politics at Lexington Catholic High School. You need to read the story itself, which you can find here, but the gist is that Charlie decided several years ago to push for an honor council at the high school that would deal with issues of academic integrity. That council is now in its fifth year. When he started it, as the article explains, Charlie brought some W&L students in to talk with the Lexington Catholic students about how it would work. As a co-worker is quoted a saying, Charlie’s push for the honor council “cut (cheating) at the root rather than just trimming off a few branches.” Interesting, too, that this is the second time Myers has retired. He had previously worked in the administration, including as director of admissions, at Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky.


W&L Grads Told to “Be Like the Fox”

Washington and Lee University’s graduating seniors should set their sights higher than simply “the profits and the raises and the paid vacations,” urged the Rev. Jennifer R. Strawbridge in her baccalaureate address on Wednesday, June 3.

Strawbridge, a 2001 W&L graduate who majored in religion and physics, is the associate rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Va. She made her remarks on the Front Lawn, where the university will hold its 222nd commencement exercises on Thursday, June 4.

• Text of Baccalaureate Address

Referring to a poem by Wendell Berry and citing the “fast-paced, fast-return” culture in which the students live, Strawbridge recommended planting sequoias, which may take hundreds and hundreds of years to grow to their full size. “Planting sequoias is a crazy suggestion,” she acknowledged. “We will never see them in their full grandeur. We have no idea how they will turn out; if they will make it; if they will be one of the giants. Planting sequoias asks us to think big and way outside our limited selves.”

Moreover, Strawbridge asked the graduates to consider people who had planted sequoias in their lives through lessons taught and skills cultivated that will bear fruit many years into the future. She said that the students had a duty to invest in the millennium.

Secondly, Strawbridge recommended that the students emulate the fox, who outmaneuvers bigger and faster predators and prey. “It may not always make sense at the time, but sometimes going backwards, making more tracks than necessary, has its own purpose,” she said. “Those seemingly backwards steps are, in the end, things that can most define who we are. And those seemingly backwards steps are the things, the setbacks and the intentional choices, that can make us secure in our ability to survive. We really don’t know our strengths until we face adversity, until we are challenged in what direction to go, until we can no longer leave all our options open.”

Finally, Strawbridge urged the graduates to “practice resurrection” by, among other things, opening their hearts to the pain of the world, bringing “those who are suffering back into the land of living” and cultivating relationships.

“We practice resurrection through our gratitude, when we don’t take everything for granted. We practice resurrection when we welcome guests and foreign ideas with graciousness,” Strawbridge said. “Your work for justice, freedom, equality and peace sets the stage for resurrection. When you feed the hungry and stand up for the oppressed, you practice resurrection. Every time you bring to life another’s sense of wonder and imagination, you practice resurrection.”

The graduates’ task, Strawbridge said, “is to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before and to think not only of yourselves but those who will come after you, those whom you may never meet or know.”

Washington and Lee’s baccalaureate service arises from the university’s religious traditions, and the roots of the ceremony go back to the 18th century. The service is held each year on the day before the commencement exercises.


Baccalaureate Address

Be like the Fox
by
The Rev. Jennifer R. Strawbridge
Associate Rector, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Good morning. I cannot begin to describe the honor it is to be with you this morning and my gratitude. When President Ruscio asked me to speak at this ceremony, I have to admit I thought it was one of my Washington and Lee roommates playing a really good practical joke. Thankfully, I did not respond that way to President Ruscio, and I am more than humbled by the invitation to be with you on this day.

I can hardly believe that it was 12 years ago that I first set foot on this lawn as a student. From the optics lab to the lacrosse field, it still feels like yesterday. And as I have reflected on my own time in this place and the influence these halls and professors and friends continue to have on my life today, I struggled with how to approach this address. Following in suite with hundreds of new books every year, I thought about going the free-advice route. If everyone else can do it and write a book, I could probably manage a speech. But knowing that approach had the potential to go horribly wrong, and thinking about my vocation as an Episcopal priest, another thought was to take a strictly theological approach – grounding words of wisdom in history and sacred text. But, I thought better of that as well and ended up in the language of poetry. A language which unlike my own free advice or some theological language can speak to us all no matter where we are in life.

And thus with that said, Wendell Berry, teacher, poet, essayist, and farmer, begins his “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” with the following words of wisdom:

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,/vacation with pay./…And you will have a window in your head./ Not even your future will be a mystery/ anymore. Your mind will be punched in a card/ and shut away in a little drawer.”1

Some of these words have almost certainly gone through the head of every graduating senior or been spoken to a graduating senior by a concerned parent or friend over the past few weeks and months. Be successful. Lack for nothing. Have material abundance, and all will be well. And yet, all of these notions and assumptions are challenged by Berry and perhaps ought to be challenged by us. If nothing else, the instability of these economic times into which you graduate presents a challenge to our notions of success and happiness; presents us with the opportunity to think about whether we want our happiness to be determined by the ups and downs of the world around us.

Now I am certainly not suggesting that it is a bad thing to love profit and raises and vacation with pay. In fact, this great university likes it very much when we do these things and then especially when we remember the university, as so many before us generously have. But as Berry is clear in his manifesto, and as our education here has underscored, profits and raises and paid vacations are not the only things in life. And so from the poetic words of Wendell Berry, I offer to you these three cogent yet challenging observations.

“Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.”

Sequoias, or redwoods, are not only the tallest trees on earth, but can live to be more than 2000 years old. Their diameter can be 2-3 times the width of a Graham-Lees dorm room and their height up to a 38 story building. But it takes 100s and 100s of years to see them grow to this size. And planting sequoias is a crazy suggestion. We will never see them in their full grandeur. We have no idea how they will turn out; if they will make it; if they will be one of the giants. Planting sequoias asks us to think big and way outside our limited selves.

But if you stop to think for even a moment, already in each of your lives someone has taken the time to plant a sequoia. Someone has taken the time to create a legacy they will never see. Perhaps it was through a word of encouragement or even admonition. Perhaps it was taking the time to teach you how to be a better writer or to cultivate some other skill. Perhaps it was an idea they nourished. Whether it was when you were five years old or while you have been students at this remarkable place, I imagine each of you can recall that teacher or coach or mentor or friend who instilled in you something that makes you who you are. We have all had someone who planted a seed in us, hoping it would take root and reach for the stars, but knowing they might not ever see its fullness, knowing they might not ever see us in our grandeur; knowing they might not see you as you sit here today on this lawn, about to graduate from this great university, in part because of a seed they planted.

And yet it is not just people who have planted seeds in our lives, but sequoias that have been passed onto us through tradition, as well. The Washington and Lee motto non incautus futuri – not unmindful of the future – suggests that planting sequoias and investing in the millennium is what we do as Generals. George Washington invested 100 shares of stock, an unprecedented gift and the largest of its kind, in a tiny Virginia academy over 200 years ago. He planted a sequoia having no idea that from this investment would grow a top caliber university with just over 400 bright graduates about to be sent into the world. Little did the person who started the speaking tradition know that it would no longer be normative in our culture to say hello to people as we pass them throughout the day. And the honor system in particular will continue to form you in a world where we are supposed to do anything to get ahead, even if it challenges the limits of ethics. These traditions, these sequoias will continue to grow, form, and nourish you for the rest of your lives, no matter where you go and what you do.

In our fast paced, fast return culture, if an immediate benefit or payment is not evident, many are hesitant to invest the time or the energy or the resources. And when you do, some will think that you have lost your mind. But in those moments, you have only to remember those who have planted sequoias in your own lives; you have only to remember the people, the institutions that have formed you. And now, this is your duty as graduates of this place, to invest in the millennium, to nurture and to plant sequoias.

But this is not your only task as you leave this place. For another important piece of wisdom from our poet friend Wendell Berry is a bit strange but also quite simple: “Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction.”

At some point or another, we will all have to do this. We will feel like we are going backwards before going forwards. We will feel like we have already been there and done that. We will feel like something is beneath our caliber or ability or intelligence or gifts. We will have to make more tracks than necessary. But as Berry reminds us, this is just like the fox – a wise creature that can outsmart and out maneuver many bigger, faster prey and predators. Sometimes we will have to go backwards to be where we are supposed to be. Sometimes we will have to start at the bottom to reach the top. Sometimes we will do what is not the upwardly mobile thing in order to live life to its fullest.

One of my housemates from W&L went to Harvard Law School. She graduated at the top of her class at Harvard and she had many opportunities to work for judges and at top law firms in Boston, Chicago, and New York. But she took a different path. And while folks told her she was making a mistake, not living up to her potential, taking steps backwards, she took a job at a small firm in Chicago working on issues of affordable housing for those who have no voice. It wasn’t the usual path or the upwardly mobile thing to do, but it is exactly where she is supposed to be and she will tell you she loves every minute of it.

My first year at Washington and Lee was the year the Shepherd Poverty Program made its debut on campus. And I think folks had their doubts about how it would work. What was a poverty program doing at a wealthy, prestigious university in the Shenandoah Valley? What was a professor doing taking time away from his chair to begin this strange program? It was a step in a different direction; a march to a different beat; like the fox, this program took a very different approach. Like the fox who sometimes takes more steps than necessary, so this program had to work hard to convince folks it was the real deal, it was worth the investment of time and energy and like all parts of a good education the risk of learning something new about yourself. But as many if not all of you can attest, the Shepherd Poverty Program changes lives. Whether you have taken a course, completed the program, served in the campus kitchen, been a summer intern, a Bonner Leader, or part of Nabors Service Day, you know the difference this program has made in your life and the lives of others. A program that isn’t so much about changing the world through your great service but changing the world through changing you, opening your eyes, teaching you strengths and revealing a world where you can not only make a difference, but never stop learning and growing and being challenged.

Be like the fox. It may not always make sense at the time, but sometimes going backwards, making more tracks than necessary, has its own purpose. Those seemingly backwards steps are, in the end, things that can most define who we are. And those seemingly backwards steps are the things, the setbacks and the intentional choices, that can make us secure in our ability to survive. We really don’t know our strengths until we face adversity, until we are challenged in what direction to go, until we can no longer leave all our options open. And when we get to this place and recognize that the route of the fox isn’t all that bad, such knowledge is truly a gift. For whether the way for us is clear or not, the fox demands that we go in the direction we are given boldly, intentionally. Sometimes we discount the fox, but when we do we are always outsmarted.

And the final piece of advice from our poet companion is to “practice resurrection.” Now this is not like a dress rehearsal for what we may or may not believe happens to us when we die. Rather, it is the realization that there will be places throughout our lives where we will have the chance to practice resurrection, to bring new life. The chance to practice something that is always larger than we imagine; and that always demands more of us than we can fathom. Resurrection is a slow process for those impatient in everything. It is hard for those of us who would like to skip the middle stages and get on to the end. And yet, we have the chance to practice resurrection all the time.

We practice resurrection whenever we open our hearts and minds to the pain of the world and help bring those who are suffering back into the land of the living. We practice resurrection when we cultivate relationships, old and new, and the walls of separation in our world come crashing down. We practice resurrection when we laugh and sing and cherish life. Resurrection is in the making when we accept God’s grace in our lives and see it in the world around us. We practice resurrection through our gratitude, when we don’t take everything for granted. We practice resurrection when we welcome guests and foreign ideas with graciousness. Your work for justice, freedom, equality, and peace sets the stage for resurrection. When you feed the hungry and stand up for the oppressed, you practice resurrection. Every time you bring to life another’s sense of wonder and imagination, you practice resurrection.2

So while you can love the profits and the raises and the paid vacations, your task, your vision as graduates of this university is to something greater than this. Your task is to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before and to think not only of yourselves but those who will come after you, those whom you may never meet or know. Your task is to be mindful of the future, for it is in your hands. Your task is sometimes to go backwards, sometimes to slow down, in order to truly do what you are supposed to do in life. Your task is to practice resurrection.

And thus in the words of a Franciscan blessing, may you go forth:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed with those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.3

Thank you.

Notes:

1 Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1998), 87.
2 http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/days/features.php?id=10963.
3 “A Franciscan Benediction” excerpt from Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it make any difference? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 105.


Crossing Lines

Growing up in her home town of Springfield, Ill., Washington and Lee journalism professor Indira Somani was more often than not mistaken for a Native American when her grade school friends were told that she was Indian. That is one of the interesting insights in a feature story about Indira that ran late last month in the Illinois Times. The article, “Crossing Lines, the documentary,” fills in a lot of the blanks that set the stage for Indira’s documentary, Crossing Lines, that takes viewer on a journey to India where Indira visits her father’s extended family for the first time since his death. As Indira says in the Illinois Times’ piece, the film is a tribute to her father and “how much I learned from him,” Somani says. “India was so important to him. He wanted to make sure his kids knew about India and understood India.”


W&L to Celebrate 222nd Commencement on June 4

Washington and Lee University will celebrate its 222nd undergraduate commencement on Thursday, June 4, on its historic Front Lawn in front of Lee Chapel.

The commencement ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. with remarks by President Kenneth P. Ruscio and graduating senior Richard S. Cleary Jr., immediate past president of the Executive Committee of the student body. The event will be streamed live on the University’s Web site at http://go.wlu.edu/commencementlive/.

Graduation-related events, award ceremonies and receptions will begin on June 3, with a baccalaureate service led by William C. “Burr” Datz, director of leadership development and coordinator of religious life. The Rev. Jennifer Strawbridge, associate rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Va.,, and a 2001 graduate of W&L, will give the keynote address.

Among this year’s outstanding graduates are students receiving special honors and highly competitive scholarships:

  • Two graduates were selected by W&L’s Celebrating Student Success Initiative as the John W. Elrod Unsung Generals of the Year. Hunter Coleman Branstetter, an English major from Nashville, Tenn., was honored for his contributions to the Honor Advocate Program. Jenna Elise Walls, a biology major from Zionsville, Ind., was honored for her contributions to Nabors Service League and the men’s basketball program.
  • Four graduates won Fulbright Fellowships to study and work abroad for a year, beginning this summer. Katherine Leah Bagley, a German and politics major from Midlothain, Va., will teach in Germany. Katherine Michelle Bastian, a politics and German major from North Wales, Pa., will conduct research in Germany. Paul Sinton Stack, an English and French major from Baltimore, Md., will teach English in the Lorraine region of France. Elizabeth Gates Webb, a biochemistry major from Middleburg, Va., will conduct research at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
  • Kelly Jeanne Bundy, a French and politics major from Moseley, Va., has been awarded a Teaching Assistantship in English through the French government.
  • Two graduates were awarded Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships for study abroad next year. Joseph Hansen Babington, an English and Spanish major from Mobile, Ala., will travel to Madrid, Spain. Michael Andrew Thompson, a geology major with a concentration in environmental studies from La Jolla, Calif., will travel to Santiago, Chile.
  • Eduardo Ignacio Rodriguez, a business administration major with a concentration in poverty and human capability studies, has been awarded a grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program to establish a language laboratory in his home town of Pehuajo, Argentina.
  • Three graduates received National Collegiate Athletic Association Postgraduate Scholarships. They are Paul Davidson Crook, a chemistry major from Nashville, Tenn., Anne Van Devender, a computer science major with a concentration in women’s and gender studies from Jackson, Miss., and Elizabeth Webb.

Better Cooking with Chemistry

Washington and Lee Chemistry Professor Marcia France has just finished teaching a course on the Science of Cooking, By all accounts, it was successful on a number of levels. Professor France’s goal was to show students both how science is integrated into their daily life and the scientific method can create some tasty recipes. As she explained, “Students will think of their own food-related question, come up with a hypothesis, test it out in the kitchen and write up the results as part of their homework.” it was one of those rare chemistry courses where students can, usually, dine on their experiments without fear. The two local National Public Radio stations — WVTF in Roanoke and WMRA in Harrisonburg — both covered the course in different ways. WVTF’s Connie Stephens came to Lexington and watched a class in action, then filed a report on it. You can hear Connie’s take on the course on the link below:

On Monday, Professor France found herself sitting behind a microphone in Harrisonburg and fielding telephone calls on any number of subjects: Can someone actually be allergic to foods cooked in a microwave? Do big chocolate chip cookies from the same batter taste different from smaller chocolate chip cookies? She answered them all with both good humor and expertise. Click below to listen to her appearance on Virginia Insight:


Five Members of W&L’s Faculty to Retire After Teaching a Total of 193 Years

Five members of Washington and Lee’s faculty are retiring June 30 after teaching at W&L for a total of 193 years. They are Philip L. Cline, business administration and economics, 34 years; A.G. Fralin Jr., Romance languages, 34 years; John S. Knox, biology, 33 years; Joseph F. Lyles, physical education, 50 years; and Thomas O. Vinson, mathematics, 42 years.

Phil Cline, the Lewis Whitaker Adams Professor in Economics and Business Administration, joined the faculty in 1975 after receiving his B.A. from W&L and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University.

A Fulbright senior scholar at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago, Cline also received the Commonwealth of Virginia “Outstanding Faculty Award.” He has been the recipient of grants from the United Nations, the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the W&L Class 1965 Endowment for Excellence in Teaching, among others.

Cline taught statistics, quantitative models, business in a changing world, economics and management information systems at W&L. He was formerly a research associate and economics instructor at Oklahoma State University. He also worked as an associate systems engineer and marketing representative with IBM.

A.G. Fralin, who received his B.A. from Randolph-Macon College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, taught French, Spanish and Italian in the Romance language department. He was assistant professor of French and Spanish at VMI for three years before joining W&L’s faculty in 1975.

He also taught at the James Madison University’s summer program in Paris from 2005-2009, and was a consultant-lecturer in French and English for Doctoral Studies in Civilizations and Literatures of the Americas at the French University of the Antilles and Guyane in Martinique (UAG) from 2004-2008.

Fralin is the author (with his wife as co-author) of six books including an annotated edition of Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Telemee, three French textbooks, two French workbooks and 18 articles. A book and two articles are forthcoming.

John Knox, professor of biology, joined the W&L faculty in 1976 after earning his A.B. at Drew University, his M.S. at the University of Maryland and his Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. In addition to fundamentals of biology, he taught field biogeography, plant diversity, biological diversity, evolution and A Biologists View of Creationism.

His research in collaboration with his colleagues and students provided the scientific basis for recognizing the plant Helenium virginicum as a valid species, and later for the U.S. Congress to list Helenium virginicum as a “threatened species” protected by the Endangered Species Act. His work has been important in helping to formulate a federal “recovery plan” for this species. He continues to collaborate with W&L colleagues to gather genetic data that should help in conservation management of Helenium virginicum and in understanding the plant’s evolutionary history.

Knox has authored and co-authored nine research articles published in peer reviewed literature. He has led 11 spring term class field trips to the desert Southwest and seven to Central and South America. Knox served on W&L’s Faculty Executive Committee, the Student Faculty Hearing Board, Faculty Review Committee and the Shepherd Program, among others.

Joe Lyles, who is retiring from W&L after 50 years in the department of physical education, played professional baseball with the St. Louis Browns for five years and basketball with the St. Louis Bombers for four years before joining W&L. He received his B.S. and M.S. from Springfield College.

Lyles was head baseball coach from 1959 to 1978 and head soccer coach from 1959 to 1976. He also was assistant varsity basketball coach from 1959 to 1969 and chairman of the Penn and South Region, the conference before the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). He retires as associate professor of physical education, having taught every required physical education class in the P.E. curriculum while at W&L.

Lyles served on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committees for baseball including national chairman of the newly formed Division III for five years after its formation, national chairman of Division III All-American selection committee and member of the Divisions I, II and III National Baseball Rules committee. He was also on NCAA committees for Divisions II and III for soccer.

Tom Vinson, professor of mathematics, received his B.A. from Emory University and his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, both in math, and an M.S. in statistics. He joined the W&L faculty in 1967. He taught statistics, topology and calculus, and his fields of specialization were general topology, statistical inference and probability.

Vinson is co-author of Elementary Linear Algebra (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) with retired faculty member Robert S. Johnson. He also co-authored Inverse Limits and Absolutes of H-Closed Spaces, published in the Proceedings of the American Mathematics Society.

Vinson served on various W&L committees including acting chairman of the Fringe Benefits Committee.


W&L Black Lung Clinic Wins Two 4th Circuit Cases

Original story at:
http://law.wlu.edu/news/storydetail.asp?id=582.


Auto Economics and NY Times

Several times in the last few months, we’ve blogged about the blog that Mike Smita, professor of economics, has been writing about the twists and turns of the U.S. auto industry. He’s just finished a Spring Term seminar on the economics of the industry, which he’s been following for almost 20 years. Back in November when things began unraveling in a big way, he predicted a GM bankruptcy by the end of January. That didn’t transpire, but he’s been writing about the issues on his blog, Autos and Economics. The New York Times editors picked up on his musings and asked him to write a piece for the “Room for Debate” feature on the Times Web site.  So on the eve of today’s bankruptcy filing by GM, Mike wrote about what less competition is going to mean for the company. Here’s the link to his piece.