Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L Alum Named Top Family Practitioner

Washington and Lee alumnus Hughes Melton, Class of 1989, was named the 2011 Family Physician of the Year by the American Academy of Family Physicians this week at its Annual Scientific Assembly. The award goes to an outstanding American family physician who provides compassionate and comprehensive patient care and serves as a community role model — professionally and personally — to other physicians, residents, medical students and health professionals.

Hughes certainly fits the bill for the award. A facinating story on the AAFP website provides plenty of details about the amazing work that he is doing in Russell County, in southwest Virginia. In 2000, he started a practice with another family physician that they called C-Health, for Complete Health. It opened in a rented trailer in Lebanon, Va. Today, the clinic serves 18,000 area residents and occupies a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2006.

Although the clinic offers the full range of family medicine, Hughes was quick to realize that the area was being hit especially hard with substance abuse, and he has become known as an expert in the primary care treatment of addiction and chronic pain.

Among the special features of the clinic is its practice tithe fund, under which the clinic puts aside a portion of its profits to help needy community members pay their electric and fuel bills and cover the cost of food, shelter or medication. The tithe also supports mission partners in El Salvador.

Hughes began his work in rural Virginia after he left the Army, where he earned the Meritorious Service Medal for distinguished non-combat achievement in 2000. He went to medical school at the University of Virginia and did his residency in U.Va.’s Department of Family Medicine.

Alum's Nebraska Dispatches

When Christopher Cartmill, Class of 1984, returned to Washington and Lee in the spring of 2009 as the Flournoy Playwright, he produced five plays in six weeks. Included in that lineup was The Nebraska Dispatches, a solo performance by Cartmill based on a research trip he had made to his home town, Lincoln, Neb. He had gone home to write a play about Chief Standing Bear. He wrote the play, “Home Land,” but also came away with the fascinating insights about going home that are the basis of The Nebraska Dispatches.

Now, The Nebraska Dispatches has just been published as a book by the University of Nebraska Press. It compiles Christopher’s dispatches from his journey, offering what the publisher calls a “snapshot of a New Yorker’s travels into the heartland, insights into a very personal journey, and glimpses into a history that critiques and continues the American story.”

Christopher majored in Chinese and East Asian Studies at W&L and then received an M.F.A. in acting from the University of Virginia. His credits are lengthy and impressive, and you can find them all on his website. You can also keep up with his work on his Facebook page.

Del Clark '90 Loses Battle with Cancer

Sad news from Oregon last week, when Del Clark, of the Class of 1990, lost his long battle with cancer, at the age of 41. Del was the subject of an earlier blog item when The Oregonian newspaper featured him. A lawyer in the Portland suburb of Sherwood, Del was not only a city councilor but also had been a member of the Sherwood Urban Renewal Policy Advisory Commission and a past president of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.

In stories about his death in both The Oregonian and the Sherwood Gazette, local officials were unanimous in their praise for Del’s service to his community.

Del’s W&L classmates will recall that in his sophomore year, he had a cancerous brain tumor and a prognosis of a year to live. After undergoing surgery and radiation, he came back to W&L in his junior year.

Todd Peppers ’90, Del’s roommate at W&L, writes: “During his final illness, Del displayed the same courage, serenity, faith, dignity and quiet humor that were so evident throughout his life.  His brave struggle against cancer was an inspiration to the friends and family that were privileged to have known and loved Del.”

Todd goes on to note that Del had come to W&L as a basketball player: “While his athletic career at Washington and Lee was cut short by an earlier bout with cancer, Del was a notable presence on his college campus (not simply because he was 6′ 8″) and was involved in a host of campus activities — including the Student Recruitment Committee, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, director of Campus Intramurals, and a dorm counselor.   It was at Washington and Lee that Del first became involved in community organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Lexington Bell Choir, and for the next two decades Del remained committed to working to give back to his local community.”

Del is survived by his wife, Krisanna, and their two children, Alaina and Declan Clark.

Law Alum Helps Investors Join Forces

Washington and Lee law alumnus Talcott Franklin, of the Class of 1995, was the subject of a couple of articles in the financial press last week. The focus was on the clearinghouse that he created to allow investors in residential mortgage-backed securities that went bad to pool their claims and, as Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported, “potentially create the necessary legal clout to force mortgage lenders to buy back improperly made loans at the heart of the securities.”

Before Talcott established RMBS (“residential mortgage-backed”) Investor Clearing House, individual investors in such securities had no way of knowing who other investors were.

In addition to the story on Bloomberg, Talcott’s new venture was spotlighted in the Wall Street Journal, which said he now represents investors holding 2,300 mortgage bonds. As Franklin, a Dallas-based attorney, told the Journal, when he started, he expected to get about 25 percent of investors in 200 deals. He never imagined he would wind up with a third of the market.

Talcott is co-author of the “Mortgage and Asset-Backed Securities Litigation Handbook.” He had been a partner with Patton Boggs, Washington’s biggest lobbying firm, but resigned to begin this new effort. In explaining the clearinghouse, which uses a software system created specifically to match investors, Talcott told the Journal that some investors “had no idea that their money was being invested in mortgage-backed securities. And yet somehow these people are now the ones being punished, and that’s just not right.”

Picking Up (Basketball) Where He Left Off

Hamill Jones, a 2004 Washington and Lee alumnus and former captain of the Generals’ basketball team, will soon be starting his second season as head varsity basketball coach of his prep school alma mater, St. Christopher’s School, in Richmond, Va. His first team finished 9-9. Hamill is also teaching history there. But his St. Christopher’s job is not the only thing on Hamill’s plate these days.

An article in Richmond BizSense this week described the new business that Hamill has started. And — no big surprise — it’s based on basketball.

Hamill has developed a pick-up basketball league. It consists of eight teams of Richmonders who still love to play the game. He rented the upstairs gym, hired officials and got T-shirts made. According to the BizSense story, it’s a varied group of young professionals — lawyers, bankers, teachers, etc. — aged 22 through 45.

As Hamill explained in the article, “I received a lot of calls from young professionals asking for a pick-up league and alumni who wanted to get back into  the gym. It started with me reaching out to guys that I knew who I wanted to be captains, and they talked to people they knew, and it just came together through networking.”

The league’s first season runs through mid-October, but a winter season is apparently in the offing, if anybody in the Richmond area is interested. But you might want Hamill on your team. He still holds W&L’s school record for shooting percentage in a game. He made 15 out of 16 from the field in a loss to Emory & Henry in 2002.

What's a Musicologist?

As he tells the story, Ron Pen, a 1973 Washington and Lee alumnus, was enrolling in graduate school at the University of Kentucky in 1983 and was interested in pursuing music composition. But after his entrance exams, Ron was told that he’d done exceptionally well on the history portion. “They said, ‘You should be a musicologist, and we’ll give you a fellowship and throw money at you if you do that. ‘ I said, ‘What’s a musicologist?'”

That story was part of a feature about Ron that appeared last week in the Lexington Herald Tribune. Although the story heralds the publication of Ron’s long-awaited book on balladeer John Jacob Niles, it also captures the way that Ron has approached his work on Niles over the years since he became a musicologist.

The book is titled (The University Press of Kentucky, $35) and is, as one of Ron’s U.K. colleagues said, the product of a lifetime of work. Ron wrote his doctoral dissertation on Niles and used the next 25 years to look at the world through Niles’ eyes.

An associate professor of musicology at Kentucky, Ron directs the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music and is coordinator of the Division of Musicology and Ethnomusicology. While at U.K., he has won both the University of Kentucky Great Teacher Award and the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Legendary Streak

Bill Miller, a 1972 alumnus of Washington and Lee and chairman and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management, gained the esteem of the financial world for his 15-year string of beating the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. That streak finally came to an end in 2006. Earlier this week, AsiaOne, the website that publishes content from Singapore Press Holdings’ publications, did a profile of Bill in which they examined his strategies for that record-breaking run. You can read it here.

One of the interesting nuggets from the piece is about the way Bill’s approach of valuing companies and not market trends led him to Google’s initial public offering in 2004.

If you want to hear Bill’s theories unfiltered, you can go to the Legg Mason Capital Management site , where you’ll see a short video feature, “In Our Own Words,” or a report from this summer’s 2010 Morningstar Investment Conference, for an interview with Bill about what has been described as the “behavioral edge” that Legg Mason portfolio managers bring to the portfolios.

Judging Corporate Boards

The Atlanta Journal Constitution published an engaging question-and-answer session with Washington and Lee law alumna Lizanne Thomas, of the Class of 1982, last week. The primary topic was corporate governance, an area in which Lizanne has a wealth of experience. She not only practices and teaches in the area, but she also has hands-on experience.

Lizanne is partner-in-charge of the 150-lawyer Atlanta office of Jones Day. She also heads the firm’s global corporate governance team. In addition, she is a member of the board of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., so her understanding of corporate governance issues is broad. At Krispy Kreme, for instance, she co-chaired a special committee whose investigation led to governance changes at the company in 2004.

Lizanne’s take on the current climate in corporations? Here’s what she told the AJC: “I believe that the sins of the few have been visited upon the many. The vast majority of our nation’s corporations are not out of control. Yes, there were a few companies–and leaders–that were greedy, but this was not the central cause of the financial crisis. The business leaders we have come to know and respect do not conduct business in a cavalier way.”

The interview goes on to discuss Lizanne’s view on her own career, including being one of the first women to join what the AJC terms “a bluestocking Atlanta law firm.” Her advice to young lawyers is particularly insightful: “Tell them to love the work and if they don’t, go find work they do love. Their work needs to be thoughtful on the big issues and dead right on the small ones. Beat expectations. If it’s due on Friday, get it in on Thursday. Be interested in and well read on our clients’ businesses, not just the subjects they will face. Build bridges in all possible ways, with those who are senior, with peers, subordinates and especially staff. Act with manners and always take the high road. Be a gracious loser and an even more gracious winner. Have a sense of humor.”

Celebrating Emancipation

Washington and Lee history professor Ted DeLaney, a member of W&L’s Class of 1985, was a keynote speaker for an unusual event this past weekend in the small Ohio River town of Gallipolis, Ohio. Every year since 1864, the people of Gallipolis have celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation in September, because the preliminary issue of the proclamation came on Sept. 22, 1862. The official announcement came from President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. 

Gallipolis is the only place in America where there has been a longtime celebration. This year’s event was No. 147. The theme was from “From Chains to Change,” and Ted gave his address during Saturday’s afternoon session. The two-day celebration featured Civil War re-enactors and impersonators of historic figures.

“What I found especially fascinating about this event is the continuous history of the celebration,” Ted said. “That and the biracial nature of the participants. I think what they are doing is important.”

Congratulations are also in order for Ted on his election to the board of trustees of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, in Charlottesville.  VHF supports research, education and programs to assist individuals and communities to understand the past and its influence, to question and resolve issues in the present, and to shape a future committed to the common good. W&L alumnus Rob Vaughan, of the Class of 1966, is the president of VHF. And the foundation’s director of media programs, Andrew Wyndham, is a member of the Class of 1971.

Is The Constitutional System Broken?

In his new book, James Madison Rules America: The Constitutional Origins of Congressional Partisanship, Washington and Lee politics professor William F. Connelly Jr. takes exception to Woodrow Wilson’s interpretation of Madison’s institutional framework. Discussing his views on Wilson and Madison this summer in an interview with alumna Amy Balfour ’89, ’93L, Connelly said that “what Wilson did not seem to appreciate is that the separation of powers both limits the abuse of power and provides for the effective use of power.”

This issue may well arise in Washington today, Sept. 17, when Bill participates on a panel of scholars at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The session is titled “Is Our Constitutional System Broken?” Bill will be joined by journalist and political scientist Kevin O’Leary, University of Miami political scientist Gregory Koger, and former congressman and current Aspen Institute vice president Mickey Edwards. Don Wolfensberger, director of The Congress Project, will be the moderator.

You can watch the panel live on the web beginning at 4 p.m. today by going to this page on the Woodrow Wilson site.

If you missed it, Bill’s book received a great plug in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, where author John Pitney Jr. wrote: “As political scientist William F. Connelly Jr. reminds us in his splendid new book, ‘James Madison Rules America,’ no party in the U.S. Congress is ever simply the ‘opposition.’ Like it or not, a Republican majority will have to work with the president to pass budgets and conduct the routine business of government.”