Washington and Lee Partners with Carter Center to Expand Liberia Justice Project
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Welcome Home for Quincy Springs IV '02
WDBJ-TV, Roanoke’s CBS affiliate, had a heartwarming feature about the homecoming of a Washington and Lee alumnus Quincy Springs after eight years serving in the military, including this last year in Afghanistan. As the story details, Quincy, a captain in the U.S. Army, was married a year ago just prior to his last deployment when he was involved with eradicating poppy from Afghanistan. As Quincy told the WDBJ reporter, “There are a lot of scars , not only in the country but also in the people.” Quincy majored in philosophy at W&L and was president of the Interfraternity Council in his senior year. You can watch the video below:
Kennedy Would Have Relished the Fight Liberals Face Now
by Molly Michelmore
Assistant Professor of History
(This piece appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
For many, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s death last Tuesday marked an end of an era in American politics — an appropriate bookend to a bygone liberal era. For those on the right, the liberalism of the 1960s — a liberalism Kennedy embodied throughout his Senate career — was a failed experiment in “Big Government,” brought mercifully to a close with the election of Ronald Reagan. To others, ’60s liberalism represented an unfulfilled dream of a more socially, economically, and politically egalitarian nation, a dream dashed by a “backlash” against the social, cultural, and particularly racial upheavals of the 1960s.
But, our collective memories of American liberalism — before, during, and after the 1960s — are in need of some revision.
FIRST, LIBERALISM and liberal policy did not fail — at least not in the ways commonly imagined. Beginning in the 1930s with the New Deal, and accelerating after the Second World War, American liberals not only created a social safety net to protect most Americans from what President Franklin Roosevelt once called the “hazards and vicissitudes of life,” but also learned to harness the power of the federal government to grow and manage the national economy.
Thanks to liberal programs — both visible ones like the GI Bill of Rights and less apparent ones like the home mortgage guarantees provided by the Federal Housing Administration — millions of working-class Americans had, for the first time, access to the educational and financial resources that allowed them to move into the middle class. And while another key tenet of postwar liberalism, the dream of civil rights, has been imperfectly realized, it is hard to deny that the United States today is a far more equal nation than when Kennedy took office in 1962.
SECOND, THE “tax-and-spend” liberal is largely a fiction created by right-wing political entrepreneurs in the 1970s. True, the national government grew exponentially over the second half of the 20th century as politicians in both parties used the spoils of economic growth to meet their constituents’ demands for new schools, better roads, more jobs. But, throughout the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, liberals consistently married these spending commitments to an equal commitment to lower taxes on ordinary Americans.
Indeed, over the course of the postwar period, the total level of taxation, as a percentage of GNP, remained relatively constant, regardless of who sat in the White House or who controlled Congress. And it was Ronald Reagan, not Lyndon Johnson or Harry Truman, who signed the largest peacetime tax increases in American history.
But, if liberals succeeded in facilitating economic mobility and bringing an end to Jim Crow, they did so in ways that ultimately constrained their ability to build the kind of egalitarian nation many of them envisioned.
The state erected by liberal state builders in the postwar era provided economic security in largely invisible ways. By funneling federal money to individuals and corporations through the tax code in the form of complicated write-offs, deductions, and credits, liberals essentially erased the government (or at least its successes) from view.
This strategy not only reinforced — and in some cases exacerbated — existing discriminatory patterns in the housing and labor markets that favored white, male workers, but also helped to create the fiction of a “free market” independent of government interference.
THE DEMOCRATIC Party of today is still paying the price for the policy compromises and rhetorical choices liberals made in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate over health care reform.
Much of the opposition to health care reform stems from a fear of government involvement in health care. But, the government is already deeply involved in health care — not only through Medicare, which has provided health security to the vast majority of American seniors for the past 44 years — but in private insurance as well. However, because the government’s role in health care provision is in the form of tax credits to — and regulations on — employers, its role here is all but erased.
Liberals’ response to the misinformation campaign disseminated by special-interest groups and other reform opponents has been tepid at best. Rather than sacrificing the “public option,” liberals should come to the defense of a government that has done so much for so many people — whether they realize it or not.
To do this, liberals will have to push back against 30 years of political rhetoric that assumed, rather than proved, that, in Regan’s famous formulation, “government was the problem.” More, they must combat a 70-year history of liberal policy that obscured its own role in creating economic security and social mobility, and enabled the kind of anti-statist and free-market fundamentalism that has colored and distorted domestic politics.
It’s going to be an uphill battle. And one that Ted Kennedy would have relished.
Molly Michelmore is an assistant professor of history at Washington and Lee University, specializing in 20th century politics.
Uncovering the Graffiti of Pompeii
Today, a kid spray painting a wall with graffiti would probably get arrested.
But 1,900 years ago in Pompeii, Italy, everybody was doing it. They wrote on the exteriors of houses up and down the street, in bath houses and in kitchens. Everything was fair game.
Rebecca Benefiel, assistant professor of classics at Washington and Lee University, has spent the last three years studying the more than 11,000 graffiti in Pompeii. “It’s the only site where we have an entire city’s worth of these messages,” she said.
The graffiti present a combination of writing and drawings, with writing being the more common form of expression. Benefiel said she sees the graffiti as the voice of the people and a lens through which to view ancient society.
For example, while history has not treated the Emperor Nero kindly, he was in fact very popular with the locals in Pompeii. Benefiel came across numerous graffiti saying “Neroni Feliciter,” which roughly translates into “Long Live Nero.”
Of the 100 graffiti praising the different emperors, Benefiel estimates more than half were for Nero. “He was incredibly popular and people loved him. I found a lot of the graffiti at the entrances to houses of the wealthy (who would have had a stake in declaring their support of the imperial regime). But I also found them in places like kitchens and hallways where they could have been put up by servants of the house or slaves. However, after Nero kicked his pregnant wife, killing her and the baby, his popularity waned. But even so, the people didn’t go back and erase all their previous declarations of love.”
It’s the sort of discovery that fascinated and enchanted Benefiel about ancient graffiti.
Interest in the subject has also been surging among other academics. In the past three years, four conferences have been devoted to the topic. By fall 2009, Benefiel will have spoken at three of them.
USA Today also featured Benefiel’s work in an article during the summer of 2009, and she has been interviewed for two programs on the History Channel, due to be aired in early 2010. So far, she has two articles on graffiti in print, with four more articles forthcoming this year. She also has two books in progress and says she has ideas for 15 more articles.
You would think that graffiti nearly 2,000 years old would have been studied extensively by now and that there would be little left to write about.
The reality is that Benefiel is one of few scholars to really study this ancient graffiti of Pompeii. “The graffiti were basically ignored because as one scholar put it, “The graffiti are not written by the kind of people we are most interested in meeting,'” explained Benefiel.
She first came across them in 2005 while researching her dissertation. “They were fundamentally interesting, and I realized that the majority of them had never been studied,” she said.
A major international project begun in the late 1800s documented and cataloged all the Latin inscriptions from the ancient world in every country. Benefiel had worked earlier with stone inscriptions from Rome, but since coming to W&L has focused her studies on the wall-inscription from Pompeii. “They contain a wealth of details about popular culture of the Roman Empire,” she said.
Benefiel added that it was fortunate that the graffiti had been recorded, because many of them have now vanished as the wall plaster they were written on has crumbled.
Two-thirds of Pompeii has been uncovered and is now deteriorating from exposure to strong sunlight, rain, creeping vegetation and tourists. Benefiel said that the authorities have been putting a great effort into preserving the city in the last few years. “But you’re probably not going to see any brand-new excavations any time soon, for that reason,” she said.
Pompeii is unique in its preservation of life as it was in 79 A.D., when Mount Vesuvius erupted. It buried the city with a light pumice stone called lapilli that gradually covered the houses to about the second story during a period of 36 hours. “You can easily shovel the lapilli into a bucket,” said Benefiel. “In a matter of days you’ve got a whole building cleared.”
This means the first stories of buildings are very well preserved, and that is where Benefiel carries out some of her research.
“I really do love Pompeii,” she said. “You can walk through the spaces and feel that people lived here. You can go into someone’s garden or latrine and you know this space because it’s familiar. You’re standing in someone’s house. It’s wonderful for that sense of immediacy.”
These ancient houses all faced inward with an internal court containing a pool and gardens. That left a blank façade facing the street, explained Benefiel, and plenty of space for writing graffiti on what was seen as a public space. In fact all façades of buildings could be written on in every street.
“These walls were huge message boards,” said Benefiel. “What’s really fun is how interactive the graffiti was. It’s fascinating because it shows how engaged the people were in the writing process. They were reading the messages around them and writing responses.”
Benefiel found messages of love exchanged between a man (named Secundus or “Second”) and a woman (named Prima, or “First”) who lived at different ends of a city block.
She discovered a poetry competition with eight messages. “Someone starts off quoting a verse of poetry, and then someone else adds to it and so forth. It’s very interactive and you can see that there are different styles of handwriting.”
Benefiel explained that the graffiti is incised into the wall plaster and all anyone would need was a sharp implement. “It was pretty easy to carve the stucco,” she said. She also found that because it’s much easier to carve a vertical line into the grain of the plaster and harder to make a horizontal line, the three horizontal strokes of the letter E (a common letter in Latin) were turned into two vertical strokes.
The graffiti that is preserved is mostly legible, but Benefiel did need to use a light to cast a sideways shadow to see the incisions better. She said she spends her time measuring, sketching and photographing, but that photographing the graffiti at the same time as holding a light to one side to cast the shadow was impossible.
This past year, thanks to winning the Olivia James Traveling Fellowship from the Archeological Institute of America, Benefiel was able to spend 10 months of the year continuing her research on site. She was finding so much material that she applied for a Lenfest Grant for summer research in order to bring an undergraduate student Pompeii, Jacqueline DiBiasie ’09, to assist her over spring break. Having a second pair of hands and eyes was of tremendous help, allowing her to move more quickly in documenting the graffiti.
“Jackie even discovered a previously unknown graffito, a drawing of a man wearing only a loincloth and dancing,” said Benefiel. DiBiasie begins her Ph.D. in classical archaeology this fall at the University of Texas. When asked about the site, Benefiel said, “Pompeii is so extensive. It has so many nooks and crannies that I’ve spent a summer excavating there, I’ve visited it ten times, and I feel like I’m finally getting to know the city. There is still plenty I haven’t explored and I’m glad about that. There’s always room for discovery. Every time I go back I find something new.”
The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University Wins Online Service Award
The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University (CKWLU) was awarded $1,000 in the national online True Hero™ Competition.
CKWLU was one of the top seven winners of the initial True Hero™ competition, which had 54 student community service projects posted from 32 colleges. Truehero.org, which is a showcase for community service projects on the Internet, went live in early 2009. Over 21,000 people have voted for one of the service projects posted on the website, and over 6,500 have viewed a service project video linked to YouTube.
“A member of our student leadership team, Sarah Thornsberry, discovered this opportunity for us,” said Jenny Sproul, coordinator of The Campus Kitchen at W&L. “It has been incredible to see how much support we received with this project, and we’re thrilled to be a recipient of a $1,000 grant.”
CKWLU is a service organization that uses surplus food collected from campus dining services, catering operations and donations, and then provides nutritious and tasty meals to those in need in the Rockbridge County area.
The organization works with nine agencies in the Rockbridge area providing meals to Habitat for Humanity homes, the Robert E. Lee Hotel apartments, the Manor at Natural Bridge, Rockbridge Area Hospice, Project Horizon, the Lexington City Office on Youth’s afterschool program, the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center, Magnolia Center and Waddell Head Start. The food they cook and deliver is based on the needs of each agency.
The Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee was started by Ingrid Easton ’06. After completing her internship in the Shepherd Poverty Program, part of which was working at the Campus Kitchens Project national headquarters in Washington D.C., she believed she had found her calling–to start a non-profit to help the needy. Easton spent her senior year creating and organizing a Campus Kitchen on the W&L campus.
Missouri Mad Men
We’re guessing that Washington and Lee alumnus Brent Beshore (Class of 2005) doesn’t necessarily have three-martini lunches a la Don Draper of Mad Men. But suggests that Brent’s early success as an adman is mindful of TV’s Draper, the creative director of Sterling Cooper. In Brent’s case, the firm is called Pure Marketing and Media. Brent is the 26-year-old CEO and co-owner of the Columbia, Mo., based company that has about 50 clients, projected annual revenue of more than $3 million, two subsidiary companies and 26 employees. The W&L politics major was working toward a master’s degree in business administration and law at the University of Missouri when he began a company called Event Solutions. Eventually he would pair up with a partner to form the new group, which is distinguished by including an audio and video production company, Arable Entertainment, and a research company, Insight. You can compare Brent’s work with Don Draper’s on the Pure Marketing Web site.
Washington Post Profiles W&L Law Alum
Jonathan Keiler is a 1984 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law. After four years as an Army Judge Advocate General officer and then moved to a private law firm in Bethesda, Md., before he changed course altogether and began teaching social studies at Bowie High School in Prince Georges County, Md. Earlier this week Jonathan was the subject of a fascinating article in the Washington Post where education columnist Jay Mathews disclosed how Jonathan nearly lost his job because he didn’t have the requisite credits for certification. What was particularly interesting is that, according to Mathews’ piece, the school system was giving him no credits for his three years at W&L’s School of Law, which Mathews called “one of the nation’s top law schools.” Just as Mathews’ piece was going to press, the school system relented, and Jonathan won’t lose his job. The certification issues notwithstanding, this is a profile of an excellent teacher and coach of the schools’ Mock Trial team. You can read Mathews’ story, “When a Gifted Teacher Has to Jump Through Hoops Just to Keep His Job, Change Is Needed,” here.
Is It the Shoes?
Coye Nokes graduated from Washington and Lee in 1997 with a major in business administration and worked for a time in London as a financial consultant. As the story goes, the part of the job that Coye found most difficult was finding a pair of shoes that were appropriate for her business attire and didn’t hurt her feet. The solution? The Coye Nokes collection of shoes debuted this fall and has quickly garnered impressive reviews in the fashion press. For instance, Daily Candy praises Coye’s shoes as “a collection of sleek styles in various heights that is as comfy as it is classy.” In a story in FootwearPlus, Coye says that “work shoes don’t have to be dull and boring.” Her shoes are handmade in the Marche region of Italy and are available online at the Coye Nokes Website.
Cooking (and Thinking) with Brys Stephens
What are you craving? That’s what Washington and Lee alumnus Brys Stephens of the Class of 1995 wants you to ask yourself when you go to the Web to search for a recipe. Brys and a longtime friend Chip Brantley are the creators of the Web site, Cookthink. As they explain, “We wanted to create a cleaner, smarter recipe website, something with consistently good recipes, more efficient search, better resources and friendly advice.” So if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking to cook, Cookthink lets you search by categories like mood (eg, hangover-friendly), ingredient (eg, chicken), cuisine (eg, Tex-Mex) and dish type (eg, quesadilla). In an article in the Birmingham News about Cookthink, Brys explained that he had completed a clerkship with a judge in Washington, D.C., when he talked with friends who had started an Internet company, and he decided to try one with food as the theme. Try out the site but don’t miss the blog where Brys and his partner post on everything from how to cook fresh shrimp to such unusual recipes as Savory Parmesan Quinoa Cakes.
Kaylee Hartung Unplugged
- Kaylee Hartung
Earlier this year CBS News began a new Web-only video feature called Washington Unplugged, a weekly, 15-minute program hosted by veteran newsman Bob Schieffer. More recently, they’ve added a new segment called “Unplugged Under 40,” which is hosted by Washington and Lee alumna Kaylee Hartung of the Class of 2007. Kaylee is Schieffer’s assistant on Face the Nation and visited W&L with her boss last spring when he spoke to journalism students. With Unplugged Under 40, she’s getting her shot in front of the camera and has done some really interesting interviews with a variety of up-and-comers in Washington. Some of her interviews have included the 28 year-old executive editor of DC magazine, “The Washingtonian,” Garrett Graff, White House Deputy Press Secretary Jen Psaki, 28-year-old Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock, and chef and restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn. Be sure to check out the view comments left at the end of those videos, too.
W&L Professor Curates “Modern Patrons” Exhibit
Modern Patrons: Donations of Twentieth Century Art to the University Collection opens on Sept. 1 in Staniar Gallery in Wilson Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee University.
Curated by W&L Art History Professor Pamela H. Simpson, the exhibition focuses on significant donors by examining the nature of their collections, their connection to Washington and Lee and the historical context of their gifts.
Modern Patrons: Donations of Twentieth Century Art to the University Collection will be on view in Staniar Gallery through Oct. 2. Simpson will be giving a curator’s talk on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Concert Hall of Wilson Hall. The lecture will be followed by a reception in the atrium outside the Concert Hall and is free and open to the public.
Washington and Lee has received many generous donations of art over the years and this exhibit showcases important 20th-century artwork presented to the University. Shown together for the first time, the paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures representing these important gifts offer a glimpse into the history of W&L’s unique art collection. Sydney and Frances Lewis, Euchlin and Louise Herreshoff Reeves, Jacob and Bernice Weinstein, John Poynor, Stan Kamen and Keith Shillington are among those whose donations will be featured.
“The paintings and sculpture they contributed constitute a fine teaching collection,” says Simpson. “Together they tell a story about the love of art and the love of this university.”
Staniar Gallery is located on the second floor of Wilson Hall, in Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call 540-458-8861.
When Hannah Kate Mitchell, a senior business administration major at Washington and Lee, returns to Lexington and is asked what she did during her summer vacation, she can simply point people to one of the more popular videos on YouTube in the past month. Hannah Kate spent the summer in Boulder, Colo., as a full-time intern in the strategic planning department of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, where she helped develop the brand platform for the campaign for Brammo Powercycles. In addition, she developed research, presentation decks, conducted interviews, assisted in writing creative briefs, intercepts and even attended client meetings and other work for clients such as Dominos, Best Buy, Guitar Hero, American Express, Burger King and Coke Zero. Hannah Kate got the lead for her internship from alumnus Scott Miller of the Class of 1967. So all of that sounds fairly normal for an intern. But this was not normal at all. The considerable talents and services of Hannah Kate and her 37 fellow interns at Crispin Porter were auctioned off on eBay earlier this summer. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Brammo bid nearly $18,000 to get the interns to work on the project. You can see how the work went on the interns’ blog. OK, so all of that is pretty cool. But there’s more. The interns put together a rap video about what it’s like to be an intern, posted it to YouTube and got attention from all over, including this article on the Huffington Post. The video has received more than 52,000 views. If you haven’t seen it, take a look and you’ll know how Hannah Kate spent her summer vacation:
Law Students Return to Revamped Third Year
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Reid Named University Ombuds
Jane Ellen Reid has contracted with Washington and Lee University to provide services as the first university ombuds. She offers a neutral, independent, informal and confidential way for all employees of W&L to address work-related or other campus concerns.
Reid has extensive experience in conflict resolution, mediation and third-party intervention. “I came into mediation as a result of growing conflict at one place of employment,” she said. “Several colleagues and I collaborated to create an oversight group and a declaration of civility, and to outline positive and professional behaviors expected of all employees. This experience was the beginning of my commitment to the usefulness of conflict intervention.”
Reid continued, “I hope that my fundamental belief that each of us has the ability to name and communicate our needs to others is evident in my practice. As an ombuds, I relish the opportunity to work with parties, to help them discover their own capacity to address difficult conversations and to resolve conflict. Coaching individuals in the art of productive communication is one of the most satisfying aspects of my practice.”
W&L created the ombuds position after a seven-person working group of faculty and staff, appointed by President Ken Ruscio, recommended its establishment to afford employees a neutral and confidential person to talk to about work-related issues. The group held extensive discussions with staff and faculty and studied similar programs at other educational institutions.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Jane Ellen Reid’s expertise to provide this new resource for W&L faculty and staff,” said Ruscio. “Her background in informal conflict resolution is a perfect fit and will serve our campus community well.”
From 1988 to 1991, Reid worked at the Western Pinal County Literacy Program in Casa Grande, Ariz. She began working at Central Arizona College, in Coolidge, Ariz., in 1992, where she directed the academic support center until 2006. During her tenure there, Reid also developed and directed the college ombudsman program, chaired the college advisory council and served as faculty development coordinator.
In 2006, Reid joined Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), Harrisonburg, Va., co-teaching in the Center for Justice and Peace Building Master’s Program. In 2007, she became the director of University Accord, EMU’s mediation, facilitation and job-coaching program for faculty, staff and students. She also teaches introduction to conflict transformation at Bridgewater College, in Bridgewater, Va.
Reid holds a B.A. in history from the University of Vermont and an M.E. from Northern Arizona University, and is studying for a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution from NOVA Southeastern University.
The services of the ombuds at W&L will include:
- Providing impartial, confidential consultation to all employees
- Helping employees and supervisors resolve conflicts
- Teaching skills for dispute resolution
- Providing mediation
- Helping employees understand and interpret policies and procedures
Critically Acclaimed Novelist and Former Botswana High Court Judge visits School of Law
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More Praise for Domnica Radulescu's Novel
The paperback version of Washington and Lee Professor of Romance Languages Domnica Radulescu’s acclaimed debut novel, , is out this month and features praise from Bernhard Schlink, author of the international best-selling novel The Reader. Schlink, who spoke on the Washington and Lee campus last year, said this about Domnica’s novel: “A coming of age story, a struggle for political integrity and female identity, a wonderful love story — engages us on many levels.” (In addition to the paperback version, Amazon Kindle users can download the novel.) The British bookstore chain, W.H. Smith, is displaying the paperback version in the “This Week Everybody’s Talking About” section of its stores. And earlier this week Domnica was interviewed on the BBC program Woman’s Hour. You can listen to the interview on our Sound Bites page or below:
W&L Professor Lesley Wheeler’s Debut Book of Poetry Garners Praise
When Lesley Wheeler attended Catholic high school her nickname was “heathen.”
“It was a very dislocating experience. My family was irreligious and it’s still not entirely clear why they sent me there. Maybe they thought I’d do better in a single sex environment,” she said.
Since then, Wheeler, professor of English and department head at Washington and Lee University, has always identified with that particular word, hence the title of her debut book of poetry Heathen (C&R Press, 2009).
The book is the culmination of the last 10 years of poetry writing for Wheeler. “It’s basically about my thoughts during those years. I think most of the poems circulate around a feeling of being outside of organized religion,” she explained.
The poems are not all directly about religion. “Sometimes I take the word heathen in a larger sense to mean someone who is outside of the civilized space, outside of the pale,'” she said. “The book considers the various ideas or pleasures that can take the place of religion in a person’s life, particularly the natural world and raising children.”
The latter, along with literature and teaching, has occupied a lot of Wheeler’s time over the past few years, but she still found time for writing. Heathen consists of 55 poems whittled down from over 100 she considered for the book.
“I do write a lot,” she said. “It’s a very important practice to me. There’s something about the space I get into when I write poems. Maybe it’s spiritually satisfying, but it does calm me and center me in a way that nothing else does.”
Wheeler said that she wrote a lot of the poems at a moment when “they suddenly articulated something that I was struggling to put together.” The result has certainly resonated with reviewers who have described it as “wildly ambitious,” “exquisite” and “sheer magic.”
“Wheeler strikes an impossible balance between the wildly witty and tenderly elegant detail,” writes one reviewer. Another calls Heathen a “wildly ambitious first collection,” and adds “We are richer for this keen gaze, for this poet’s vision.”
The creativity in the book is not limited to the poetry. The cover is an image of pastel on parchment created by a friend of Wheeler’s who is both a poet and a painter. “To me they look like eggs. I think it suggests a sense of possibility, of something about to happen. There’s a line in a poem by Emily Dickinson that reads “Still at the Egg-life–/Chafing the shell,” and I’ve always thought of myself as still in the egg life.
“My 8-year-old son says they look like dragon eggs and I like that too,” she said.
Another creative element on the cover is Wheeler’s signature. She described it as literally a “literary font,” since the designer created her name out of elements of Mark Twain’s signature.
Wheeler’s book is available at the University Store and on line at Amazon.
A reading of the poems will be held in the Staniar gallery at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18. It is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served.
Losing the News
Washington and Lee alumnus Alex Jones of the Class of 1968 is a newspaperman at heart — a fourth-generation newspaperman, in fact, from Tennessee. In his new book, Losing the News, Alex explores what is at stake if we lose the fact-based reporting that was once the standard for the news business. On Tuesday, Alex talked about his new book with Terry Gross on the popular National Public Radio show, Fresh Air. You can list to the complete interview at this link where you’ll also find an excerpt from the book. You can also read a transcript of the interview here. Whether you listen or read what Alex has to say, you’ll find that he makes some critically important observations on the news business. One of those points is his distinction between the “news of verification” and the “news of assertion.” As he says in the Fresh Air interview, opinion (the “news of assertion”) is cheap. “You don’t have to go out and report. All you have to do is give your opinion, and especially if you can make it an aggressive and edgy, an angry opinion and gets into a fight with somebody, that makes good television, that makes good commentary, and a lot of people seem to want that. I think that’s where we’re headed right now unless we do something about it.” Alex, currently director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, and his wife, Susan Tifft, were awarded honorary degrees by W&L in June, and Alex will be back in Lexington in October to talk about his new book during the Five-Star Generals Reunion.
Best Dressed Alums?
When Vanity Fair published its 2009 International Best-Dressed List this month, Washington and Lee folks might have expected that at least one prominent University alumnus might be among those chosen for their stylish couture. But they might not have guessed which alumnus that might be. In fact, it’s not the man in the white suit. Fear not, however, Tom Wolfe is actually a member of the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame, having been elected in 1984. But this year the W&L representative is 81-year-old artist Cy Twombly. You can find his photo and description on page 16 of the online gallery (apparently that doesn’t mean he’s 16th on the list following President Obama who is on page 15). The magazine list his personal style as “rumpled artist” and lists is signature look at “blue-and-white-striped shirts with linen or flannel pants and custom-made jackets.” And for the record, Tom Wolfe is also present in the same Vanity Fair issue, having contributed the article, “The Rich Have Feelings, Too,” which is on page 312 of the print version but does not appear online. You’ll find some watercolors depicting Mr. Wolfe on an airpline to accompany his piece about rejoining commercial fliers.
New W&L Law Professor Trains the World’s Lawyers
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W&L Preparing for H1N1 Influenza
With the return of students to its campus imminent, Washington and Lee University is launching an information campaign to alert the community to the threat of the novel H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu.
W&L experienced more than a dozen confirmed cases of the virus last May when the outbreaks first began around the country and the world.
In a presentation at the Governors Preparedness Conference in Richmond earlier this month, Dr. Jane Horton, director of student health and counseling at Washington and Lee, said that colleges and universities will be on the front line for influenza outbreaks this fall and winter with both season and novel H1N1 viruses likely to be circulating.
“Social distancing and personal protection guidelines will need to be adopted early and followed consistently by a significant proportion of the college or university community to slow spread of the virus,” Horton told the conference. “Effective education of all students, faculty and staff will be a key to success.”
With that in mind, W&L Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dawn Watkins has begun to initiate a series of steps that will begin with the arrival of students later this month.
“We will use all the tools at our disposal to reach the returning students and alert them to this very real threat. In addition, we’ll be communicating consistently with faculty and staff and keeping the entire community informed on our situation,” said Watkins. “Not only do we plan to use normal channels for communication but we anticipate some mention of the flu in almost every venue possible, including convocations, athletic events, and special town hall meetings.”
A special Web site, which was developed last May when flu cases were active on the campus, will continue to be a primary communication tool. The address for that site is go.wlu.edu/health.
Communications to the entire University community will include information on respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene, which are essential to reducing the spread of influenza and other respiratory infections. One particular focus of the communication among students will be a reminder about the potential for transmission at parties where beverage cups are often shared.
“We realized in the spring that this practice had great potential to spread the virus and began including that warning among the other health practices we were recommending,” Watkins said. “We will continue to emphasize that this fall as one central feature of our communications program.”
Among the challenges that the novel H1N1 virus presents, according to Horton, is that many people may not recognize they have the flu since its symptoms have often not been severe.
“If someone has just a cold or sore throat and does connect this with H1N1, they will likely not follow the isolation guidelines, which now suggest that self-isolate for at least 24 hours after their fever has gone in order to avoid making other sick,” Horton said.
On the other hand, the potential for many individuals to want to take antiviral medication may pose challenges as well, Horton said, since the use of such medication is recommended only for individuals at risk of complications from influenza, and overuse will drain resources and may increase the risk of the virus developing resistance to current antiviral medications.
Horton also told the Richmond conference that both seasonal and novel H1N1 influenza virus immunization programs for students, faculty and staff will be important in trying to slow or minimize the impact of influenza. Washington and Lee plans to participate in the immunization program for the novel H1N1 influenza virus for target populations as it is developed by the Virginia Department of Health, as well as offering the seasonal influenza vaccine.
New Web Look for Generals Sports
A new Web site for Washington and Lee’s 23 varsity athletics teams has been unveiled at generalssports.com. According to Brian Laubscher, W&L’s sports information director, the site will have several new features, integration of video. There will also be enhanced photography and scoreboards, a new blog and newsletter. An archives of W&L athletics will continue to be available, featuring information dating back to the original launch of a Generals athletics site in 1995-96. Be sure to check out the facilities section for brand new aerial photos of the Duchossois Outdoor Athletics Facilities Complex taken this month by W&L photographer Kevin Remington.
W&L Magazine, Summer 2009: Vol. 84 | No. 3
Everyone in the Pool!
A blog post on a site called College Explorations that is written by an independent counselor, Nancy Griesemer, is bound to interest Washington and Lee graduates (and current and future students, too). As Nancy explains in the blog, she toured W&L recently and heard the tour guide refer to the University’s swimming requirement. The guide said that W&L is one of eight colleges that have such a requirement, which is what an Associated Press story indicated back in 2006 when the University of North Carolina abandoned its requirement. But Nancy’s research, which was reported in that blog post, showed that nine institutions (not including the service academies) still have such a test, and she provided her list:
- Bryn Mawr College
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth University
- Hamilton College
- Notre Dame University
- Swarthmore College
- Washington and Lee University
Several people responded to the blog that VMI (state-supported institution and thus not a service academy) has a requirement. But in checking with VMI, it’s not quite that simple. Cadets are required to take a swimming course. Those who can’t swim take a basic course, and a swim test is part of the course. But beyond that there is no swim test required for graduation. (Some ROTC students at VMI have requirements but for ROTC, not VMI.) Lest anyone has forgotten, W&L men’s swimming coach Joel Shinofield reminds that the test requires 50 yards (up and back in the Cy Twombly Pool) in under one minute followed by five minutes of treading water.
W&L Researchers Explore a Noisy Theory of Aging
We know that as people age their responses and decision-making processes slow down. What we don’t know exactly is why this happens.
Wythe Whiting, associate professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, hypothesizes this may be due to a breakdown of the brain’s neural circuitry, resulting in what he calls “neural noise.” “This means we lose neural connections and we process information at a slower rate,” he said.
Whiting and two W&L students have been testing his theory this summer in W&L’s Cognitive Lab, with interesting results.
They compared the responses of a group of young adults 18 to 29 years old with a group of adults 60 years and older. There were 32 individuals in each group.
The test subjects were asked to look at a computer monitor and pick out target lines that were different from other lines. For example, they needed to find the green line among the orange lines or the line that tilts left instead of right. Noise was added in the form of visual static on the computer screen.
“If older adults already have, as I’ve hypothesized, more neural noise, and you exacerbate it by adding more noise, then the older adults should be much slower in identifying the target lines than the younger adults,” Whiting explained. “Basically, the faster they identify the lines, the healthier their nervous system is.”
The research team found that the older adults were disproportionately more susceptible to the static noise than the younger adults.
In a previous experiment, Whiting had found that older and younger adults were affected similarly by the external noise. But that was because the subjects knew what they were looking for. “They might get a whole series of trials where the target was always green among orange distracters,” he said. “That familiarity meant they could ignore the noise fairly easily.”
This summer that experiment was altered. “We made the experiment so that subjects didn’t know what the target feature was going to be,” explained Whiting. “When they didn’t really know what to look for, when they simply had to find the odd item, then they were much more susceptible to the noise.
“In the first experiment they had used their experience and knowledge to filter out the noise. When they didn’t have that to rely on, the older adults had more difficulty coping than the younger adults.”
Whiting used driving an automobile as an example.
“You may know how to drive a car, but the problem is when you have some distracting feature such as the noise of heavy rain. If you’re driving in the rain with degrading visual signals, as long as you’re traveling along your usual route you’re going to do fine. But when you have to travel to a new location in the rain and you’re looking for a street sign that you’ve never seen before, then it’s going to be more difficult” he said.
Camille Sample, a rising junior with a neuroscience major, said that she was surprised at how distracting the static noise was to the older adults. “I wasn’t really expecting that,” she said.
For both Sample and Katie Blackburn, a rising junior and psychology major, this was their first research project. “The entire process has been really interesting,” said Blackburn.” I had no idea of all the steps that are involved, from designing the tests and conducting them to analyzing the data. I’ve learned a lot.”
“I think it’s interesting that the students get to learn all the nitty-gritty details of what research and the scientific process is all about,” said Whiting. “It’s very precise and controlled and you can’t have a single small error. It has to be just right.”
Whiting has been working on aging and cognition research since 1993, and said he has tested close to one thousand adults. He has published articles about his research in the journal Psychology and Aging. The last article was the first that resulted from his research while at W&L, and a student who assisted in the research was named as a co-author.
Both Sample and Blackburn are R. E. Lee Research Scholars. Sample’s support was funded through the Levy Neuroscience Endowment for student summer research.
R.E. Lee Research Scholars are part of the University’s undergraduate research program which is in its fifth decade of operation. It was founded in 1960 by an 1899 graduate. Students must be nominated by their professors to be R.E. Lee Research Scholars. It involves either assisting a professor in research or carrying out a student-planned project under the supervision of a professor.
W&L Alum's First Book of Poetry Published
No Loneliness, the first book of poetry by Washington and Lee alumnus Temple Cone of the Class of 1995, has just been published by FutureCycle Press, which awarded Temple its first annual FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize. Although this is his first book of poetry, Temple is the author of five chapbooks of poetry and has also published two critical reference books. He’s an assistant professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. After receiving his B.A. in philosophy from W&L, Temple went on to earn the Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin, an MA in creative writing from Hollins, and an MFA in creative writing from U.Va. He has won several awards for his poetry, some of which is linked from his Web site. Here is one of the poems from No Loneliness:
Every hour’s its own season, I wrote once,
Wishing, of course, that the best hours could last
Long as bayside summers or those Christmas
Holidays we remember from years past.
But the proof of happiness is that it’s brief.
We mix cakes with salt, listen to sad songs,
Squeeze a bit of lemon into our tea,
For no tongue can savor sweetness too long.
Yet some mornings, once May gives way to heat,
We notice hints of gold along the leaves,
Or sense, when winter’s hold seems complete,
Blossoms lodged in icicles under eaves.
So yes, parting’s hell, but it’s also heaven,
And makes farewell a prayer we believe in.
Two Decades of Coaching
About five days after Mark Zavatsky graduated from Washington and Lee in 1987, he started teaching summer school back at his secondary school alma mater, the Linsly School in Wheeling, W.Va. He’s still there, teaching math but also coaching the golf team. As a feature article in the Wheeling Intelligencer and News-Register noted this week, Mark is finishing his second decade as the Cadets’ head coach this year. He started off as an assistant but was soon elevated to the head coach. He was 25 at the time. In those 20 seasons, as the article goes on to note, Navatsky’s teams have won 14 Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championships.
They'll Miss Him in Miami
Readers of the Miami Herald’s business section have probably gotten accustomed to seeing Joel Poelhuis’s by-line this summer. Joel, who is from Evansville, Ind., starts his senior year as a journalism major at W&L this fall. At the Herald since June, he has written about everything from the “Cash-for-Clunkers” program to a Miami hot dog king’s plans for a reality TV show. Talk about hands-on: Joel’s had about three dozen or so by-lines this summer, and he and fellow Herald intern, Clifford Marks of Harvard, were paid a nice compliment in an editor’s note this week when Jane Woodridge, the executive business editor, noted that they’ve brought “hard work, determination and fresh prisms to the many stories they’ve written.” It’s fun to see the variety of stories that Joel has written. You can find an index of his stories here.
W&L Team Tracking Potential New Salamander Species
They’ve been living on a small ridge in the Blue Ridge mountains probably for centuries, but only now are they being discovered.
What may prove to be a new species of salamander is being investigated in the George Washington National Forest by a Washington and Lee University professor and his students.
“I think it’s very exciting from a local biodiversity perspective,” said David Marsh, associate professor of biology at W&L.
“Some peaks in the Blue Ridge mountains are the equivalent of the Galapagos Islands for salamanders,” said Marsh. “These mountains never had glaciers, so salamanders have been up there for a very long time. Groups of salamanders probably became isolated on some of the ridgetops and went off on their own evolutionary trajectories.”
Marsh and two W&L students have spent the summer conducting ongoing research into a possible new species called the Sherando salamander. It lives on top of a tiny ridge 20 miles north of the University’s Lexington campus. The range of the salamander appears to be only about six kilometers long and to extend three kilometers on each side.
“We want to find out if the Sherando is, in fact, a new species,” said Marsh. “Where on the ridge does this new salamander begin and the other more common Red Back salamander, which lives further down the ridge, stop? How did the Sherando get on top of this one little ridge top by itself? How long has it been isolated?”
W&L junior Claire Bayer and senior Andrew Sackman are both biology majors who have spent the summer trying to answer these questions. They have been catching the salamanders, taking samples and then testing their DNA in the lab. Bayer is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Fellow; Sackman is a R.E. Lee Research Scholar.
Although this summer’s work has been primarily in the lab, the students started their research catching the salamanders in the field during a spring term class on field biology, since salamanders are most active in the spring and easier to find.
Easier is a relative term.
“We flipped over rocks, turned over lots of logs, and dug through leaf litter to try and find them,” said Bayer. “Sometimes we would search for two or three hours and find only one or two salamanders.”
The salamanders are small – their bodies are about four centimeters long with their tails adding another two or three centimeters. So they’re hard to spot in the first place. But it’s also difficult to distinguish between the Sherando and Red Back salamanders. Marsh described the Red Back as “a little brown thing with a red stripe. It’s by far the most common amphibian in the eastern United States and the two species look very similar at first glance. This is one reason new species are still being discovered.”
But the new species does have some differences. For example, the limbs of the Sherando salamander tend to be longer and the trunk is shorter because they have fewer ribs. Measuring those characteristics helped the students identify the new species.
Once they caught the salamanders, the students pinched off a little bit of tissue from the tail to take back to campus for analysis. “It’s actually the least destructive technique to gather tissue samples,” said Marsh, “because salamanders regrow their tails naturally.”
Marsh explained that classifying the salamanders based on how they look is just preliminary, and that the main classification is done back in the lab.
Bayer said that although she prefers field work and seeing the creatures in their natural environment, the lab work is interesting. “We extract the DNA from our tissue samples and go through several steps to purify it and make sure there are no contaminants. Then we use a machine to sequence the DNA.
“We look at the string of letters we get from this sequencing. If all the Sherandos look one way and all the Red Backs look different, then we know we have two different species. But if the two species actually have some DNA in common. then that would prove they are interbreeding where their habitats overlap.”
But it’s not that clear cut. Bayer said it depends on your definition of species.
“Some scientists say that if they interbreed at all and have fertile offspring then they are not a new species. Other people say that even if they interbreed, as long as their DNA is different, then they are a different species,” she said.
So what will happen if the Sherando is determined to be a new species?
Marsh said that the salamanders are found mostly on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and added that the Forest Service is paying for a good chunk of this work, “because they are responsible for managing all the rare species on Forest Service land. If this turns out to be a new species, it will be one of the most spatially restricted species in North America. It will affect how the Forest Service manages these lands and may affect timber harvesting policy, mining and other things that go on in the area.”
Marsh said the research has progressed well this summer, and the W&L team hopes to provide the Forest Service with a definitive answer on the Sherando salamander by the fall.
R.E. Lee Research Scholars are part of the University’s undergraduate research program and is in its fifth decade of operation. It was founded in 1960 by an 1899 graduate. Students must be nominated by their professors to be R.E. Lee Research Scholars. It involves either assisting a professor in research or carrying out a student-planned project under the supervision of a professor.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grants include a research preparation course during a student’s first Spring Term as a Fellow plus two intensive summer research periods with a chosen faculty mentor as well as academic year research opportunities with faculty mentor. Students are selected through an application process.
Keep Tabs on W&L Twitterers
Are you on Twitter? Two Washington and Lee alumni are currently Tweeting from their respective news desks in Atlanta, and their Tweets are both worth following. Tricia Coughlin Escobedo of the Class of 1995 is a news writer at CNN where she writes mostly about international news. (You can also sample her non-Tweet writing by following CNN. She wrote this piece in advance of President Obama’s visit to Ghana last month, for instance.) Her Twitter feed at triciaCNN is more wide-ranging and has a lot of interesting references about international and national stories. Then there is Charlie Gay of the Class of 1989 who is the Sunday News Editor for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. His Twitter is ajcsundayeditor, and he writes mostly about pieces coming up in the AJC. Earlier we recommended following both Politico’s Mike Allen (Class of 1986) whose Twitter feed is mikeallen and the Wall Street Journal’s Kelly Evans at kelly_evans. But if you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to follow wlunews, whatever you do.
Economics Research Examining Whether the World Is Really Flat
When you think about research into global economics, the cost of lipstick and toilet paper is hardly the first thing that comes to mind.
But that is precisely what Katie Boiles and Ian Sturdy, both economics majors and R. E. Lee Research Scholars at Washington and Lee University, have been researching this summer. Along with light bulbs, bottles of wine and toasters, they are looking at the prices of nearly 200 products around the world.
It’s all part of research that Michael Anderson, professor of economics at W&L, is pursuing in order to contribute to an ongoing conversation among economists as to whether the world is economically flat.
“There is this idea in the popular literature that there are no longer any frictions in the world market, and that markets are integrated,” he explained. “It really doesn’t matter anymore whether you are in Boston or Bangkok in order to compete in the American market. This was best represented by Thomas Friedman in his book ‘The World is Flat.'”
Anderson explained that if you can buy a toaster in Miami for the same price as in Manila, then that shows an economically flat world. But if the prices are significantly different, taking legitimate differences in price such as local taxes into account, then that shows friction between the markets.
There is, however, substantial literature that finds that frictions in markets are in fact enormously large. Seemingly innocuous borders, such as the one between Canada and the United States, provide all manner of market separations.
One purpose of Anderson’s research is to try to get some insight into whether that is true or not.
The team’s research also examines how well markets are integrating over time, and whether these market frictions are changing or constant.
To illustrate the importance of the research, Anderson said, “If we live in a world where distance and borders are very important, then that says something about the way the world is ordered, and that we really are separated from each other around the globe. Conversely, if we find the opposite, then we can argue that nations are no longer the important structures they used to be. So the kind of world we live in, how we understand ourselves, is going to be determined in a limited part, by the kind of research we are doing.”
That thinking appeals to Sturdy, a rising sophomore, who said he sees economics as one of the most interesting and pragmatic sides of how the world works and humans interact. “I didn’t have many strong preconceptions going into this research, but it has been a new experience. I was a bit surprised at how confusing the data could be.”
Boiles, a rising senior, said she was amazed at the scope of the data they were examining. “I didn’t fully realize that we would be working on data over a period of 20 years, nearly 200 goods and 120 cities. That’s millions of price comparisons that we are working with hands-on. I’ve never worked on something of that magnitude before.”
Their work hasn’t been without its frustration. The two students described working on data for a sizeable portion of the first few weeks only to discover that they had been sent the wrong information.
Anderson was sympathetic but pointed out that research is, first, a flash of inspiration but after that “it is long distance running in the rain.”
Despite that setback, Boiles said she really appreciated being a Robert E. Lee Research Scholar and gaining such valuable experience as an undergraduate. “It will be valuable to me in graduate school. I’m also hoping to use this data and the work we’ve done to contribute to my honors thesis next year. It’s going to make my task a lot easier because I’m now familiar with the work.”
Anderson said he also really appreciated the R. E. Lee program.
“It’s a joy to find students like Ian and Katie, who have obvious talents, and to see the productivity of my research increase by virtue of working with them. I’m very thankful because it would be hard for me to conduct research at this level without their help.”
R.E. Lee Research Scholars are part of the University’s undergraduate research program and is in its fifth decade of operation. It was founded in 1960 by an 1899 graduate. Students must be nominated by their professors to be R.E. Lee Research Scholars. It involves either assisting a professor in research or carrying out a student-planned project under the supervision of a professor.
Another Alum Nominated by Obama
Robert J. Grey Jr., a 1976 graduate of W&L’s School of Law and a current member of the Board of Trustees, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to the board of the Legal Services Corporation. Announcement of the nomination was made on Thursday in a news release from the White House. Robert, who is a partner with the Richmond law firm Hunton & Williams, becomes the second W&L alum to be nominated to a post by Obama. Meredith Atwell Baker of the Class of 1990 was nominated and ultimately confirmed as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. The Legal Services Corporation was established by Congress in 1974 and, as a private, nonprofit corporation, is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. In announcing the nomination, the White House cited, in particular, Robert’s tenure as president of the American Bar Association from 2004-2005 during which he led programs to increase diversity in the legal profession and instituted the American Jury Initiative to educate the public on the importance of service. He currently serves as the vice chair of the Hunton & Williams Community Service Committee.
A Gathering of Generals
Tyler Suiters, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1991, has a blog called “Energy on Capitol Hill” where he posts items dealing with his work as a reporter and anchor for Clean Skies News, which covers events and trends at the intersection of energy and the environment. Tyler’s work can be seen both on the Clean Skies Web site and on Clean Skies Sunday, half-hour weekly show that airs each Sunday on Washington’s WJLA-TV at 9:30 a.m. Tyler’s blog item that caught our attention was posted on Wednesday (Aug. 5). The entry is titled “A ‘General’ Climate Discussion” and describes Tyler’s interview with fellow W&L General Sen. John W. Warner (Class of 1949). He included a great photo of him with Sen. Warner and another W&L alumnus, Ian McAllister of the Class of 2002 who is a photojournalist/director with Clean Skies. You can watch Tyler’s interview with Sen. Warner (and Ian’s directing) at this link. Incidentally, Sen. Warner will be the feature story in the forthcoming issue of the W&L Alumni Magazine, so watch for that. And be sure to scroll down in Tyler’s blog for another set of images of him and Ian preparing for a telecast in France. You can watch all Tyler’s interviews on the Clean Skies site, too.
Now You See It…
Within the blink of an eye, or so it seemed, the view up West Washington Street was altered dramatically on Tuesday when Howard House came tumbling down. As preparation work ramped up for the construction of W&L’s new Hillel House on the site, the old white house that had been home to numerous and varied University departments (most recently special programs and human resources) over the years became a heap of rubble. As the remains are loaded onto trucks and hauled away in coming days, the $4-million project (thanks to last-minute funding at the spring Trustees meeting) will move forward. In six minute you can watch Howard House come down through time-lapse photography:
Memorial Service Set for W&L Emeritus History Professor Robert McAhren
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 19, for Robert McAhren, professor of history emeritus at Washington and Lee University, who died Aug. 4 at Stonewall Jackson Hospital. He was 73.
The service will be at 11 a.m. in the Lee Chapel with the Rev. William M. Klein of Lexington Presbyterian Church presiding. A reception will follow at the Alumni House.
“Bob was a generous and dedicated teacher whose contributions to this community, to his students and to his colleagues went well beyond his work in the classroom,” said Washington and Lee University President Ken Ruscio. “He was a trusted adviser to his colleagues and widely respected for his judgment and principled values.”
McAhren was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He attended Southern Methodist University, earning a B.A. with high honors. He then received his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 1967. He was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honor society, and Phi Beta Kappa.
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He joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 1966 as an instructor in history and progressed through the faculty ranks to full professor in 1975. He taught courses in early American history and American social and intellectual history.
From 1971 to 1977, he served as associate dean of the college. He was named acting head of the department of history during the 1986-87 academic year and then served two five-year terms as the head of the department from 1988 through 1998.
In 1990, McAhren was named chairman of the University’s Institutional Effectiveness Committee, which was responsible for strategic planning based on surveys of students, faculty and alumni opinion about the University. McAhren’s leadership of that committee set the groundwork for the University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness. He was the editor of the University’s Self-Study Report for 1998 and instrumental in establishing both a five-year and long-range plan.
In 2000, he chaired the Faculty Task Force on Inclusiveness at Washington and Lee. That task force eventually gained committee status. Among the initiatives for which the task force was responsible was the addition of sexual orientation in the University’s non-discrimination statement and greater recruitment efforts for students and faculty of color.
“Bob was a dedicated teacher and gifted administrator proud of his work in planning, pedagogy, and his contributions to making Washington and Lee a diverse and inclusive community. We miss him greatly,” said David Peterson, head of the department of history.
In his personal life, McAhren loved opera and cats, was an avid collector of model trains and belonged to That Club, of Lexington.
He is survived by his longtime friend and partner, Thomas Oxendine.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in McAhren’s honor to Washington and Lee University in care of the Office of Development, 204 West Washington St., Lexington, VA 24450-2116 or to the Rockbridge SPCA, 10 Animal Place, P.O. Box 528, Lexington, VA 24450.
Pamela White Named Mary Washington Trustee
The Honorable Pamela J. White, a 1977 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law and a former trustee of the University, has been appointed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine to the board of her other alma mater, Mary Washington University. White graduated from Mary Washington in 1974. She served on W&L’s board from 1995 to 2004 and, since 2007, has served as Circuit Court judge for Baltimore City, Md. Prior to her appointment to the court, she was a partner and chair of the Employment Law Group at the Baltimore law firm of Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver. She has been recognized with numerous “firsts” at W&L — first alumna president of the Law Council from 1991 to 1992, first alumna member of the Board of Trustees and, in 1994, winner of the inaugural Distinguished Alumna Award by the University.
Abraham Lincoln is Topic of September Two-Day Conference
What are the lessons that Abraham Lincoln might be able to teach us today?
That is the question that a prestigious series of speakers from around the nation will consider at a conference, Lincoln for the Ages: Lessons for the 21st Century, which will be held at Washington and Lee University on Sept. 25-26 as part of the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth.
The program opens with an address by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Lee Chapel at W&L. This talk is free and open to the public.
“This conference will focus on three elements of Lincoln’s life and politics that deserve remembering not merely for the impact they had on his own time but also for the lessons they can teach us in the 21st century: namely, Lincoln’s character, politics and war leadership,” said Lucas Morel, conference director.
“Panelists will address contentious issues such as the role that race and religion play in the public sphere, whether ambition and partisanship can be channeled to the public good and how executive prerogative and war-time leadership can help or hinder the maintenance of liberty.”
Associate Justice Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush and took his seat on October 23, 1991. He became the second African American to serve on the court following Thurgood Marshall, whom he replaced.
Born in the Pin Point community of Georgia, near Savannah, in 1948, Thomas attended Conception Seminary and received an A.B., cum laude, from Holy Cross College, and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1974. He was admitted to law practice in Missouri in 1974, and served as an assistant attorney general of Missouri from 1974-1977, an attorney with the Monsanto Company from 1977-1979 and a legislative assistant to former Missouri Senator John Danforth from 1979-1981.
From 1981-1982, Thomas served as assistant secretary for civil rights of the U.S. Department of Education and as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982-1990. He became a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1990.
Thomas is the author of the 2008 volume, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir.
The continuation of the conference on Saturday, Sept. 26, will feature three panels on aspects of the life and beliefs of Abraham Lincoln. The participants are:
• Michael Burlingame, the University of Illinois at Springfield
• Samuel Calhoun, Washington and Lee University School of Law
• Joseph Fornieri, Rochester Institute of Technology
• Dennis Foster, Virginia Military Institute
• Allen Guelzo, Gettysburg College
• Fred Kaplan, Queens College and Graduate Center–CUNY
• Benjamin Kleinerman, Michigan State University
• Thomas Krannawitter, Hillsdale College
• Lucas Morel, Washington and Lee University
• Mackubin Owens, Naval War College
• Matthew Pinsker, Dickinson College
• Steven Woodworth, Texas Christian University
The conference is sponsored by the Apgar Foundation, the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity and the politics department at Washington and Lee University.
For more information on Lincoln for the Ages: Lessons for the 21st Century, including the registration form for attending the two-day conference, see http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/news/ages.htm.
Tales of I-81
When a Washington Post reporter was beginning to research a story on what it’s like to drive Interstate 81 on a regular basis, he called Washington and Lee’s public affairs office to see if he could locate some folks who could relate tales of traffic and tailgating trucks. He was put in touch with both Frank Parsons, former coordinator of facilities planning at W&L, and Sarah Tschiggfrie, news director, who shared their experiences going up and down the valley. No doubt W&L alumni, students and parents who’ve traveled to and from Lexington can relate to the stories, too, and have plenty of their own. Have a look at the Post’s piece here.
Summer Research Brings Poverty Issues to Life
Spending your summer gathering data on how the U.S. government has funded social programs to combat poverty over the past 50 years would hardly seem to qualify as a day at the beach.
But Washington and Lee University senior Caroline Head, an economics major with a minor in poverty studies, has discovered that such data mining is not as dull as it might seem, especially when you consider the stories that are behind the data.
Head’s role as a R.E. Lee Research Scholar has involved taking data from different sources and turning it into visual graphs. It is an important element of the research W&L’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability has been conducting for the past two years.
The graphs, she explains, help people understand poverty – how it affects people in the United States; how the United States treats its poor compared to other countries.
Head is one of three students who have spent the summer working with Harlan Beckley, the Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion and director of the Shepherd Program.
“Dealing with hard numbers can get boring,” said Head, “but Professor Beckley is so dynamic and engaging to work with. He taught us to look for the explanation and the stories behind our research. It gives it so much more meaning.”
Head’s portion of the research looked at government social spending over the last fifty years and compared it to spending in other countries. She turned the hard data into graphs that show the information at a glance.
She has demonstrated that within OECD countries (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) the United States ranks 27th in total public social expenditure-spending on pensions, income support to the working poor and healthcare.
“We’re very low in social expenditures, including public health expenditures” said Head. “But when you add private health expenditures, we’re the highest. That’s because so many people in the United States pay private insurance.”
“It’s certainly very topical research,” said Beckley. “With the debate about health care reform, it’s important to know how government spending has affected the population. Caroline’s data show that large investments in U.S. healthcare do not produce outcomes equaling other countries.”
Beckley said that the data Head has collected also show that social spending in the United States over the past 30 to 40 years has moved from cash to “in kind.” “It’s moved from welfare cash payments to food stamps, Medicaid and other kinds of services for poor people,” he said. “It’s more focused on their capability for functioning rather than just giving people money. Most people would see that as a positive change.”
The other two R.E. Lee Research Scholars working with Beckley were Xiaoxi Liang, a rising senior, and John Grigsby, a rising sophomore.
Liang worked specifically on data involving asthma, infant mortality and low birth weight.
The data she collected clearly show that low income persons in the U.S. have much higher rates of low birth weight babies and a much higher infant mortality rate than higher income persons. “To be able to show that there’s a relationship between poor health outcomes and poverty is important, although it doesn’t yet tell us the reason for that, and there could be a number of factors,” said Beckley.
Grigsby researched how the total compensation package of non-supervisory workers-compensation, health care, pension benefits and so on-has changed over the years.
“His research shows a tremendous increase in inequality over the last 20 or 30 years,” said Beckley.
“While our GDP (gross domestic product) per capita is higher than any other large developed nation with the possible exception of Norway, income for the least well compensated workers in the U.S. is considerably lower than in other nations.”
Beckley uses the graphs the R.E. Lee Scholars create for both his classroom presentations and lectures. The students are also able to use the information for their own papers.
It’s an interesting collaboration between faculty and students, and one that all appreciate.
“I’ve learned a lot from the students,” said Beckley.
For her part, Head thought that the work R.E. Lee Research Scholars do in different disciplines has been inspiring to see. “Here we are, these 20 year olds working alongside renowned professors,” she said. “They are so specialized and well known within their fields, but they are never condescending and really seem to appreciate and value our input. Also, I think it’s great we’re involved in something that will be included in publications and lectures while we’re still undergraduates.”
R.E. Lee Research Scholars are part of the University’s undergraduate research program and is in its fifth decade of operation. It was founded in 1960 by an 1899 graduate. Students must be nominated by their professors to be R.E. Lee Research Scholars. It involves either assisting a professor in research or carrying out a student-planned project under the supervision of a professor.
Washington and Lee’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability integrates academic study and learning through service and reflection. It endeavors to inform students about poverty and what can be done to foster human capabilities for communities and individuals who have been left behind in domestic and international development.
W&L Philosophy Professor a Bodybuilding Champion
At 5-feet-0 and 107 pounds, Melina Bell looks more like, say, a college philosophy professor than a champion bodybuilder.
As it happens, she’s both. And to prove it, Bell just won a major bodybuilding title to go along with the several scholarly papers she has written on the philosophy of women’s bodybuilding.
An assistant professor of philosophy at Washington and Lee University, Bell just won both the Open Lightweight and Open Overall titles at the 30th Annual IART (International Association of Resistance Trainers) Hercules Bodybuilding Championships Pro-Qualifier. This qualified her as a WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) pro bodybuilder.
“It felt really good to win,” said Bell. “I was really surprised because it seemed like forever that I’d been placing second. This is my first time back in competition since 2004, and when I picked this contest I thought maybe I was getting in over my head. It’s a large well-known contest and organization. When I saw the winner from last year I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself against the tough competition.”
Bell doesn’t just compete in bodybuilding contests; she also researches and writes about it.
Her career in bodybuilding began in 1999 when she was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania and competed in an annual bodybuilding contest held as a fundraiser for the women’s track team. “The first two years I won. After that, I began coaching the other competitors and guest posing in the contest. Then I began competing in regional contests, one or two per year, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut,” she said.
After finishing second in her first two regional contests, Bell asked the judges what she needed to improve on for the next contest. “They told me certain areas to work on with my physique. So I worked on those areas and made great progress. Then after the third contest, again coming in second, I asked the judges for more input, and they said ‘You should really consider putting some pads in your top to give yourself a more feminine figure. And have someone help you with your hair as we really don’t like the way you’ve done it.'”
Bell explained that the judges are overwhelmingly male and have a certain idea about how women should look. “This attitude carries over to female bodybuilders,” she said.
“You are supposed to arrange your hair in a fancy style, sometimes using hair extensions to make it look longer. You should wear makeup and have long painted nails. Breast implants are very common.”
Bell said that as she began bodybuilding, she also started to become aware of feminist philosophy and the construction of gender. “I was beginning to understand how even female bodybuilders are expected to behave in a feminine way in order to draw the sting away from the threat that they pose-to disempower them, even as they are doing something that is very empowering,” she said.
So Bell decided to start researching the scholarship on women’s bodybuilding.
“I was surprised at how much research had already been done. I was also surprised to find that a lot of female academics compete in bodybuilding and other muscle-building sports and have written about it,” she said, adding her supposition that this is probably because more educated women tend to be more open to transgressing gender norms by building their bodies.
She started writing a paper on the aesthetics of women’s bodybuilding in 2002 and worked on it for several years. The Journal of the Philosophy of Sport published it in 2008 under the title “Strength in Muscle and Beauty in Integrity: Building a Body for Her.”
That was followed by an invitation to write an essay on gender norms and women’s bodybuilding, titled “Is Women’s Bodybuilding Unfeminine?,” for the forthcoming book Strength and Philosophy
Bell will also be featured in one of the next two issues (August or November) of Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Magazine.
Her scholarship has focused on social justice, and has dealt in particular with inequalities of opportunity based on sex, sexual orientation, race, and income class. As a faculty affiliate of the Women and Gender Studies Program at W&L, she has studied the way women’s role in families and underrepresentation in socially powerful domains have played a role in creating a social gender hierarchy that constrains women’s opportunities.
“I sometimes discuss my bodybuilding experiences with the students, but mostly we discuss women’s experience in sports such as soccer, field hockey and basketball. We look at the feminine apologetic – the idea that because you are encroaching on a masculine domain, you have to make yourself even more feminine in order to apologize for being there,” she said. “Female athletes are expected not only to be great performers like male athletes, but they are also expected to be pretty and feminine. Those who conform to this stereotype definitely have an easier time getting sponsorships. This attitude prevails in all different kinds of sports.”
Bell said she thinks it’s important for more women to become judges in bodybuilding competition and not hold other women to these standards. “Sometimes it seems that even women have the same attitude,” she said. “I also think that if we could get more women into positions of power – promoting contests and running them – they may not continue to impose these standards.”
Bell’s latest win may be in bodybuilding, but she also claims some other impressive credentials. She won first place in the women’s division of Washington and Lee’s intramural powerlifting competition in both years (2007 and 2008) that event was staged. In March 2008, she lifted a total of 515 pounds (175 squat, 130 bench press, 210 deadlift) at 125 pounds.
Shepherd Alliance Interns Report on Experiences
The Shepherd Alliance, administered by Washington and Lee University’s Shepherd Poverty Program, unites student interns from Washington and Lee and other members of the alliance with agencies that work to benefit impoverished members of society.
Thirty-nine of this year’s interns were from W&L while others were from Berea, Middlebury, Amherst, Morehouse, and Spelman colleges.
Students spent the eight weeks learning to strengthen impoverished communities by working alongside individuals seeking to improve their communities. The agencies, located in various urban and rural sites in the United States, focus on education, healthcare, legal services, housing, hunger, social and economic needs, and community-building efforts. Students work with agencies that fit their intellectual interests in order to develop their experience and skills for future civic involvement and employment.
Watch some of the stories from this summer’s internships:
Robots, Loud Bangs, and Jelly Beans, Oh My!
When kids go to camp, their parents or grandparents don’t usually go with them.
But this past weekend of July 30, they turned up at Washington and Lee University.
The 16 families, totaling 51 people, were on the W&L campus this weekend for the University’s inaugural Family Adventure Program designed specifically for alumni and their children or grandchildren, ages six to 14.
W&L has a reputation as a pioneer in the field of alumni educational experiences, both on-campus alumni colleges and educational travel, and Rob Fure, director of special programs, believes this is the first time a college has offered such a program on campus.
Always on the lookout for new ways of attracting alumni to campus, Fure explained that some alumni expressed a desire to attend the week-long alumni colleges but put it off until their children were old enough to lead their own lives. “With this program they no longer have to wait,” he said.
Jim Sagner, a 1962 W&L graduate from New York, came with his daughter and her three children, “This was entirely my idea,” he said. “And it’s only three days. I think it’s a good idea because the kids get to do stuff they can’t do in school – where they don’t have the level of faculty expertise or the equipment. They are enjoying it.”
For this inaugural year W&L is concentrating on science. “There’s definitely a gee-whiz aspect to science today and we want to give families the opportunity to explore it together, with the idea that science is best learned by doing it,” said Fure.
David Harcus of the Class of 1984, from North Carolina, attended with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Faith, and said he was attracted to the scientific aspect of the program. “It’s an opportunity to expose my daughter to science in a family setting,” he said.
Eight W&L scientists conducted the two-day fun educational program. Most of the activities took place in the University’s Science Center with its state-of-the-art classrooms and labs.
Both young and old learned how to build a robot. They found out how to determine if a DNA sample is from a human or a dog, and even took a sample of their own DNA home. They mixed chemicals and watch the reactions.
An expert on the sense of smell showed there’s more to smell than meets the nose, as families tasted jelly beans and tracked the wild chocolate truffle.
In the psychology lab, families explored how the mind works, how it often makes mistakes, and how this affects their behavior.
They learned how light behaves by bending and shaping it to create images, and found out how light is harnessed in useful technologies.
They went on a field trip to the countryside to see what rocks can show about the history of the earth.
Fure said that the parents’ pleasure was significantly due to the children’s excitement of learning.
“It’s not just an educational experience for the kids,” he said, “it’s also a deeply involved introduction to W&L. But it’s also a very convivial experience, like a camp, where both kids and adults get to know each other.”
W&L plans to focus on different areas of academic life each year. In 2010 it will all be about music. Rhythm, melody and youthful enthusiasm, anyone?
Watch a video with interviews of participants: