Feature Stories Campus Events

Hard Times in Vermont

When blues guitarist and singer Scott Ainslie, of the Class of 1974, saw the normally eight-inch-deep Whetstone Brook in his hometown of Brattleboro, Vt., transformed into a raging torrent as Hurricane Irene passed through on Sunday, he got out his video camera and recorded some remarkable images. Then  Scott added his own recording of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times, Come Again No More” from his CD, “Jealous Moon.”

The result is a moving video that Scott has uploaded to YouTube as an appeal for donations to the local Red Cross to assist in recovery efforts in Vermont. (You can use this link to the American Red Cross of Vermont and The New Hampshire Valley for information on how to help.)

Scott is also working on a benefit concert for affected families and businesses in the area.

Watch the video below:

Staniar Gallery Announces 2011-2012 Season

University’s Staniar Gallery will present eight exhibitions ranging from W&L Professor Emeritus I-Hsiung Ju to legendary pop artist Andy Warhol. The gallery, which opened in 2006, is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary and art historical works in all media by regionally, nationally and internationally recognized artists.

The season kicks off with a two-person exhibition of prints and drawings by Barbara Duval and a film installation by Meredith Root. In this exhibition, titled Abandon, the artists challenge the boundaries of their respective disciplines to explore the notion of transitional space.

Both artists capture a mysterious beauty in their work, set against the background of unnamed desolation. Duval’s paintings and prints are filled with shadow-shaped figures, often depicted in motion and inhabiting a landscape that is eerily empty and dark. Meredith Root’s 6-minute film, The Shortest Day, is a visual document of a dilapidated building in Milwaukee, Wis., which was left as an institutional dumping ground after serving various manufacturers as a factory site for over 85 years.

Barbara Duval is a professor of art at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and Meredith Root is on the faculty as director of the animation program at the Memphis School of Art. Abandon will be on view from Sept. 6 to Oct. 6.

For the second exhibition of the year, W&L welcomes back to campus Professor Emeritus I-Hsiung Ju. Professor Ju will present selections from two recent series of scroll paintings influenced by his extensive practice of traditional Chinese brush work.

Over the 20 years on the faculty, Ju won numerous awards as an educator and artist. Since retiring in 1989, Ju has developed courses and workshops on Chinese brush painting and regularly lectures on the subject. The exhibit will run from Oct. 12 through Nov. 2.

An exhibition by Minneapolis painter Michael Kareken will finish out the fall semester at Staniar Gallery running from Nov. 8 through Dec. 10. Kareken will present detailed paintings of discarded bottles, scrap metal piles and debris which reflect his use of painting to control the chaos of the urban landscape that surrounds his studio. In this series, which includes drawings and prints, Kareken develops an uncanny sense of quiet drama that unsettles ordinary associations with the subject matter he depicts: recycling centers and garbage dumps.

Since 1996 Kareken has taught at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, where he is a professor of fine arts. His work is included in the collections of The Walker Art Center, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Minnesota Museum of American Art, the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art and the Minnesota Historical Society, among others.

On Jan. 9, Staniar Gallery will open with the exhibition In the Event of Andy Warhol. The 2008 gift to W&L of over 150 photographs taken by legendary pop artist Andy Warhol was the impetus for this exhibition, which explores the ideas and influence of the renowned artist. To commemorate its 20th anniversary, the Warhol Foundation donated nearly 30,000 of Warhol’s Polaroids and black and white prints to more than 180 educational institutions across the country, including W&L and Roanoke College. The two institutions have collaborated to present highlights from both collections in this exhibition.

A selection of works by contemporary artists who have been inspired by Warhol will also be on display, featuring pieces by Shepard Fairey and Piper Ferguson, among others. Other components of the exhibit will be based on Warhol’s practice, including videos of student screen tests and a series of Polaroid portraits by W&L photo students. The exhibit closes on Feb. 4.

For the exhibition Painted Words-From Object to Subject, opening on Feb. 13, artist Trisha Orr presents two series of paintings examining the use of text in a visual context. Orr creates dense still lifes, using clear glass vases to distort and fragment the print on art books.

The Poem Paintings, a collaboration with her husband, the poet Gregory Orr, features excerpts of his work in a grid format. Both series explore the nuance of language and acknowledge the subjective nature of reading a painting. Trisha Orr has received individual artist fellowships from the NEA (mid-Atlantic Regional) and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Her work has been included in numerous group and museum shows nationally, and her solo exhibits have been reviewed in Art in America and The New York Times. This show will be up through March 10.

Staniar Gallery welcomes guest curator Rob McDonald for the next exhibition, Land Not Lost: Contemporary Views on Virginia Landscape, on view March 12-23. In conjunction with the Virginia General Assembly’s Commission to mark the 150th anniversary of the Commonwealth’s participation in the American Civil War, this exhibition presents contemporary artists who profess a deep connection the regional landscape. Nearly sixty percent of the fighting in the war took place on Virginia soil, which remains ingrained the collective memory of haunting conflict. The ten artists selected for this show depict their native landscape with infinite beauty and respect for its storied history. Participating artists include the late Cy Twombly, Sally Mann, Rob McDonald, Gordon Stettinius, Robert Alexander Williams, Willie Anne Wright, Ron Boehmer, Dean Dass and Ray Kass. This exhibition will be on view in connection with the 2012 Virginia Sesquicentennial Signature Conference on the Civil War at Virginia Military Institute on March 22.

The Senior Thesis exhibition will follow opening on March 27 and running through April 10. Each year, as the capstone experience in the studio art major at Washington and Lee, the graduating seniors exhibit their thesis projects in Staniar Gallery. As their debut in the art world, the exhibition is an opportunity for the young artists to create a cohesive body of work that is shown in a professional setting. The group show features a wide range of art works in various media including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and sculpture.

The final exhibition of the year will feature sculptures and drawings by Craig Pleasants. His sculptural structures blur the line between form and function, architecture and art. Based on what he calls an “aesthetics of necessity,” Pleasants uses alternative materials to expand the definition of shelter, housing, and home. In this exhibition, Pleasants will also present a series of drawings that illustrate the thought process behind his three dimensional pieces. Craig Pleasants has exhibited widely for over 30 years and has been recognized with numerous grants and fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the South Carolina Arts Commission, among others. The exhibition will be on view from April 23-May 25.

Staniar Gallery is located in Wilson Hall in the Lenfest Center, home of the departments of art, music and theatre. Artist’s talks and presentations are held with most exhibitions, which are free and open to the public. The gallery is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the academic year. More information can be found on the Staniar Gallery website: http://go.wlu.edu/staniar.


W&L Pre-orientation Program Sees Increase in Participants, Trips

This year a record number of more than 200 first-year students at Washington and Lee University are spending five days in one of two “Leading Edge” pre-orientation programs. Appalachian Adventures takes students backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Volunteer Ventures is a service-learning program that educates students about the realities of poverty by living, learning and working in various communities along the East Coast.

Pre-orientation began Aug. 29 and ends Sept. 2. On-campus orientation for all first-year students begins Sept. 3.

“Both pre-orientation programs have more trips this year and more participants,” said David Leonard, associate dean of student affairs and dean of first-year students. “But we’re also seeing more students coming back to lead the trips as well, sometimes for the second time in a row and in some cases for the third time.”

For Appalachian Adventures trip planner, junior Zachary Zoller, the increase in trip leaders meant spending his summer finding three new trips along the Appalachian Trail. “I’m glad it got bigger this year since more people can take part, because it’s mainly based on the number of trip leaders. So this year we’ve added at least 36 first-year students,” he said. “I guess there was a big boom in the number of trip leaders. We’ve got old ones coming back and a lot of new trip leaders who took part last year. It’s the biggest year it’s ever been.”

All those backpacking trips mean a lot of planning and organizing, which this year was mainly done by junior Ali Pedersen. “I’m organizing all the food, transportation and equipment,” she said. “The burden falls on me, but I have students who are ‘sherpas’ to help me. They don’t go on the trips, but perform tasks such as packing food and gear.”

There are 12 trips on different parts of the Appalachian Trail this year at elevations of 1,000 to 5,000 feet. Each trip has about nine first-year students, with a mix of experienced backpackers and novices. The students hike on average 20 miles in five days and mostly stay overnight in shelters.

“It’s a good challenge to go and live in the wilderness for five days,” said Zoller. “It’s not really about Washington and Lee; it’s about making a connection with other students while they’re in the woods. They’re with a group of strangers and in a whole new environment. But they all come in equal and just get to know each other. Some real friendships develop. And they’re with student trip leaders, not a professional guide.

“I want to give a shout out to the trip leaders,” said Zoller, “because they are the ones who make this happen. They look forward to it all year, and they are so well prepared. They know what they’re doing and know how to help the students.”

One first-year student review of Appalachian Adventures said it was, “more difficult than I expected, but more fun than I imagined.” Another said “It was a blast! I was so worried. I’d never hiked before, let alone backpacked. It was one of the best times of my life…”

Meanwhile, the Volunteer Ventures participants are participating in the program in six different cities – Roanoke, Lexington, Washington, D.C., Greensboro, N.C., Charleston, W.Va., and Richmond.

• See a Facebook gallery of Volunteer Venture students in Charleston, W.Va.

“I went on the Volunteer Venture trip to Washington, D.C., when I was in my first year,” said Shiri Yadlin, a junior from Irvine, Calif., who is the student coordinator for this year’s programs. “It was one of the best decisions of my college career. It jump started my interest in service and led to my participation in the most fun and rewarding organizations at W&L.”

Each of the trips provides students with a different understanding of community and service needs, emphasizing the impact of mountain culture, civil rights, housing, and urban infrastructure on citizen well-being.

The Leading Edge describes both Appalachian Adventures and Volunteer Ventures as memorable, meaningful and challenging experiences. “Both these programs are designed for people to participate in small group activity, and I think there’s a comfort zone with a small group,” said Leonard. “When the first-year students return they’ll be plum tuckered out, but ready to take on the world in terms of getting indoctrinated into the orientation program and meeting many of their other classmates. It’s a nice precursor for good things to come at Washington and Lee.”


Rebecca Makkai on NPR

In June we blogged about Rebecca Makkai, of the Class of 1999, whose first novel, The Borrower, has been widely praised. But it was one of Rebecca’s short stories that landed her a spot on a recent edition of NPR’s “This American Life.”

As part of the program’s show on Gossip, Rebecca reads a portion of one of her short stories, “The November Story,” which first appeared in its longer version in “Crazyhorse,” a literary journal. You can read the original story in “Crazyhorse” here. And you can listen to Rebecca read her story on “This American Life” or download the show as a podcast by going here.

“The November Story” is part of Rebecca’s collection in progress, which she has tentatively titled Music for Wartime.

Rebecca’s website features links to many of the reviews of The Borrower from The Daily Mail, the Washington Times, Marie Claire and The Daily Beast, among others.


W&L Events to Observe 10th Anniversary of 9/11

Washington and Lee University will observe the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with two different events — a prayer vigil and a panel presentation and discussion.

The prayer vigil will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, in front of Lee Chapel on campus. The Rev. John Talley, minister of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), will lead the event, which is sponsored by the College Democrats and the College Republicans.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m., three members of the W&L faculty will lead the panel discussion, “Ten Years Later,” in the Hillel House Multi-purpose Room.

The panelists will be Ayse Zarakol, assistant professor of politics; Mark Drumbl, the Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and director of the Transnational Law Clinic; and Bob Strong, the William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics and interim provost.

Both events are open to the public at no charge.


Booked Up with Bill Buice ’61

Bill Buice, of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1961, and his wife, Stuart, were the subject of a nice recent profile in their local paper, the Shelter Island (N.Y.) Reporter, this summer. The focus is their mutual love of books.

The Buices, who live in Shelter Island Heights, N.Y., are both natives of North Carolina. They met while she was an undergrad at Duke and he was a law student. On their first date, says the article, they went to a book auction.

As young marrieds in New York City in the mid-1960s, they frequented the bookstores on Fourth Avenue. Both of them became collectors of books. Stuart favored the Bloomsbury Group, Bill the English Romantics. Bill became involved with the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association and the Grolier Club, which promotes the art of the book.

Two years ago, the Buices spoke to the Friends of the W&L Library. The apt title of the talk was “Two Collectors, One Library—Can This Marriage Be Saved?”

Given such a provenance, you might think that that the Buices would shun e-readers. Not so, Bill told the Shelter Island newspaper. “I owned one of the first e-books,” he said. “I thought it was like Gutenberg. I thought there was a new Gutenberg out there. He changed the world and e-publishing might very well do the same thing and in fact it is. It’s revolutionizing the way people obtain knowledge and how they read.”


Barbara Brown, University Librarian and Professor Emerita at Washington and Lee, Dies at 69

Barbara Jeanne Brown, University librarian at Washington and Lee University from 1985 to 2003, died on Aug. 27, 2011, in Lexington, Va. She was 69.

Brown was named University librarian in 1985 and served in that position until retiring in 2003. She had previously spent five years, from 1971 to 1976, as head of reference and public services at W&L, and was one of the first women to hold a senior administrative post on campus.

“The University is fortunate to have had Barbara at the helm of the library during a critical period in that field,” said W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “She combined her expertise with a sparkling wit and a warm, cheerful personality, and we will miss her.”

Brown was born on Oct. 9, 1941, in Charles City, Iowa. She earned a B.S. in English from Iowa State University in 1963, and an M.S. in library science in 1964 from Columbia University.

She began her career as a librarian in 1964 at Cornell University, working in the John M. Olin Library and the Uris Undergraduate Library. Between her two tenures at W&L, she served as assistant university librarian for general reader services at the Princeton University Library and as associate director of program coordination at the Research Libraries Group Inc., at Stanford University. In 1974, she spent one year with the Council on Library Resources Management Intern Program, a professional honor that went to only five mid-career librarians in a given year.

As the University librarian at Washington and Lee, Brown oversaw the introduction of automation, most notably through the online catalog known as Annie (named after Annie Jo White, W&L librarian, 1895-1922), and through other electronic resources. She also doubled the library’s holdings and established the Telford Science Library.

Brown served on numerous university committees, including the President’s Advisory Committee, the Student Faculty Hearing Board and nearly 30 others, including search committees for key positions. She was a member of the committee that planned Washington and Lee’s 250th anniversary celebration and presided over the ceremony during which the University Library was renamed in honor of former W&L dean James G. Leyburn.

For her contributions to academic life on campus, in 1976 Brown received the prestigious Ring-tum Phi Award from the student newspaper of the same name. She was also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society founded at W&L in 1914.

Among Brown’s many professional affiliations, for which she also provided leadership in various capacities, were the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET), the Virginia Library Association, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education, the Virginia Independent Colleges & Universities Library Association, the American Library Association and the Associated Colleges of the South.

As a resident of Lexington and Rockbridge County, Brown volunteered with the United Way, the American Cancer Society, the Rockbridge Historical Society, Kendal at Lexington and the English-Speaking Union. A member of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, she sang in the choir there and with the Rockbridge Choral Society, of which she was a founding member.

She is survived by many dear friends and by a number of cousins.

The memorial service will be on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m. at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, 120 S. Main St. It will be followed by a reception in Evans Hall on the W&L campus.

In lieu of flowers, Brown requested that those who want to make donations direct them to these organizations: Lexington Presbyterian Church (120 S. Main St., Lexington, VA 24450); Kendal at Lexington (160 Kendal Dr., Lexington, VA 24450); Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society (P.O. Box 965, Lexington, VA 24450); the Rockbridge SPCA (P.O. Box 528, Lexington, VA 24450); and the First Presbyterian Church of Carroll (P.O. Box 681, Carroll, IA 51401).


W&L Law Students Revive Tradition of SBA Service Day

Local community organizations throughout Lexington and Rockbridge County received a helpful boost when students from Washington and Lee University’s School of Law took part in the Student Bar Association’s (SBA) Service Day during orientation this year.

“The last time we did this was in 2005 or 2006,” said SBA President Negin Farahmand. “It used to be an annual event and so we’re trying to bring it back.”

More than 70 law students took part in the SBA Service Day on August 24. Aimed mostly at incoming students, including first year law students and transfer students, Farahmand said that about 20 current law students also took part as site leaders. “We worked with 15 local organizations, from the Rockbridge Area YMCA to the Rockbridge Free Clinic and Fine Arts in Rockbridge,” she said. “The students met at the law school at 1 p.m. and then dispersed to the different service sites and stayed there until 5 p.m.”

The students took part in a variety of projects from yard work and picking up brush to organizing files and doing paperwork. “It was any work that the individual organization needed to get done but doesn’t necessarily have the time to do,” explained Farahmand.

One project she was particularly interested in was a car wash to raise funds for the Valley Association for Independent Living. “VAIL works specifically with people who have disabilities to try to get them to live independently,” she said. “So that’s a major project the students did.”

Another tradition the SBA hopes to revive is a highway clean up of a portion of Route 60, from the Exxon on Poplar Hill Road for about a mile and half. “The SBA adopted the road years ago,” said Farahmand, who conceded that the task of maintaining the road had fallen by the wayside in the intervening years. “So we worked with Adopt-a-Highway to do this cleanup and I think this will be a good way to restart the initiative.”

Other students worked with children at the Yellow Brick Road Child Care Center. “I think that project was beneficial to both the children and the law students,” said Farahmand. “As law students we get really wrapped up in what we’re doing and we’re very busy. I thought the SBA Service Day would be rewarding for the students and a good way to give back to the community and show that we’re part of the community and we don’t just go to school here. With more than 70 student volunteers, I think it had a big impact in just one day.”

Farahmand stressed that the W&L School of Law has many organizations that perform community service projects throughout the year, but not specifically through the SBA. “For example, there’s a community service requirement for all third-year law students,” she said. “My hope is that those third-year law students who were involved in the SBA Service Day as site leaders will stick with those organizations throughout the year. And hopefully the tradition of the SBA Service Day will continue after this year.”

Other organizations that benefited from the SBA Service Day were Boxerwood Gardens, three locations of Habitat for Humanity, Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center, the assisted living community Mayflower, Woods Creek Montessori, Rockbridge Area Community Services, United Way of Lexington-Rockbridge County, Roots and Shoots and Rockbridge Area Conservation Council.

New Book for Suzanne LaFleur ’05

Suzanne LaFleur, of the Class of 2005, has just published her second novel, Eight Keys, with Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House. It tells the story of best friends Elise, who’s lost her parents, and Franklin. As the publisher describes it, “There’s always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor. When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn.”

Publisher’s Weekly gave Eight Keys a starred review: “LaFleur . . . writes with uncommon sensitivity to the fraught period between childhood and the teenage years, when friendships balance on a razor’s edge and nothing feels certain. The heart of the story lies in the layered relationships and characters that give the novel its powerful sense of realism.”

This is Suzanne’s second novel for Wendy Lamb Books. Her first, Love, Aubrey, is about another orphaned girl and “the healing powers of friendship, love, and memory.” On its 2009 publication, Booklist said, “LaFleur proves she is an author to watch.”

On her website, Suzanne tells how, as a child, she started composing and telling stories even before she knew how to write. She decided then that she wanted to write stories for other children, and at W&L she continued on that path by double-majoring in English and European history. She obtained an M.F.A. in writing for children from the New School. Her brother, Alex, begins his junior year at W&L this fall.


Rats, Reefs and Religion: Faculty and Students Enjoy Summer Research

Attending a Brown Bag Lunch at Washington and Lee’s Howe Hall in the summer is akin to earning a mini college degree. During these sessions, held weekly in June and July, Washington and Lee undergraduates share highlights from their summer research projects. The quick-moving presentations zip between disciplines, offering an up-to-the-minute glimpse into experiments and studies taking place across campus.

About 100 undergraduates participated in summer research projects at W&L, which does not hold classes in the summer. According to the provost’s office, 61 of these students received funding through the Robert E. Lee Summer Scholars Program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010. Students were also funded by the the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation, the Levy Endowment for Neuroscience, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant and several other sources. Professors and students across the disciplines have found this summer work to be educationally and professionally rewarding.

• Watch a slideshow of summer research project.

Sarah Blythe, an HHMI post-doctoral fellow and biology professor, interviewed students for three summer positions. “I told them about the research, and that we’d be picking wet rats out of a pool. They all seemed to agree that was a perfectly fine thing to do,” said Blythe, who is examining how a high-fat diet affects learning and memory, with a focus on gender differences. Student assistance was essential, said Blythe, because the experiments were both time and labor intensive.

For the project, Rick Sykes ’13, David Phillips ’13 and Nicole Gunawansa ’14 monitored how rats performed in a water maze and in a novel-object memory test. They then harvested the animal’s brains.

“It was actually really great because it was very hands-on,” said Gunawansa. “That’s what I was looking for, because I’m intending pre-med, and so I really wanted the opportunity to see if I was willing to handle this stuff. It was a little difficult at first, because I never really had any experience cutting into a live thing before, but it was a very interesting and exciting process.”

Anthropology instructor Sean Devlin hired students for two summer projects. Erika Vaughn ’12 traced the origins of Native American artifacts that were donated to the University many years ago. Victoria Cervantes ’14, Erin Schwartz ’12 and Nicole Rose ’11 cataloged tenant-farmer artifacts uncovered in Charlottesville. They loaded this data into the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), a database holding information about slave-related artifacts discovered at sites across the South and the Caribbean.

The DAACS cataloging wasn’t as thrilling as digging up artifacts during Spring Term, Cervantes admitted, but she was glad to have had the experience. “It’s a good way to introduce you to the field and find out if it’s really what you want to do afterwards, because you can’t always find that out in the classroom, or even on a spring dig, because that shows you the fun, Indiana Jones-y side of it. Then you get and it’s the other part of it,” she said.

For Devlin, a member of W&L’s Class of 2004, a rewarding aspect of summer research has been watching students learn. “Nicole is looking through a book right now about sewing implements and thimbles and needles,” he said. “It’s about those objects, but it’s also about what do these objects mean for the people using them. You can really see the students move from the small, specific stuff back to the larger, broader issues of interpreting the past.”

‘Help Them See the Big Picture’

Jonathan Eastwood, an associate professor of sociology, agrees. Eastwood, who is studying how a country’s emerging nationalism affects the balance of power between church and state, hired Manuel Garcia ’14 and Matthew Ziemer ’14. “I really work to try to help them see the big picture and not just what they’re doing in terms of data collection on a day-to-day basis, but how it fits in relation to the broader research project I’m conducting, also the big questions in the field,” said Eastwood. “It’s good for the research, but especially, as a teacher, it’s just really wonderful to work with bright undergraduate students in this way.”

For the project, Garcia collected data from encyclopedias of nationalism and studied the constitutions of relevant South American countries. The work improved his research skills. “Trying to be efficient, trying to get as much information but at the same time being meticulous about it, making sure you don’t leave any important information out, I think that it’s demanding,” said Garcia. “I definitely think that will help me once I start the school year.”

In the Psychology Department, associate professor Wythe Whiting and his team examined whether a person’s ability to detect facial expressions declines with age. Similar research has focused on age-related declines in memory and attention, said Whiting, but face processing is unique because it is a hard-wired, nearly automatic skill that uses a different type of cognitive processing.

For the study, test subjects looked at photographs of faces on a computer screen and determined the correct emotions. Student assistance was vital. “We may be getting 70 people through here. It takes at least an hour per person, so the students are necessary components, to collect the data,” said Whiting. “But it also gives them great experience because they pretty much get to do the project from start to finish.”

By running the project all the way through, the students-Roger Strong ’12, Keaton Fletcher ’13 and Erin Kennedy ’14-learned through trial and error how to conduct an experiment. “A big part of it is how much attention to detail that’s necessary,” said Strong. “Because if you change one little thing about the program or images and later on, if you don’t realize you messed it up, you have to go back and fix everything.”

From Belize to Lexington

Even projects in exotic locales can be labor intensive. Just ask Lisa Greer, associate professor of geology, who traveled to Belize with Matt Benson ’12 and Will Sullivan ’14 to study the health of an endangered coral species called Acropora cerviconis. Significant living swaths of the coral are known to exist in two places, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. Greer learned about the Belize site from Al Curran, a 1962 W&L graduate and Smith College geology professor who directed a research program in which Greer participated during her undergraduate days at Colorado College.

In Belize, Sullivan photographed the reef while Benson captured its topography with a video camera. In Lexington, the team determined the health of the reef after calculating the percentage of live coral visible in meter-square segments. To do this, they have been digitizing Sullivan’s photographs. It’s a time-consuming task, and it can take up to four hours just to digitize just one square meter of coral.

“Will was absolutely invaluable in trying to figure out the method for how to digitize these,” said Greer. “He has worked with three or four different programs, really to try and key in on a method for doing this.” Benson, after a four-week, grant-sponsored trip to St John, will be using the Belize research as part of a comparative study.

Students and professors across the board enjoyed not only collaborating but also getting to know each other on a less formal basis. Perhaps most surprising, at least for the students, was that they would even have the opportunity to work with professors in the first place. “A big thing to stress is how accessible research is at W&L,” said Nicole Gunawansa. “I never realized that this was going to be a huge aspect of the school.”

— by Amy Balfour ’89, ’93L

Out of Retirement

Mike Neer’s retirement lasted 16 months. The former Washington and Lee basketball Hall of Famer, a member of the Class of 1970, is headed back to the hardwood this winter as the new head coach at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

In April 2010, Mike stepped down after 34 years as the coach at the University of Rochester, where his teams won a national NCAA Division III title in 1990 and he had compiled the ninth best record among active Division III coaches.

As a story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle noted, Mike admitted when he retired that he wasn’t completely sure of the decision. Then he went through a season away from the game. That only made it worse.

In an interview with Rochester sports writer Jim Mandelaro after the Hobart announcement, Mike described what it was like last winter when he visited practices run by some of his former assistant coaches who are now leading programs at Allegheny College, Rhodes Island and Villanova. “”They’d invite me to practices, and I was like the grandparent holding the baby,” Mike said. “It felt good, and then I got to hand it back.” He also called getting the call from Hobart to return to the bench “Santa in the chimney in August.”

At the 2011 National Association of Basketball Coaches, Mike received the NABC’s Outstanding Service Award.


Jack Vardaman ’62 Qualifies for U.S. Senior Amateurs

Jack Vardaman, of the Class of 1962, is going to have to postpone his induction into Washington and Lee’s Athletic Hall of Fame. But he has a perfectly good excuse.

Jack was scheduled to be among the four inductees during the Hall of Fame weekend Sept. 9-10. He was to be honored for his four-year career on the Generals’ golf team, which included a Virginia State Intercollegiate Championship during his freshman year.

But then Jack went and won another tournament. Last weekend he shot a 72 at the Greenbrier’s Meadow Course to win U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier status. That enables him to play in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, which will be played Sept. 10-15 at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., just outside Richmond. And that, of course, conflicts with the Hall of Fame induction. The Senior Amateur is open to players who have reached their 55th birthday prior to the start of the championship and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4. This will be Jack’s fourth appearance in the tournament.

Before he gets to Richmond, Jack has some business to complete this week at the Homestead, where he is competing in the 64th Virginia Senior Amateur Championship. This morning (Wednesday, Aug. 24), Jack opened match play as the sixth-seeded player in the round of 32 after shooting an even-par 142 during two qualifying rounds of stroke play. He won his first two matches Wednesday and will play in the quarterfinal round on Thursday at 8:30 a.m.  You can follow his progress at the VSGA’s scoreboard.

Jack, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, was ranked as one of the 10 best senior amateur golfers in the United States in 2001 by Golf Digest. Jack will be inducted into the W&L Hall of Fame along with the Class of 2012 — provided he’s not in another championship.


Pamela Simpson to Address Fall Convocation at W&L

Pamela Hemenway Simpson, the Ernest Williams II Professor of Art and Art History at Washington and Lee University, will present the 2011 Fall Convocation address on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m., in Warner Center.

The title of Simpson’s address is “Reflections on White Columns.”

The event will be streamed live on the University’s website.

The convocation marks the beginning of Washington and Lee’s 263rd academic year and of the 163rd year of the School of Law.

Simpson joined the Washington and Lee faculty in 1973. During her tenure at the University, she has served as chair of the Department of Art and Art History on two occasions, and as assistant and then associate dean of the College from 1981 through 1986. From 1984 to 1986, she chaired the Coeducation Steering Committee, which implemented the University’s decision to admit women.

A graduate of Gettysburg College, she received her M.A. in art history from the University of Missouri and her Ph.D. in art history from the University of Delaware. She is the author of the 1999 book Cheap, Quick and Easy: Imitative Architectural Materials, 1870-1930, and is co-author with the late Royster Lyle Jr. of The Architecture of Historic Lexington. Simpson is completing work on a new book, Icons of Abundance: The History of Corn Palaces and Butter Sculpture.

The winner of numerous honors and awards for her teaching and scholarship, Simpson received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia State Council on Higher Education in 1995, and the Award for Excellence in Teaching from the Southeast College Art Conference (SECAC) in 2010.

The ceremony is open to the public.

Archives of American Shakespeare Center Find New Home at W&L

Dating to its founders’ first amateur performance of Antony and Cleopatra in 1985, the American Shakespeare Center (ASC), now one of the country’s leading performers of Shakespeare, has kept a careful record of everything associated with the plays it staged. The center’s archives include directors’ notes, prompt books, set designs, posters, fliers, still and candid photographs, playbills, programs, and recordings of performances.

This month those archives formally came to their new home in the Special Collections of Washington and Lee University’s Leyburn Library.

“It’s a very rich treasure trove for anyone studying the performance of Shakespeare,” said Hank Dobin, dean of the college at W&L. Dobin was instrumental in bringing the collection to W&L and also serves on the ASC’s board of trustees and as head of its education committee.

“The American Shakespeare Center aspires to be the leading location for Shakespeare performances and Shakespeare performance studies,” said Dobin, a Shakespeare scholar. He explained that part of the reason for bringing the collection to W&L was for faculty and students in drama and English to use it for research. “If I were teaching a Shakespeare class, I would assign a research paper to my students to use this archive,” he said. “Maybe they could compare two different productions of Hamlet that occurred at the ASC over the years, or they could compare an ASC production of Hamlet to a movie production. So it offers a lot of opportunities for W&L students.”

The ASC began as the professional traveling troupe “Shenandoah Shakespeare Express” in 1988. But the company was without a home theater until 2001 when, in Staunton, Va., it built the Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only authentic replica of Shakespeare’s indoor theater in London. “The ASC wants to be the place that is most loyally trying to recreate Shakespeare’s original playing conditions,” said Dobin. “This means that the research has to be ongoing so that we are more and more confident about what those original playing conditions might have been.”

The ASC’s Center for Education and Research promotes scholarship about the period and about performance, and hosts a bi-annual conference for Shakespeare scholars that attracts the world’s most prominent authorities on Shakespeare in performance.

Plans are also underway to recreate in Staunton Shakespeare’s second Globe Theater (the version that was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original in 1613). “With the second Globe Theater, we will have two playing spaces,” said Dobin, “and the American Shakespeare Center will really be a mecca for Shakespeare performance in this country and around the world. So this is a really important collection and will be increasingly important when the center’s ambitions come to fruition.”

Dobin noted that, in addition to seeing Shakespeare performances, scholars will now also be able to study the ASC archives to understand the ways in which the playing company’s performances have evolved over the years. “The ASC wants to make its archives available to scholars. At Washington and Lee we have the ability to do that in a safe and organized way, offering both really good long term storage and access to scholars,” he said.

Vaughan Stanley, special collections librarian at W&L, received the ASC archive in mid-August. “We’ve cleared a certain amount of shelf space for the collection in our vault,” he said. “We try to keep the air temperature and humidity regulated so that they never go beyond what is a good situation for the materials. Ideally, the best situation is about 50 degrees of relative humidity and about 66 degrees of temperature, although that does fluctuate a few degrees.”

Stanley said that he plans to set up a DVD player in Special Collections to allow individual scholars access to the recordings of the performances. “We’re also trying to deal with the question of how best to preserve the images of the plays for the long term,” he said. “I think we’ll have to convert some of them into another format to ensure that they last longer, and that would be in consultation with the Actors’ Equity Association which has guidelines on such transfers.

“Acquiring the collection is a very prestigious event for W&L, there’s no question about that,” he emphasized. “And we’ve already scheduled the delivery of more material in 2012 that the ASC has archived from 1988 to 2006.”

Stanley worked closely with Sarah Enloe, the ASC’s director of education, to bring the collection on campus. “This time, we brought the show inventory from 1985 to 2004,” said Enloe. “It includes all the shows performed, including our first professional show, Richard III, which we toured in 1988, and our first three years at Blackfriars. This is a very exciting event for us, and we’ll be making a formal event of it in October at our conference, with a reception and formal recognition of the transfer.”

Ralph Cohen, cofounder and director of mission at the ASC, said, “The American Shakespeare Center is glad that W&L, which has such first rate facilities, will be preserving our history. It gratifies us that the university recognizes that the work going on at the Blackfriars Playhouse, and its influence on the world of Shakespeare, warrants the care that Vaughan Stanley and his staff can give it.”

Although the American Shakespeare Center is most closely associated with its partner Mary Baldwin College in Staunton-which created the world’s only master’s degree program for the teaching, acting and directing of Shakespeare-Dobin explained that Mary Baldwin didn’t have the ability to house the archives. “So the ASC immediately thought of Washington and Lee because in addition to being a well regarded college in the area, there’s a clear regional identification with Staunton and the Shenandoah Valley,” he said.

The Blackfriars Playhouse website can be found at http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com/


Earthquake Felt in Lexington; No Damage Reported on Campus

Members of the Washington and Lee community, along with Lexington residents, experienced the Virginia-based 5.8 earthquake on Tuesday. W&L has received no reports of any injuries or damage from the event.

The quake, which was centered 82 miles from the W&L campus in Mineral, Va., struck at 1:51 p.m. with a low rumble and a rolling motion for what some observers thought lasted about 30 seconds.

Within minutes of the event, many members of the University community had made their way to the Geology Department’s suite in the Science Center, where the department’s two seismographs had captured the earthquake on seismograms.

“There are earthquakes in this part of the country, but they are relatively rare events,” said Paul Low, a visiting assistant professor of geology at W&L. “With the preliminary estimate of a magnitude 5.8,, this would be a historic event. The largest previous earthquake in Virginia was 5.9, in 1897 in Giles County, Va.”

Low noted that it will probably be one of the world’s largest earthquakes this week. He added that the potential for aftershocks is small – except, perhaps, for tremors that are measurable only on instruments, but too small for people to feel.

“We’re in an area that hasn’t received a lot of tectonic activity for a very long time,” Low said. “Even though we have faults – and this earthquake was in an area of a mapped fault – we don’t have active faults or active tectonic movements. You can think about this as things settling down due to weathering, or as rivers move piles of dirt from the mountains and deposit them in the ocean.”

R.T. Smith Publishes Fourth Book of Stories

A new book of stories by R.T. Smith, editor of “Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review,” will be published next month by Stephen F. Austin University Press in Texas.

“Sherburne” is about members of the same family spanning over a century with all but one story set primarily in Rockbridge County. According to Smith, “the serious tone of the book is set by the subjects of the first story in Sherburne, rape and murder, pursuit, the friction between the townspeople and the woods dwellers in a rough mountain county, the question of who really knows the truth.”

Some of the stories in “Sherburne” won national prizes and most have been published in magazines such as “Virginia Quarterly Review,” “Missouri Review” and “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.”

“Ranging through time from the Civil War to the present, this intricate and exquisitely written collection further confirms that R. T. Smith is one of America’s best writers. “Sherburne” is a magnificent achievement,” said Ron Rash, an Appalachian poet, short story writer, novelist and writer.

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

Smith taught at Auburn University for 19 years, serving as alumni writer-in-residence for his last 12 years there. He has been at W&L editing “Shenandoah” since 1995.

In addition to editing “Shenandoah,” Smith is W&L’s writer-in-residence, and teaches creative writing and literature courses at W&L and directs an internship program at “Shenandoah.”

Smith has written three other collections of stories, “Faith,” “Uke Rivers Delivers” and “Calaboose Epistles.” He is the author of over 12 poetry collections, including “Outlaw Style: Poems,” “The Hollow Log Lounge,” “Brightwood” and “Messenger.”

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

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

He won the Library of Virginia Poetry Book Award for “Messenger” and “Outlaw Style: Poems.”


Alums Together Off-Off-Broadway

Two Washington and Lee classmates from the Class of 2010, both double majors in English and theater, are working together on the off-off-Broadway stage in New York City this month.

Jenna Worsham is directing “What the Sparrow Said” at Teatro LATEA. Included in the cast is her classmate Kevin Mannering, who plays the role of Blaze. The play is part of the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC), the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues. The final two performances of “What the Sparrow Said” are this Thursday and Friday.

Both Jenna and Kevin get positive nods in a review on the nytheatre.com site. Of Jenna’s directing, reviewer Aimee Todoroff writes that it “never fails to illuminate the action in ways that are clear and inventive.” Of Kevin’s performance, Todoroff thinks that ”as Blaze, Kevin Mannering stays true to his character’s name, tearing across the stage with a frenetic, almost manic openness . . . Mannering deserves extra notice for bearing much of the linguistic burden and for his honest, deliberate pacing when a less confident performer might have rushed.”

Some of Jenna’s recent credits include assistant director of the world premiere of Lucy Thurber’s “The Insurgents” at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, and director of “Daniel” at Intar Theatre as part of the Irene Fornes New Play Festival.  Kevin most recently appeared in “Dr. Faustus Lights the Lights” at Columbia University’s Schapiro Studio.

Gittin’ Through with Roy Matthews '54

Roy T. Matthews, emeritus professor of history at Michigan State University and a member of the Class of 1954, is the author of a new book, Gittin’ Through.

Published by Trafford Publishing, Gittin’ Through is subtitled A Southern Town During World War II. The book follows three generations whose lives were changed by the war: “The oldest generation, who had kicked up their heels in the Jazz Age and suffered through the Great Depression, adjusted to rationing and worried if their children would be sent to war. The youngest generation endured the traumas of adolescence while trying to sort out what the war meant to them. The middle generation anguished over their fate, left Madison to serve their country or remained on the home front.”

Roy, who grew up in Franklin, Va., is co-author of The Western Humanities, an award-winning, two-volume textbook. In 2002, Roy was one of 26 educators from around Michigan and the nation who won the Crystal Apple Awards sponsored by the Michigan State College of Education and the Richard Lee Featherstone Society.

Read more about Gittin’ Through at the publisher’s website.


W&L Professor Sees Parallels to Libyan Rebellion in Congolese Wars of 1990s

As the world waits to see what might transpire in Libya over the days ahead, a Washington and Lee University politics professor believes there is a huge risk for chaos and infighting and points to the Congolese wars as a comparable situation.

Ayşe Zarakol, who studies political transformations and is the author of “After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West,” says that she sees no way for Muammar Qaddafi to retain power.

“He will not be able to hold even the quasi-control that he has had since March,” Zarakol said. “He will be lucky if he lives to die of natural causes some day.”

With Qaddafi gone, the question of Libya’s future is uncertain, and Zarakol believes there is an enormous risk of chaos and infighting. She sees little chance that a stable government, let alone a democracy, will take hold anytime soon.

“The rebels are not very well organized, nor have they been fighting for very long,” she said. “The only loose ties they have to one another are tribal and geographical. Even among the tribes, which are mostly from the east of the country, there are factions. Furthermore, not everyone who opposes Qaddafi, which is virtually the entire country besides those on his payroll, has joined the rebellion. This is true especially in the western areas of the country and in Tripoli.”

Consequently, Zarakol warns, the rebels come to power without a coherent ideological drive or plan. The only thing uniting the rebellion, in addition to tribal alliances, is the desire to get rid of Qaddafi. “Once that common raison d’etre is removed, it is unlikely they will remain united,” she said. “Because they have not been fighting for very long, they are unlikely to have developed a ‘barracks’ type of organizational culture or military discipline that would help keep different factions in line during the transition period.”

When it comes to historical examples of rebel forces that took over a country and successfully consolidated a stable government, Zarakol points to the American Revolution and to the Turkish Independence War in the 1920s. She notes that, in both instances, the rebels were more organized, had charismatic leaders and operated on clear ideological principles.

Zarakol also refers to the ouster of Mobutu from the former Zaire in 1997 as a comparable event to what is occurring in Libya.

“Mobutu was a reviled despot much in the vein of Qaddafi, so everyone was happy to see him taken out by the rebels during the First Congo War,” she said. “The rebel groups were supported by the neighboring countries. Later when the rebel leader, Kabila, tried to assert his independence from his foreign backers, especially Rwanda, the Second Congo War broke out, sucking in most of the neighboring countries. Millions of people died. Despite the ceasefire almost a decade ago, the situation is still volatile.”

If there is infighting in Libya, she said, it is unlikely to envelop the neighboring African countries like the Congo War did. The difference is that where Congo has rich reserves of coltan, which is used in the manufacture of electronic capacitors, Libya has oil, and that means the international community is heavily involved.

“It will be very difficult for NATO to balance aid and peacekeeping to ensure stability on the ground without upsetting the already fragile ties that hold the rebellion together,” she said. “It would be a good idea to study the lessons of the Congolese wars.”

Washington and Lee to Install Virginia's Largest Solar Energy System

Washington and Lee  signed an agreement with Secure Futures L.L.C., a solar-energy developer based in Staunton, Va., today to install two solar photovoltaic arrays, totaling approximately 450 kilowatts, at two separate locations on the University’s campus.

The first solar array, with a capacity of 120 kilowatts, will be installed on a canopy to be constructed over the upper deck of the University’s parking structure. Lewis Hall, home of the Washington and Lee School of Law, will host the second array, a rooftop installation with a capacity of 330 kilowatts. Scheduled for completion by the end of the year, the two arrays combined will become the largest solar project in Virginia, with enough power to supply the total average annual electricity needs for 44 homes in Lexington.

“This is an important step for Washington and Lee as part of our continuing emphasis on sustainability,” said Kenneth P. Ruscio, W&L’s president. “This is another instance of how we are aligning our institutional practices with what we preach to our students about their duties as responsible citizens and their obligations to future generations.”

When complete, the installations will represent the largest deployment to date of solar power in the commonwealth of Virginia. The roof of Lewis Hall will have 1,032 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels manufactured by the SunPower Corp., and the parking-deck canopy will hold 540 photovoltaic panels made by Sanyo. Washington and Lee has entered into a 20-year power-purchase agreement with Secure Futures to buy the solar-generated electricity.

The University pursued this opportunity, as the latest element in its sustainability strategy, with a clear eye on the economics of the model.

“The use of the Power Purchase Agreement makes this a financially viable project for the University, as it allows the University to purchase the electricity generated from the project at a far more effective cost than had we built and operated the structures ourselves,” Steve McAllister, Vice President for Finance at the University, stated. “In addition the structure of the agreement provides an option for the University to purchase the system at a later date. This option may prove to yield an even larger economic benefit for the University.”

According to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the largest solar project in the state is currently the 104-kilowatt installation on the roof of the Hartzler Library at Eastern Mennonite University, in Harrisonburg, a project Secure Futures developed in the fall of 2010.

“W&L’s commitment to sustainability and thoughtful leadership will now become even more visible through this project. We’re delighted to support W&L’s leadership in this way,” said Dr. Tony Smith, CEO of Secure Futures.

Washington and Lee has undertaken numerous sustainability initiatives to date across its campus. It also has signed both the Presidents Climate Commitment, an initiative of colleges and universities in the United States, as well as the international Talloires Declaration to incorporate sustainability in teaching, research and University operations. The University has taken campus-wide action in areas including composting, local and organic foods, energy conservation, purchasing, transportation and the management of physical plant. In addition, departments ranging from the University store to printing and copying services have committed to using fewer resources and generating less waste.

The parking-deck canopy system will be installed by Standard Solar of Rockville, Md., while the Lewis Hall array will be installed by Southern Energy Management based in Morrisville, N.C. Secure Futures has formed a subsidiary company, the Lexington Solar L.C., to develop and operate the project.

About Secure FuturesSecure Futures L.L.C. offers clean and affordable solar energy generated on-site to colleges and universities, local governments and other institutions operating in the public interest. Through Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPAs), customers can reduce their electricity costs and protect themselves against future price increases from electric utilities without the high up-front cost of installing their own solar power equipment. Secure Futures is based in Staunton, Va., and may be found online at www.securefutures.us


W&L Emeritus Professor Robert Johnson Dies

Robert Stanley Johnson, the Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at Washington and Lee University, died on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at Augusta Medical Center. He was 73.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Patrick’s Church in Lexington at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, with burial to follow in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m.

Johnson joined Washington and Lee’s faculty in 1965. He attained the rank of full professor in 1975. Among other accomplishments, he served two terms as chair of the department mathematics. As chair, Johnson reorganized the basic computer science courses and organized and directed student-run help sessions in the elementary level courses. In 2004, the University honored Professor Johnson with the dedication of a classroom in Robinson Hall on the historic Colonnade.

In 1985, he was appointed to the Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics. The professorship recognizes the Society of Cincinnati of Virginia’s gift of its assets to Washington College in 1802.

“Bob Johnson served Washington and Lee with great distinction for 38 years,” said Washington and Lee University President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “He was highly regarded by generations of students as a teacher and was also a valued colleague. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Johnson was an unusually devoted mentor to generations of W&L students, many of whom became devoted friends in later years. His range of interests — in music, history, literature, science —- made him a valued friend to a wide circle of friends who prized his wit, his enthusiasm and his steadfastness.

Johnson’s fields of teaching specialty were algebra and fundamental mathematics concepts. With his mathematics department colleague Tom Vinson, Johnson was author of a textbook, Elementary Linear Algebra. He was a member of the Mathematical Association of America, the American Mathematical Society, the American Association of University Professors, and the Sigma XI honorary society.

An avid traveler, he visited many parts of the world often accompanied by friends, former students and family. Locally he was a devoted congregant at St. Patrick’s Church and a member of the choir. He was also a active member of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and served as treasurer of the local chapter.

Johnson was born in Pikeville, Ky., on Nov. 23, 1937, the son of Marvin Forrest and Norcie Wicker Johnson. He grew up in Frankfort, Ky., and graduated from Georgetown College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph. D.

He is survived by his brother, Glen, and sister-in-law, Sipra, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a niece, Denise Johnson, of Washington, D.C., and a nephew, Robert Alexander Johnson, of Portland, Oregon.

Mapping the Civil War with W&L History Student

When an alumnus first asked him to spend part of his summer immersed in Civil War maps, Washington and Lee University senior Jenks Wilson wasn’t sure what to expect.

A senior with a double major in history and philosophy from Charleston, S.C., Wilson said his historical interests initially lay in the antebellum period. He did take the Spring Term course on Civil War battlefields taught by history professor Holt Merchant, but, he said, “I didn’t really have a Civil War background.”

He does now.

Wilson is interning with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of its Preserve America project, “Charting a More Perfect Union,” which is collecting electronic images of Civil War-era maps and charts for free use by the public.

Ben Sherman, a 1975 graduate of Washington and Lee, has been working on the project as a public affairs specialist with NOAA. When Sherman needed research help, he contacted Merchant, who had been one of his W&L professors. Merchant, a 1961 graduate of W&L, put Sherman in touch with Wilson.

“One of the challenges of making this map collection available to the general public has been finding additional details into the significance of the various charts — who were the people that drew them, how were they used and then trying to match what was in the collection with what happened 150 years ago,” said Sherman.  “While somewhat of a history buff myself, I didn’t have the time in my work schedule to do a lot of research in this area, but also recognized that, for NOAA, the Civil War Sesquicentennial  represented a greater opportunity for wider exposure of this collection than we would ever have — hence, my reaching out to Dr. Merchant.”

On the 150th anniversary this month of the First Battle of Manassas, also known as the First Battle of Bull Run, NOAA issued a news release that highlighted Wilson’s work on two maps — a Confederate map sketched by an infantry captain of the First Virginia Regiment, Samuel P. Mitchell, and a Union map developed with the U.S. Coast Survey, the predecessor of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey.

“My work has been all about who, what, when, where and why regarding these maps,” said Wilson, who divides his time between a paid job at the newly reopened Southern Inn, in Lexington, and his voluntary internship with NOAA.

Once NOAA assigned him the two Manassas maps, Wilson began looking for any information he could find in W&L’s Leyburn Library.

“I found a good book in W&L’s Special Collections about the First Virginia Regiment, which was Capt. Mitchell’s regiment,” said Wilson. “Since the Confederate armies had a home-field advantage and knew the terrain, it was rare to have a map from the Confederate side, which makes this a particularly significant map.

“As I looked at the map and read about both the battle and the First Virginia Regiment, it was apparent that this was not a map designed for military intelligence. In the first place, it would be unlikely for an infantryman to produce such a map; that would have been left to the engineers. The regiment played an extremely important role in the battle, so it became clear to me that this was a map that had been created after the event and was designed to commemorate the occasion.”

Mitchell’s map includes notations about how the battle was waged, where casualties were taken, and where the Union forces were deployed.

The Union map, titled “Manassas Junction and Vicinity,” was also created after the battle but, said Wilson, had clear strategic implications. It was commissioned because the Union Army was unprepared for the terrain.

“In the first battle, Gen. McDowell did not have a map. He ordered reconnaissance, but it wasn’t very effective,” said Wilson. “The Union wanted their reconnaissance to be in secret, but the Confederates were patrolling the area heavily, so they did not have a very good idea of where they were or where they were going.”

Although the Union map that Wilson examined was designed to correct the disadvantage for a second battle, the soldiers did not use it effectively, in Wilson’s view.

“I found little evidence that Gen. John Pope used this map. Instead, you see many instances of Pope’s having opportunities to turn his forces on smaller Confederate brigades in the area but failing to do that,” said Wilson. “Pope’s chief objective was to get Gen. Jackson. I came across an excellent description of what was called Pope’s ‘strategic tunnel vision’.”

With the Manassas maps behind him, Wilson is moving on to examine maps of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.

NOAA based its “Charting a More Perfect Union” project on a collection that includes U.S. Coast Survey products as well as related maps discovered during NOAA archival searches. More than 35,000 electronic images are available from the Office of Coast Survey’s Historical Map & Chart Collection, and 440 maps are in the Civil War chart collection.

“Geography was a huge part of the war, obviously,” said Wilson. “And we don’t have a lot of information on the maps and charts. A lot of the information that they had was from reconnaissance, but looking at these maps gives us another insight into the battles that we didn’t have before.”

“Jenks has been real delight to work with,” Sherman said. “He is very much a self-starter, a thorough researcher and an excellent writer. I think it has benefited both NOAA and him. He has explored in depth some unique records of the war while also learning a bit about NOAA and the process of clearing news releases in the federal government. This has possibly opened the doors to new interests.  I know there is strong interest in our Office of Coast Survey, where there was some initial hesitancy on my idea, it has been received very well across the agency and by the Civil War Sesquicentennial  and cartographic press.”

Wilson hopes to continue his work on the maps during his upcoming senior year, and perhaps beyond.

“Between this project and the Civil War battlefields course, I have a greater understanding of and appreciation for this era,” said Wilson. “It’s been a valuable project.”

W&L to Host Three Virginia Governor's Language Academies

Following the success of this summer’s Virginia Governor’s French Academy at Washington and Lee University, Dick Kuettner, coordinator of the program, has announced that W&L has been selected to host three such “full-immersion” language academies in French, German and Spanish simultaneously for the next five years.

“We are all very excited at the prospect of having the very best foreign language students in the state of Virginia on our campus for the next five summers,” said Dean of the College Hank Dobin. “And we’re very grateful to Dick Kuettner for all of his work to bring the Governor’s Academies to W&L.”

Kuettner, a professor in the romance languages department and director of the Tucker Multimedia Center, said he was inspired to bring the residential full-immersion academies to W&L by his desire to promote languages, saying “Languages need to be brought to the forefront in these days of global community development. Without language, how can there be understanding? Without understanding, how can there be progress?”

This summer’s three-week French academy used almost every non-academic department at W&L and brought 60 students on campus. It also elicited a visit from a representative of the Virginia Department of Education who conducted interviews of students, faculty and staff. “I think this summer’s academy went extremely smoothly,” said Kuettner. “And I can’t believe how favorable the responses were from the individuals who attended.”

One attendee described the facilities as “absolutely fabulous. No complaints, only praise.” Another reported that “the host university was without fault, accommodating beyond any expectation, seriously.” Dining services received its share of praise, with the assessment of “excellent overall dining experience this summer.” And the lodging “exceeded by far my expectations. It was excellent, spacious, clean and beautiful,” said another attendee.

One innovation that students appreciated was W&L’s creation of the academy website, which gave students a full introduction to the academy and also posted a blog as events unfolded. The website and a link to the blog can be found at http://frenchacademy.wlu.edu/

Kuettner stated that although the proposal for hosting three language academies was submitted before this summer’s French academy, he said he thought the positive evaluations given to the Virginia Department of Education had an influence on W&L being selected to host three academies instead of just one.

Kuettner has already started the planning process for next summer’s academies. “With the French academy we only had two and a half months to get everything done,” he said. “Now we have almost a full year, which is a nice relief. And I think we’ll need all that time to make sure everything goes smoothly from the beginning. But it should be easier in the future because now we know just what is involved.”

The French, German and Spanish academies will involve a total of 165 students and 33 teachers and staff visiting W&L. The Germans will lodge in Gaines Hall, the Spanish in Woods Creek and the French will return to the sorority houses they occupied this summer.

The students are mostly high school seniors, with some juniors, and are recommended to attend the academies by their high school teachers through a highly selective process. “These are the top language students from all over the Commonwealth,” said Kuettner. “The aim is to improve their oral and written communication skills in a particular language. I would describe the academies as a mind-expanding experience through language training, discovery of historical and cultural events and international living. Students will also receive demonstrations of linguistic, musical, artistic and culinary talents by students, faculty and staff.”

Kuettner explained that although each academy will be different and their cultural activities will vary because of the different countries and languages, he plans to include two major activities that will involve all three academies. “It’s a reenactment of the Global Village through rituals, communications and interaction among academies,” he said.

The first multicultural experience will be a Grand Ball, after students receive instruction in the dances of their target country (a normal part of the curriculum). “At the Grand Ball, students will have to speak the language of their academy, so they’ll have to learn to communicate with each other using maybe their hands or facial expressions. That will make it more interesting for them,” said Kuettner.

The other major multicultural activity will be three days of soccer competition between the academies during the last week. But instead of a soccer World Cup, Kuettner said he plans to create a soccer Full Immersion Cup (FIC). “It will be “Le FIC,” “El FIC” or “Der FIC,” he explained. “It’s an event where all the languages can intermingle. We’ll finish up with an international parade honoring the FIC winner and maybe a barbeque outside.”

“We’re very excited about being selected to have these academies at Washington and Lee,” he added. “It’s been some time since we’ve had an academic program that brings high school students to W&L and everybody is very supportive of it.”

The Governor’s Foreign Language Academies were originated in 1986 by the Virginia Board of Education with the aim of providing an exemplary experience in foreign language education. Beginning with a French Academy, the program expanded over the years to include Governor’s Foreign Language Academies in Asian Studies, German, Latin, Russian Studies and Spanish.

Ted DeLaney Named St. George Tucker Society President

Ted DeLaney, the Harry E. and Mary Jayne W. Redenbaugh Term Professor of History and head of the history department at Washington and Lee, has been elected to a two-year term as president of the St. George Tucker Society, an interdisciplinary organization of southern specialists at was founded in 1992 by the most important living historian of the American South, Eugene D. Genovese.

DeLaney succeeded Louis Kyriakoudes, of the University of Southern Mississippi. The organization includes historians, sociologists, literature specialists, and journalists.  W&L Professor Emeritus Ed Yoder is a member. The St. George Tucker Society meets annually in Augusta, Ga. It did meet on the Washington and Lee campus in 1999 when scholarly societies were invited to participate in W&L’s 250th anniversary observance


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Another Honor for Dick Duchossois '44

Earlier this month at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Richard L. Duchossois, of the Class of 1944, received the The Ellen & Herbert Moelis Equine Savior Award for Philanthropy from Equine Advocates, a national non-profit dedicated to saving horses from slaughter.

The award is just the latest in a long list of honors recognizing Dick’s impact on Thoroughbred racing. Under his leadership, Arlington Park has received three Eclipse Awards, and Dick has been named Man of the Year by the Jockey’s Guild, winner of the American Jockey Club’s Gold Medal and of the Lord Derby Award from the Horserace Writers and Reporters Association of Great Britain. He was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

This latest award, which was presented to Dick by actress Bebe Neuwirth, recognizes Dick’s commitment to fighting horse slaughter. He was instrumental in working with Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, on the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act in 2006. That bill passed the House but was blocked in the Senate.

Gary Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey and a sports anchor, praised Dick in his remarks at the event: “Without the horses we wouldn’t have thoroughbred racing. But these horses are not just athletes. They’re individual beings that need to be looked after when their racing careers are over. It takes a guy with voice to make people realize that all horses, and not just race horses, should be given every chance to go on and live happy lives.”


W&L Internship Program Seeks Listings from Alumni and Parents

While researching internships online last spring, then junior Lev Raslin zeroed in on a program offered by Densebrain Inc. in Manhattan. “The company name stuck out,” said Raslin, “and when I read about it I saw that they made one of the apps that I use, NYCMate, which is basically a collection of all New York City public transit maps.”

Raslin, a member of the Class of 2012, found the Densebrain listing on the W&L Internship and Opportunity Initiative (IOI) webpage. IOI, now entering its second year, is a student-led effort to find and promote summer internships using the University’s network of alumni and parents. The internship with Densebrain – a digital ideas agency that develops mobile apps – was listed by Alex Cruikshank, a member of W&L’s Class of 1994.

“I reached out to W&L, to NYU, to Columbia,” said Cruikshank, a management consultant who worked with Densebrain this spring. “The quality of resumes from W&L was very high.” Cruikshank, together with Densebrain’s CEO and lead designer, interviewed Raslin in May in New York City. The company offered Raslin the internship on the spot, and he started a few days later.

Densebrain’s position was one of 29 internships posted on the IOI website its inaugural year. To collect these listings, a team of undergraduates – called city coordinators -contacted alumni in seven target cities: Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Charlotte, Washington, Louisville, and Richmond, Va. The organizers recently added New York City.

“We didn’t quite meet our goal of 30 or 35, but considering where we started off, with zero, ending with 29 is still something. We consider it a success,” said senior Mac Davis, who created the IOI program after his own stressful search for an internship. Listings ranged from a communications internship with Westvaco in Covington, Va., to a placement in the mayor’s office in Boston.

This year, to bump up the number of listings and placements, Davis is narrowing the program’s focus. New internships will target sophomores, who may be more open to a variety of summer work experiences. Juniors are often looking for specialized internships closely linked to a specific career path, said Beverly Lorig, director of career services at W&L, whose office is working with the IOI team. Sophomores can also use the internships as building blocks. “With the push on getting experience, someone who does an internship as a sophomore is going to be in a better position to get a highly desirable internship as a junior,” said Lorig.

The IOI internships are not-for-credit and most are unpaid. They can be new internships or well established. Structure and length are flexible too. “We’ve tried to say to the people, and to the students who are writing these pitches, we will tailor this to fit your needs,” said Lorig. “These are simply designed to give students experience.”

The city coordinators attended a communications seminar this spring. During the seminar, Jeb Brooks, of the Class of 2005, a sales training specialist, helped them hone their phone skills. “Younger salespeople aren’t as comfortable on the phone as a result of the technologies they can use to avoid the phone. So we talked a lot about some real tactical moves that you can make to be effective on the phone, because it’s real easy to delete an e-mail,” said Brooks. “And it’s probably not going to be effective to shoot a text to a CEO who might be interested in hiring an intern.”

The re-tooled program will also have more structure, with city coordinators operating under set deadlines. The coordinators, in turn, will work with alumni and parents, helping them set up internships and offering advice. Openings, for example, should be listed early in the school year. “A lot of what we’re going to be doing is providing guidance to a lot of the smaller companies that have never really had an internship program,” said Davis.

There will also be more oversight of individual listings. “We’re going to have a much stronger system of keeping up with the employers and the students who applied for these positions, to make sure W&L students are actually getting hired,” said Davis. On the flip side, Davis and the 14 city coordinators will be looking out for the alumni and parents who post openings. Not every internship position will be filled, Davis said, but “we will do our best to try to make sure that every person who lists something with us has at least several applicants.”

Raslin, a double major in politics and anthropology, was interested in an internship because he wanted to supplement his analytical skills with hands-on, real-world business experience. He got that opportunity at Densebrain, where he helped prep an interactive campaign for a high-profile client.

“I’m thankful that W&L facilitates a program like this,” said Raslin. “I think it opens up doors where students A, might not find them or B, might not have them otherwise.”

— by Amy Balfour ’89, ’93L


Piggy Nation

When a driver in a Corvette stole his mother-in-law’s parking space outside a restaurant, Richard Rosser, of the Class of 1984, knew he had to do something in response. So he created his own nation — Piggy Nation— where there would be no more drivers parking in two spaces, no more dogs pooping on neighbors’ lawns, and no more texting while driving.

From that simple notion — Down with Piggy Behavior — Richard has created a children’s book, a musical, and a cartoon strip that runs on Sundays in The Oklahoman in his hometown of Oklahoma City. The book, Piggy Nation: A Day at Work with Dad, is set in a fantastical Pacific Palisades (Richard lives in the actual Pacific Palisades, Calif.), where all the inhabitants are animals. The book follows a day in the life of Hank, a porcine police officer who takes his son Sammy to work with him. Hank points out the other animals’ bad habits to teach Sammy about good manners.

“Piggy Nation,” the musical, preaches “You don’t have to be pig to be a piggy,” and is intended to be both comical and educational  — a way for parents to engage their kids about what it means to be polite. The full-length musical had twelve songs with blues, zydeco, rock, rap and gospel influences (have a listen here) performed by a cast of 20 this past February. Watch a clip from the musical.

Richard is a successful Hollywood producer and director. He got his film start in Reid Hall, where he created a claymation chess game that won a Student Academy Award in his senior year. He went on to film school at NYU and has worked on everything from children’s programs for Nickelodeon (“Pete and Pete” and “Lizzie McGuire”) and the Disney Channel to “Melrose Place,” “24” and “The Defenders.” (Have a look at his IMBD profile here.)


Role Reversal

It was a classic case of role reversal for Christina Douglas, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2013 and a varsity tennis player for the Generals.

Christina had been taught the game by her mother, Christine, a former University of Virginia tennis player. But last week at the USTA Eastern Adult League Championships in Syracuse, Christina turned coach, helping her mom with pep talks and pointers as she competed for the 4.5 Western Region women’s team in the USTA event, winning two of three doubles matches in the tournament.

“It’s more nerve-racking than playing is to me,” Christina said, after watching her mom on court at Syracuse University. “But it’s great.”

Her mom appreciated the help. “She’s actually the better coach,” said Christine. “She’s got a great disposition and a great attitude and she can see things well.”

After last week’s event the Douglases were off to Chestnut Hill, Ma., and the Longfellow Cricket Club where they formed a doubles team to compete in the USTA National Mother Daughter Grass Court Championships.

“I hope when I’m her age I’ll be as good as she is,” said Christina.


VES Honors Jay Hight '67

Washington and Lee alumnus Jay Hight, of the Class of 1967, spent 36 years as librarian and English teacher at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg. Earlier this summer, the school honored Jay at its reunion dinner, announcing a commitment to dedicate the renovated school library as The James Aldwin Hight Jr. Library in Jay’s honor.

Jay retired from VES in 2006. In addition to his teaching and library duties, he also served as faculty advisor to the school newspaper in the 1980s, and he worked with VES alumnus Robert Seager II, to publish a 75th anniversary history of the school. Jay undertook an extensive oral history of VES Headmasters and early alumni, and he continues to work on the school archives.

In June, the VES alumni reunion banquet was held in Jay’s honor. Alumni and friends filled the school’s field house — several hundred coming to express their admiration and affection for Jay and for his decades of service at VES. VES Alumnus and Headmaster G. Thomas Battle Jr. also paid tribute to Jay’s many contributions to VES over the years.


Science Education: W&L Biology Professor Bill Hamilton on WMRA

Washington and Lee biology professor Bill Hamilton is a member of the advisory board for W&L’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant, which includes service-learning courses in which W&L students develop science modules and teach them in local K-5 classrooms. In addition, the University has held a Summer Science Institute for local Rockbridge County teachers. Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology at Washington and Lee University, discussed science education for elementary and secondary schools as part of a panel on WMRA’s Virginia Insight on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011.

Joining Hamilton on the WMRA program to discuss the issues of science education were educational consultant Abigail Norfleet James and Eric J. Pyle of James Madison University.

Listen to the audio below:

“Coolly Glamorous”

In its review of Richard Strauss’s 1940 opera, “Die Liebe der Danae,” as staged at the Bard Summerscape Festival at Bard College earlier this summer, the New York Times had this to say about soprano Meagan Miller, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1996: “As Danae, the soprano Meagan Miller had a coolly glamorous presence and a big voice that turned strident under pressure but, at its best, penetrated with warm power.” The Associated Press called her “a soprano with a bright sound and impressive power.”

Meagan, who transferred to Julliard after her first two years at W&L, performed her first operatic role, the Countess in Mozart’s the Marriage of Figaro, and also gave her first solo recital at the University. She returned in 2009 for a performance in Wilson Hall.

Her star is clearly rising. After the successes at the Bard Summerscape, Meagan’s 2011-12 season will include: the title role in Richard Strauss’ Daphne at the Vienna State Opera, Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Elisabeth in Wagner’s Tannhäuser with the Hungarian State Opera Budapest, Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello with the Deutsche Opera Berlin at Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Cleveland Orchestra, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, recitals with Lyric Fest in Philadelphia and a duo recital at New York’s Morgan Library.


W&L Dining Services Staff Compete in Battle Royale

More than 200 faculty and staff at Washington and Lee University converged on Evans Dining Hall on Thursday, August 11, to judge the efforts of the university’s dining service staff in a competition titled “Battle Royale.” Divided into two competing teams, the staff had created two “pop-up” restaurants at either end of the large hall.

Diners were asked to sample the fare in both restaurants, the “Blue Column Bistro” and “The Southern Star,” and then complete a card to rate them on four categories: creativity/originality, food taste/quality, service/presentation and overall experience. The teams were also judged by management on sanitation, team effort and team work.

“We announced this contest to the staff at 1 p.m. on Tuesday,” said Dennis Fowler, director of dining services at Marketplace. “They basically had 16 working hours to complete this task and be ready at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. They made that deadline, and I think it’s amazing what they’ve achieved.”

The teams were given guidelines and criteria such as creating a balanced menu that incorporated two mandatory proteins of beef skirt steak and ground pork. They were also required to include fresh jalapeno pepper, caramel sauce and canned dark cherries. The entire menu had to consist of one composed salad, two entrees, two sides, a vegetarian option, a “signature” beverage and a dessert.

Toye Entsminger, dining operations assistant in catering services, said that although this is the kind of work they do all the time, creating the restaurants was a challenge. “It’s a little bit different, and it’s been a lot of hard work,” she said. “I think some of us weren’t sure at first how this would turn out. But when we found out that so many people on campus were excited about it, we got excited too. So everybody definitely put their best foot forward. And, of course, you’re trying to beat the other team, so you do what you can to win.”

Looking for an edge against their opposition, the “Blue Column Bistro” (named for the blue columns in Evans Dining Hall), arranged to have popular local musician and alumnus Burr Datz perform. “He absolutely adds to the atmosphere,” said Entsminger.

As the hungry diners poured into the hall at noon, the sampling and judging began.

At her first stop, “The Southern Star,” Elizabeth Lewis, regional director of development, declared the event “a wonderful treat for the W&L community to gather and see what the dining staff does so well. I haven’t got to the squash casserole everyone is raving about yet, but I have a feeling that might be my favorite. Presentation-wise, I think that the salad and the bean cake were absolutely beautifully presented,” she said.

Over at the “Blue Column Bistro.” Brett Schwartz, the new director of Hillel House, was taking advantage of meeting so many of the W&L community in one place for the first time. “This is the most people I’ve seen in a month,” he said. “The food’s great, especially the bean salad and the skirt steak. They are awesome. I’m looking forward to going over to the other restaurant. I’m a big eater.”

Jane McDonald, administrative assistant in the law school, said that people at her table were a little overwhelmed. “We’re like – we have to eat twice? We want to eat it all but it’s difficult, especially when you’re trying to watch what you eat. But the presentation is beautiful.”

Dean of the College, Hank Dobin, had no such qualms about eating twice. Standing in line for his second round of sampling, he said “I’m not sure if I can eat again, but I’ll give it my best shot. I think it’s wonderful, but the danger is that the dining staff is raising our expectations that the food is always going to be this good.”

Fowler pointed out that the teams weren’t given any direction. “They weren’t told you must do this, or you have to do that. It was whatever they wanted to do. Seeing how hard they’ve worked, I think it shows the heart of the dining services staff,” he said. Reflecting on the success of the competition, Fowler added that he would consider doing such an event again. “It’s been a great exercise for the staff, I think, in terms of planning, team work, critical thinking and creativity.”

Pam Clark, a pantry worker in Marketplace and a member of the “Southern Star” team, admitted that she’d been doing some things in the competition that she didn’t normally do in her work. “It’s taken me a little outside my comfort zone,” she said, “and I’ve learned from it. I’ve had fun, but I’m tired.”

Meanwhile, outside Evans Dining Hall, William Armstrong, a painter in facilities management, sat on a bench. “I’m about busted,” he said with a laugh. “I can hardly get up after eating two good meals like that.”

And the winner was: “The Blue Column Bistro.”


W&L Senior's Sailing Successes

After winning a major victory in the Oakcliff Invitational regatta in Oyster Bay, N.Y., last month, Washington and Lee senior Thomas Meric and his four teammates for New Orleans-based Rigamaroo Racing will be in action in Chicago today, competing in the Chicago Match Cup Grade 2 at the Navy Pier. The event is the first of four grade-two events that constitute the Grand Slam series, and Thomas and Rigamaroo have been invited to all four.

Thomas, an economics and theatre major at W&L, began match racing with two of his teammates, fellow New Orleanian Norman Vallette Jr. and Shawn Patrick Ryan of Meterie in 2007. The three, plus teammate Michael Levert, had grown up sailing small dinghies such as Optimistics, Sunfish and Lightnings at the Southern Yacht Club. Now they’ve advanced to sailing against many accomplished sailors. The fifth member of their team is Andrew Eyring of Baltimore (and Tulane).

In the Oakcliff Regatta, Rigamaroo won 10 out of 10 races. Thomas explained, “We sailed Swedish match 40s, which require a crew of five, against seven other teams and won every race. The conditions were light to moderate, but sailing a 40-foot boat with only five people is difficult in any kind of breeze.”

You can see Rigamaroo in action on its web page in several YouTube clips, and this weekend’s Chicago event will be streamed live on the Internet. In addition to the Chicago event, Rigamaroo will be competing in Detroit later this month and then at the U.S. Match Racing Championship Grade 3 in October in California. The team’s short-term goal is to compete in all four regattas that comprise the inaugural United States Grand Slam Series, which represents an opportunity not only to advance the team’s ISAF ranking, but also to compete against many top-ranked  of the world’s top-ranked sailors in the Argo World Cup and Congressional Cup.


Homegrown in Hanover, Pa.

The Washington Post’s Lifestyle sectionis the latest publication to take notice of what is happening in Hanover, Pa., where Washington and Lee alumni Kathryn Sheppard Hoar, of the Class of 1997, her sister, Heather Sheppard Lunn, of the Class of 2000, and Kathy’s husband, Oliver, of the Class of 1997, have

turned Kathy and Heather’s great-grandparents’ home into a full-service historic inn with a signature cuisine. (We’ve blogged in the past about Kathy’s fishing prowess, including her third place in the “Super Bowl of Fishing” in 2010, but that’s another story.)

Sheppard Mansion was built in 1913 and authentically restored in 1999 after about 40 years of dormancy. It offers rooms and suites, all with private baths, for overnight guests. The buzz that’s been building is for the local food served in the 65-seat dining room and jewel-box bar that Kathy added in 2006. The Mansion’s chef, Andrew Little, is a former high school classmate of Kathy’s, and he brought his theory of local food to the effort. As he told the Post, ““If you had been brought to the dining room blindfolded and had no idea where you were, you should be able to determine where you were and what season it was just from looking at the menu.”

Last year Sheppard Mansion added the Carriage House Market in a brick and cobblestone carriage house behind the Inn. There, they sell the locally produced food from their gardens and from their herd of 160 Scotch Highland cattle that are part of the landscape.

In the Post piece, Kathy credits her parents for instilling a “preservationist philosophy.” “My mom is a huge local activist for water resources, watershed management and city planning,” she said. “They’ve put it in our minds that we are just stewards.”

The Post article has a bonus: three recipes from the Mansion’s kitchen, including summer scrapple. Of course, you’ll need to visit the Carriage House Market to get just the right ingredients.

Meantime, here’s a video tour of the Sheppard Mansion from Metrocurean On the Road: A Trip to Sheppard Mansion:


Goal(!)ball Win for Matt Simpson '12

Washington and Lee senior Matt Simpson has already had an exciting summer, and it’s only going to continue on Aug. 18, when Matt competes in Vilnius, Lithuania, with the United States National Goalball team in the Great Lions Cup featuring the world’s national teams.

Goalball is a sport designed for athletes who, like Matt, are visually impaired. Invented in Austria after World War II, the game was intended to help rehabilitate blinded war veterans. Competitors try to throw a ball embedded with bells into the opponents’ goal. The players use the sound of the bells to judge the position and movement of the ball. Games consist of two 12-minute halves, and partially sighted players compete with blindfolds to level the playing field.

As many as 40 countries field national teams, and Matt had already earned an international title when he played for the victorious U.S. 19-and-under team in 2009. This will be his first adult competition.

In June, Matt and his teammates on the Atlanta Force competed in the Goalball National Championships at SUNY-Brockport, where they advanced through a field of about 80 teams to reach the gold-medal match against two-time defending champion Pennsylvania Venom. With the score tied 11-11 in the waning seconds, Pennsylvania was charged with a foul, and Matt’s penalty shot with three seconds left brought Atlanta the crown.

Matt’s father, Hal, coached the team. He told the Smyrna-Vinings Patch: “It’s not the Super Bowl or the World Series, but in their world, it is. In the world of blind athletics, this is the biggest thing.”


Alcorn '84 Publishes First Book

Charles Alcorn is the managing editor of the American Book Review, a professor of English at the University of Houston and the possessor of a 2006 Ph.D. in English literature and fiction from the University of Houston’s creative writing program. He’s also a former ad copywriter and used to own a cigar company. Now he can add “author” to that resume, for Charlie has just published his first collection of short stories, “Argument Against the Good-Looking Corpse” (Huntsville: Texas Review Press).

A member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1984, Charlie majored in geology, was a star linebacker on the football field, and threw the discus and the javelin. He says that he began one of the book’s stories, “Pipe Dreams,” while he was a student of Professor James Boatwright, who edited “Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review.”

Of the eye-catching cover, the author writes that it’s a 1984 image of actress-model Brooke Shields — and of Charlie. He tells us “she came down to my hometown of Victoria on the Coastal Bend of Texas in 1984 with Bruce Weber for a New York Times magazine feature on ‘skin care in extreme climates.’ They needed locals. Luck had me home from college and quickly saddled up. I called her at Princeton a couple of weeks after the shoot to ask if she’d join me at Fancy Dress ball. She politely declined. Lovely girl.”

Read more about Charlie and his work at his website, charlesalcorn.com.


National Organization Honors Dawn Watkins

Dawn A. Watkins, who stepped down in May as vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Washington and Lee, was honored last month with the Order of Fraternal Excellence Award from the Fraternity Executives Association, Inc., the professional association of men’s and women’s fraternity executives.

Dawn is only the 15th recipient of this honor since it was created in 1984. The award goes to “a college or university administrator who has attained a level of professional accomplishment, relating to the college fraternity, which is of such excellence as to merit signal recognition by the Association.”

In announcing the award, the FEA noted that over the 10 years Dawn spent working with W&L’s fraternities and sororities, “she developed productive relationships, garnered genuine trust and support, and was a deliberate advocate for those students and their organizations. She is respected by colleagues in the executive’s chairs from the many fraternities and sororities and remains one of the most ardent supporters of the fraternity and sorority movement.”

Dawn served for a decade in student affairs at W&L and is now on a one-year professional sabbatical.


Smooth Sailing for Bob Scott '65

Congratulations to Bob Scott, a 1965 graduate of Washington and Lee, who won three prizes last month in the Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race at the helm of his 75-year-old New York 32 Class yacht, the Falcon.

Bob, who lives in Castine, Maine, and his crew took the Over the Hill Gang trophy, first in fleet in the ORR (Offshore Racing Rule) Division and first in PHR-5 (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet).

Keeping track of his progress were his proud fellow alum Ted Van Leer ’51 and Ted’s wife, Sue, who reported the good news to W&L. Their son Tad Van Leer ’77 once crewed for Scott.

According to the blog of yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens, the race was the fastest ever in the Marblehead-to-Halifax competition, which began on July 10 and covered 432 miles over the next 46 hours.  The biennial race, which has been thrilling spectators and participants since 1905, starts in Marblehead, Mass., and ends in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Sponsors are the Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. This year, the race had 89 yachts competing in nine categories.

You can learn more about the race and view lots of good photos, including ones of the Falcon, at the race’s website.


W&L's Millon President-Elect of Prestigious Law School Association

David Millon, the J. B. Stombock Professor of Law and Law Alumni Faculty Fellow at Washington and Lee University School of Law, was named president-elect of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools (SEALS) at its recent annual meeting. Millon will serve in this position during 2011-12 and will become president of the organization for the 2012-13 term.

Started in 1947, SEALS is comprised of 65 institutional member schools, 23 affiliate member schools and several foreign member schools. The primary activity of the organization is an annual legal conference held during the summer at a family-friendly venue. SEALS just completed its 64th annual meeting, which was attended by more than 500 scholars, the largest attendance in the history of the conference.

Millon says the timing and location of the conference enhance the special character of the organization.

“What is unique about our meeting is the combination of excellent academic programs and a friendly, collegial environment that facilitates informal exchanges, mentoring, and opportunities to develop new professional relationships,” says Millon.  “SEALS has earned a reputation as a top-notch legal conference and is growing in popularity every year. As president, my primary goal is to nurture our unique blend of academic excellence, informality, and openness.”

A highly respected scholar in the areas of corporate law and legal history, Millon has written about some of the most pressing issues of the day, from corporate social responsibility to the Enron collapse to the ramifications of the recent Citizens United decision. His most recent publication is Select Ecclesiastical Cases from the King’s Courts 1272-1307, which explores the relationship between the Catholic Church’s court system and the King’s common law courts during the reign of Edward I.

From 2000 to 2006, Millon served W&L Law as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and from 1994-1997 as Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center, the law school’s research and scholarship arm. Millon holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from Ohio State University, a Ph.D. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Harvard.

W&L Law faculty are very active within SEALS. This year Professors Christopher Bruner, Johanna Bond, Mark Drumbl, Jim Moliterno, Tim MacDonnell, Joshua Fairfield, and Robin Wilson all joined distinguished panels to present their research. In addition, John Keyser, Associate Dean for Administration and Technology, presented on teaching quantitative research and was also named chair of the conference technology committee.

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Journalism Prof Says “Ciao” to Italy

Doug Cumming, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee, acquired some continental habits this summer. He learned to dry his clothes on an indoor clothesline, display potted geraniums in his window, and don what he calls a “Fellini” jacket and a Panama hat. He chalks up this transformation to a four-week teaching assignment — in Italy.

The other faculty members included a Pulitzer-winning reporter from the New Orleans Times-Picayune; a photojournalism professor who worked in Poland for Time, Life and other magazines; a Polish photojournalist; and two broadcast journalism professors from our neighbors in Harrisonburg, Va., James Madison University. (Read JMU’s story about the program, including a video, here.) Doug counts them all as friends now.

In addition to the journalism topics, the students dug into intensive lessons in Italian. Meanwhile, Libby enjoyed the vacation and Sarah, a student at Sewanee, took the course. “It was like winning the lottery,” Doug tells us, “the academically rich international experience I was hoping for during my nine-month break from teaching.” As a bonus, the Cummings enjoyed “a beautiful family vacation on the side.”

The students showcased the result of their work on this website, Urbino Project 2011. Doug says of the course, “I would highly recommend it for our journalism majors as a study-abroad experience.” You can also read Doug’s delightful blog, “DCumming in Italia,” where he describes his adventures with the cuisine, language, churches, students, colleagues, opera and other magical features of the country.

Alum Heads Fitzgerald Museum

Novelist and Jazz-Age chronicler F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, are sparkling figures in the current Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.” They also star in an Alabama museum that’s headed by a Washington and Lee alum, Will Thompson.

In the early 1930s, the Fitzgeralds and their daughter, Scottie, spent just six months living in Montgomery, Ala. That house is the only one of their residences still standing, and so it is fitting that some concerned citizens in Montgomery saved it from destruction in 1986 and turned it into the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. It’s also fitting that English major Will, of the Class of 2004, runs the place.

Will started his post at the museum this past April. One of the first events he oversaw was a July 23 celebration of Zelda’s birthday. (She would have been 111.) Of his new job, Will told the Montgomery Advertiser, “I saw something that would feather in very nice with my passion for writing and litera­ture, and also something that would feather in with my loca­tion.” Location is everything: Will lives right across the street.

You can read the article here.


An Urban Fantasy from Ashley Mayer

, which is described as an urban fantasy.

The book features Jackson Belle Bee Elders, a promising Magical Sciences graduate stuck in a temp job assigning creatures to magical staffing work. But then she takes a holiday weekend that changes everything. You can read more about Ashley’s book, and Ashley, on her website, A.E. Mayer.com, where you can also find links to purchase Temp.

And if you want to read more of Ashley’s writing, you need to check out her blog, which is worth the mouse click. Some of her recent entries range from her search for glass marbles to homemade Halloween costumes, and from consumer behavior at Costco to Googling “underwear.”


Legion of Merit for Col. Art Kandarian '86

In a ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky.,  earlier this month, Army Col. Arthur Kandarian, of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1986, turned over command of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, which led the surge in Afghanistan during the past year.

During the ceremony, Art received the Legion of Merit; his wife, Faye, was presented the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal and the Commander’s Certificate for her support of soldiers and their families; and the brigade was given the Valorous Unit Award for its success in Afghanistan.

A story about the event in the Clarksville (Tenn.) Leaf Chronicle relates Art’s description of his unit’s heroism on the battlefields of Kandahar Province, which the Soviets had called the “Heart of Darkness.” Those successes include the brigade’s ability to dislodge the Taliban from its birthplace, the construction of critical infrastructure, and the training of a new Afghan National Army brigade.


W&L Named “2011 Great College to Work For” in Chronicle of Higher Education Survey

For the second year in a row, Washington and Lee University has been recognized as one of the nation’s best colleges for which to work by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle released its fourth annual “The Academic Workplace” report on Monday. It is based on a survey of almost 44,000 employees at 310 colleges and universities.

Of those institutions the Chronicle surveyed, 111 achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition for specific best practices and policies. The publication gives results for small, medium and large institutions. Washington and Lee is included among the small universities, with 2,999 or fewer students.

Washington and Lee won awards in three categories:

  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Facilities, Workspaces & Security
  • Job Satisfaction

“The University’s strategic plan has placed a premium on the University’s people, and these results are one indication that we are headed in the right direction,” said Steve McAllister, vice president for finance and treasurer at W&L.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies from each institution, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was the employee feedback.

The survey was given to a random group of 400 administrators and faculty, and the overall response rate was 42 percent.

“This is the third time that we have participated in the Chronicle’s survey,” said Amy Diamond Barnes, executive director of human resources at W&L. “When we first participated during 2009, we were able to expand the survey to include the entire population of employees.

“Although the Chronicle’s program does not currently survey non-exempt employees, we are committed to surveying all segments of our population every third year and continue to press the Chronicle to expand its survey to include all work groups.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, the Chronicle worked with ModernThink L.L.C., a consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “Great Colleges to Work For” is one of the largest and most respected workplace-recognition programs in the country


Washington and Lee Names New Director of Auxiliary Services

Washington and Lee University has named Paul F. Renzi as director of auxiliary services, effective July 15.

Sidney S. Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, announced Renzi’s appointment. He succeeds Alex da Silva, who left to become director of auxiliary and parking at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

“Paul brings nearly 30 years’ of experience in higher education to this position,” said Evans. “He has had a variety of management experiences, and we are delighted to welcome him to W&L.”

As director of auxiliary services at W&L, Renzi will direct Dining Services, sorority dining, contracted laundry services, contracted vending, faculty/staff housing property management, the General’s ID Card Office, the Copy Center, Mail Services, travel management and equipment surplus.

Renzi has served as auxiliary services director at Madison Area Technical College, in Wisconsin, since 2008. In that role, he managed the functions on seven campuses with 44,000 students.

Prior to Madison, he held two different positions at Brenau University, in Gainesville, Ga. He was vice president for administration services, where he managed administrative services and physical plant operations on all the campuses. He also served for three years as vice president for student development and auxiliary services.

Renzi began his career in higher education at Bennington College, in Vermont, where he began as director of dining halls and also served as director of auxiliary services and as director of student life and campus services.

He received a B.S. in business administration from Western New England College and an M.S. in management from Antioch New England.


W&L Hosts Summer Institute for Local Science Teachers

For children across Rockbridge County, school is still out for the summer. For their teachers, however, it’s back to the classroom. During July, eight Rockbridge County teachers were the pupils as they worked with Washington and Lee University faculty to strengthen how they teach science.

As part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant (HHMI), W&L hosted its third Summer Teacher Institute, where teachers of the third grade to fifth grade worked with faculty from biology, chemistry and education to improve not only their background knowledge but also their methods.

“We want to get them more comfortable with the background science so that when they are in the classroom and they get that random question, they feel confident,” said Bill Hamilton, associate professor of biology and one of the leaders of the institute.

The ultimate goal of the program is to get children excited about learning and about science. According to a 2010 study by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Pentagon’s research agency, the U.S. has seen a significant national decline in the number of college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“A huge issue in the United States in particular is that kids aren’t going into science,” Hamilton said. “So why not get them earlier on?”

The Summer Teacher Institute emphasizes inquiry-based science by bringing investigational labs into the classroom, where teachers can drive learning by getting the students to ask the questions.

“That is the part of science that I find the most exciting and fun and gets the students hooked,” said Helen I’Anson, HHMI program director and head of the W&L Biology Department.  “So we designed this program to give them more science content while also teaching them the way to ask a hypothesis and test it.

“Education research suggests that if you engage people in their own learning,” I’Anson continues, “then they are more likely to continue that for the rest of their lives.”

As part of the three-day workshops’s theme, “Plants Matter,” Hamilton and Fred LaRiviere, associate professor of chemistry, talked with the teachers about molecules, matter and why plants are important. Along with these lessons, which teachers identified three years ago as weak areas for them, the program took the eight elementary-school teachers through experiments that they can re-create with their students.

“I see this as kind of rejuvenating some of the teachers,” Hamilton said. “Some of them haven’t taken science in quite some time, so it’s getting them thinking about it again — coming up with new ways to teach the old lessons.”

After the program ended, the teachers felt as though they had a stronger background knowledge, as well as new experiments to take back to their kids to engage them and get them excited about science.

“Kids really learn best from hands-on activities and visuals,” said Michelle Hughes, a third-grade teacher at Central Elementary. “It will help them see that they can be scientists.”

The summer institute was funded by a $1.3 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Since receiving the grant in 2008, W&L has hosted three Summer Teacher Institutes as well as many science lessons for children at local elementary schools.

— Campbell Massie

Washington and Lee Receives Gift of Alumnus’ Civil War Diaries

Six Civil War diaries written by a Confederate soldier and providing a first-hand account of the war in Virginia are now part of Special Collections at Washington and Lee University’s Leyburn Library, the result of a multi-donor gift to the University.

Archivists and researchers would be delighted enough over this newly discovered set of diaries.  What lifts this collection into a special category for Washington and Lee, however, is the identity of the diaries’ author: Alexander Sterrett Paxton, an alumnus who belonged to the famed Liberty Hall Volunteers, a company of Confederate infantry made up of Washington and Lee students.

“I feel privileged to receive this gift,” said Vaughan Stanley, Special Collections librarian at W&L. “It’s one of the most significant gifts we’ve gotten in my 19 years here.”

“The diaries relate so well to Lexington and to Washington and Lee that it seemed very appropriate for them to have a permanent home in Special Collections,” said one of the 11 donors, a W&L alumnus who wishes to remain anonymous. “It was a pleasure to help make that happen.”

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Alexander Paxton and other students at Washington College (as it was then called) enlisted in the Liberty Hall Volunteers. Their captain was James Jones White, a professor of Greek and Latin at the school, and their name referred to Liberty Hall Academy, a predecessor to Washington College, and to a military unit with the same name that had fought in the Revolutionary War. The students became Co. I of the 4th Virginia Infantry, part of the Stonewall Brigade commanded by General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a professor at neighboring Virginia Military Institute.

From 1861 to 1865, Paxton penciled his emotions and observations into six notebooks. He described the feeling when “the cannon balls from the enemy’s guns would whiz just a few feet above our bodies”; his admiration for Jackson’s “bravery & coolness”; and his surprise at “how strange that the better & kinder feelings of our natures should be thus changed” when shooting at the enemy. His diaries remained unknown to Washington and Lee and to the wider historical community until June 23 of this year, when some of his descendants put them up for auction.

The collection appeared on W&L’s radar only one week before the sale. Seth McCormick-Goodhart, a Lexington historian who works at W&L’s Special Collections and has researched the Liberty Hall Volunteers, spotted the diaries on the website of Cowan’s Auctions. They also caught the eye of C.J. Roberts, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay (Florida) History Center. Roberts is a member of the Fourth Virginia Infantry Association, a group of reenactors from Indianapolis, Ind., who study and portray the4th Virginia Infantry. His fellow member David S. Klinestiver, an attorney in Indianapolis who had done research a decade ago at W&L’s Special Collections, was thrilled to learn of the diaries’ existence. Along with Peter Grover, director of W&L’s University Collections, and Stanley, everyone agreed that Paxton’s diaries needed to come home to W&L.

But the clock was ticking, and the auction house had estimated the collection would go for $10,000 to $15,000. “We knew we could raise some of the money ourselves,” said Roberts, “but certainly not what was required.”

Roberts, Klinestiver, seven other members of the reenactors’ association and two anonymous donors quickly pledged the necessary sum. On June 23, Klinestiver placed the winning bid over the phone, besting two other bidders. On July 22, he and his fellow reenactors delivered Paxton’s diaries and its accompanying material (photographs, a rare soldier’s chess set, minie balls) to Washington and Lee.

“To come up with this collection and to be able to participate in the effort to get it in its rightful home at W&L, we’re just thrilled,” said Tom Williams, one of the reenactors and donors.

Klinestiver and his colleague Mark Haraldsen enjoyed visiting Special Collections again. “They’ve always been extremely kind to us,” said Klinestiver of Stanley and Lisa McCown, the other staff member there. “We’re just really pleased to give something back.” The timing was serendipitous for the Indianapolis group. They are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, and their long-planned destination after Lexington was the 150th-anniversary reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), which took place July 23-24 in Gainesville, Va.

Once the diaries are processed and available, McCormick-Goodhart thinks researchers “are going to be chomping at the bit” to read them. When it comes to the Liberty Hall Volunteers, he said, “We’ll be able to draw some new, exciting information about these men from them.” For his part, McCormick-Goodhart will be looking for details of uniforms and related material culture, and at Paxton’s distinctive writing style.

Also on hand to welcome the diaries home was William G. Bean Jr., of Lexington. His father, the late William Gleason Bean, a professor of history at W&L, wrote the 1964 book The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall’s College Boys. With assistance from McCormick-Goodhart, Bean Jr. has been updating the book, and he had added a photo of Paxton a few years ago. Now, thanks to this donation, Bean, W&L history students and other researchers will have a rich source of new information.