Feature Stories Campus Events

Law Professor Christopher Bruner Wins AALS Scholarly Papers Competition

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More Recognition for Lesley Wheeler's Poetry

Lesley Wheeler, professor and head of the English department at Washington and Lee, has been honored by Barrow Street Press, a small, poetry-only press in New York City with a high reputation among poets. Lesley’s manuscript Heterotopia was named the winner of the 2009 Barrow Street Poetry Book Prize.  Contemporary American poet David Wojahn, who currently directs the creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth, selected Lesley’s manuscript. The contest generally draws about 600 applicants each year, and, as the winning manuscript, Heterotopia will be published by Barrow Street.  Here’s one of Lesley’s poems:

Inland Song

In some kind houses the doors
never quite shut. Every table
hosts a bowl of eggs—wooden ones
or striped stone, cool to touch.

What could grow in an egg like that?
A day becomes a story becomes a bird,
a lost seagull who shrinks each time
I describe him. Watch him fold

his filigree wings, crawl into
the shell. His song wasn’t much,
but he tries to swallow it,
as if he can retreat

to an ornamental state
of potential. This is not possible,
even in an inland village named
Barnacle. Just brush your fingers

over the eggs as you leave,
memorize the feel of the grain.
The paths are thick with nettles,
but if they sting, rub the blisters

with a fistful of dock. Pain
and consolation grow next
to each other, in some kind
countries. House and wing.

Remembering Todd Smith

It’s been a little more than 20 years ago now that Todd Smith was killed in South America, apparently by cocaine traffickers. And it’s been a little more than 26 years ago that Todd graduated from Washington and Lee after majoring in English and serving as co-editor of the Ring-tum Phi. But last week  20 years t0 the day since Todd’s death — brought Todd’s story back to life in a powerful way. Tribune writer Steve Otto wrote of Todd: “He had an enormous appetite for news and it was not confined to local county commissions. He wanted to write on a global scale.” Otto’s description can be paired with something that was written immediately after Todd’s death in 1989. A story in the St. Petersburg Times on Nov. 22, 1989, began: “At a dinner two years ago before Todd C. Smith left two years ago to cover the Nicaraguan civil war, a colleague offered a simple toast. ‘To Todd Smith,’ said a St. Petersburg Times reporter, ‘who had the guts to do what the rest of us just talked about doing.'” Todd is remembered at W&L through the memorial fellowship fund established in 1990 and designed to reflect Todd’s interest in promoting understanding of foreign issues and cultures through journalism. Todd and his story need to remembered.

W&L Law Grad Is Virginia's Business Person of the Year

Shawn Boyer, a 1997 graduate of Washington and Lee’s School of Law, says that “…you can never let your mind go to, ‘What if it doesn’t work?’” And Shawn certainly put that maxim in motion, creating SnagAJob.com in August 1999 and then riding the roller-coaster of good dot-com times and bad to that point that he has just been named Virginia Business Person of the Year by Virginia Business magazine. Of course, in some respects, the Virginia Business honor is small potatoes for Shawn after he was named the Small Business Association’s National Small Business Person of the Year in 2008 and picked up his award from former President George W. Bush, who was about to be out of a job himself. As the Virginia Business article reports, the former president said of Shawn: “I asked him to leave a business card. Seems like I might be looking, after awhile.” After W&L, Shaw practiced law with Brown & Wood LLP (now Sidley Austin, LLP) and Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald, LLP, prior to starting SnagAJob.com, which is the largest part-time and hourly job-posting site in the nation. Here’s a link to the Virginia Business Person of the Year story.

Retired Professor S. Todd Lowry Delivers Paper at International Conference in Japan

Dr. S. Todd Lowry, professor emeritus of economics at Washington and Lee University, delivered a paper at the international Workshop on Mathematical Economics at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov. 15.

Lowry’s paper, “Pythagorean Mathematical Idealism and the Framing of Economic and Political Theory,” will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Advances in Mathematical Economics (Springer, Tokyo) and will also be translated into Japanese to be included in an edited collection of academic essays.

Lowry, who had to decline an invitation from Keio University to attend an October conference on economics, was then invited to the Workshop on Mathematical Economics in November at which time he delivered his paper.

At the international workshop, Lowry spoke about Pythagoreans whose thought emphasized rationality as a natural phenomenon. Lowry said, “Pythagoreans and Plato believed you could investigate mathematics and not have to worry about the subtle inadequacies of rationality in observed processes.

“This approach was disturbed by the discovery of irrational numbers. Later Aristotle presented the idea that mathematics was introduced by human beings in order to analyze patterns in observed reality.”

After delivering his paper, he and his daughter, Lynn Leech, toured Japan for a few days seeing
a Kabuki play at the National Theatre in Toyko, touring Tokyo, visiting Nikko National Park and taking the bullet train to Kyoto, among other things. Lowry commented on the politeness and courteousness of the Japanese people and their bowing tradition and its meaning.

Lowry was a member of the W&L faculty from 1959 until his retirement in 1995. He received his B.A. and LL.B. from the University of Texas and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

Poetry and W&L Poets

Here’s some recent news about two Washington and Lee poets: First, today’s Poem of the Day on Poetry Daily is “Shades” by R.T. Smith, editor of Shenandoah and writer-in-residence at W&L. The poem was originally published in the Sewanee Review, and you can read it here. Meanwhile, the blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, has an interview with Washington and Lee alumnus Temple Cone, of the Class of 1995. Temple, whose first book of poetry, No Loneliness, was noted here last August, is an associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. In his first answer to the interviewers question, Temple offers this answer: “I love telling people that I’m a poet. Just a poet.” Read the entire interview here.

W&L English Professor Attends National Book Awards; Alumna is Finalist

Marc Conner, professor of English at Washington and Lee University, attended the National Book Awards on Nov. 18 as a guest of novelist Charles Johnson, who received an honorary degree from W&L in June and was the Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker at the university in 2008. A winner of the National Book Award in 1990 for Middle Passage, Johnson chaired this year’s fiction-award judges’ panel.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon ’93 was a finalist for the poetry award, for Open Interval. An assistant professor of English at Cornell University, she won the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her book Black Swan and co-wrote with Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and delivered this year’s presidential-inauguration poem, the chapbook Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. Van Clief-Stefanon’s poems have appeared in Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review, African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review and Rattapallax, and in several anthologies.

Johnson announced the fiction winner: Colum McCann, for his novel Let the Great World Spin. McCann, born in Ireland and living in New York, was thrilled.

“I enjoyed the rare opportunity to attend,” said Conner. “McCann was definitely the popular choice. His novel is a tour de force of language, style, theme. He floats in and out of many characters’ minds, many stories, many plots, but weaves them all together in a beautiful, if painful, connected narrative.”

Comedian and writer Andy Borowitz hosted the ceremony. Actress Joanne Woodward presented the award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Gore Vidal. “In his 84th year, he delivered a trenchant acceptance speech,” said Conner, “focusing mainly on the fearful age in which we live.”

Complete details of the ceremony, the finalists and the winners can be viewed at http://www.nationalbook.org/index.html.

Hotchkiss Heads University Development Office

Julie Hotchkiss, a 1989 graduate of the Washington and Lee School of Law, has just been named director of development at the Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, Oregon. The appointment is effective in early January. OSU-Cascades is the first branch campus in the Oregon University System. Julie has been working in nonprofit development for more than 17 years. She was most recently with the Deschutes River Conservancy in Bend and was with the High Desert Museum for 10 years before that. Julie began her development work in Charlotte, N.C., where she had gone to practice law. Her first job in development was as director of planned giving for Queens University in Charlotte. Julie comes by her success in development honestly, of course, since her father, Farris Hotchkiss, led W&L’s development operation for more than three decades prior to his retirement in 2001.

Drive Safer Nov. 29 in Memory of Cullum Owings '03

On the Sunday following Thanksgiving in 2002, Cullum and Pierce Owings were driving from their home in Atlanta back to Lexington where both were students at Washington and Lee. The brothers were three miles from the Lexington exit on I-81 north when their car was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. Cullum, a senior business administration major, died in the accident; Pierce ’06, a freshman at the time, had only minor injuries. Sunday, Nov. 29, will mark the fifth annual national observance of Drive Safer Sunday in America. The event is sponsored by Road Safe America, an organization founded by Cullum and Pierce’s parents, Stephen and Susan Owings of Atlanta, in Cullum’s honor. The organization is designed to bring awareness of the hazards of highway travel and provide statistics and safety tips to drivers. Its goals include better driver training for all drivers and limiting the top speed for large trucks. The Road Safe America Web site includes an electronic petition, urging the administration to order activation of speed governors set at 65 mph on all large commercial vehicles. The site also features a video in which the Owingses tell their story. Be careful on the highways this holiday.

Armchair Golf Blog Spotlights W&L's Langan

Matt Langan, a senior on the Washington and Lee golf team from Prospect, Ky., showed up this week with a q-and-a interview in the Armchair Golf Blog. It’s an interesting interview, and you can read it at this link. Matt does a particularly good job of relating the particular challenges that go with playing Division III sports at a college with demanding academics. For instance, he talks about the upcoming spring season and the various issues that seniors who aren’t looking at the Professional Golf Association tour in their futures will be juggling: “Our spring season—the one that really matters—will be dependent on how well the seniors (including myself) are able to focus on golf amidst the pressures of finding a job, applying for graduate schools, and/or wanting to soak up the last available bit of the college lifestyle.