A little more than a year ago we blogged about Washington and Lee alumnus Matt Bevin, of the Class of 1989,and his family business — Bevin Brothers Manufacturing Company, maker of 200 varieties of bells. We noted then that bells were especially relevant given the time of year. National Public Radio apparently agrees.
Located in East Hampton, Conn., known as “Belltown” because it was once the heart of U.S. bell-making with 30 bell factories there at one time. Only Bevin Brothers survives. It was started in 1832 by Matt’s great-great-great-grandfather and manufactured the first bicycle bells and first automobile foot bells (a pre-horn care safety device). Today Bevin Brothers is the only company in North America than specializes in making bells. The company has produced 750 million bells.
Matt established a highly successful investment company, Integrity Asset Management, in Louisville where he was CEO and principal from 2003 to this past November. When his uncle was consider closing down the bell company in 2008, Matt agreed to step up and keep it going even though, even he admits, that there are plenty of easier ways to make bell sounds nowadays.
So why try to save the company? Here’s what he told New England Public Radio: “The ability to literally walk across the same floorboards as my ancestors, for six generations, these same worn, weathered boards. This factory was built in the 19th century and we’re still making bells in the same spot in the same building as we have been for decade after decade, after generation after generation.”
So when you hear sleigh bells in the coming days or when you watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and hear the bells that give an angel its wings or when you see a Salvation Army bell ringer or when you see some football fans ringing cowbells in the stands during a bowl game, think of Matt Bevin. His company made those bells.
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Click this link to download the audio from Morning Edition or use the player below to hear the story:
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Quite a Career
A blog entry on the Roanoke Times’ “So Salem” site today features the career of Washington and Lee law school alumna Llewellyn Hedgbeth of the Class of 1980. And quite a career it’s been, too.
A Salem native, Llew was a drama major at Hollins and then earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in theatre history and dramatic literature before she even got to the W&L law school in 1977. It was during her last year of law school, she told the Times, that a friend told her in the snack bar that she should take the test for foreign service.
She took the test and, with a background in both the theatre and the law, spent 28 years on numerous assignments, mostly abroad, for the U.S. Department of State. Included in her posts were chargé d’affaires for the American Embassy in Mongolia, management counselor for the American Embassy in Beirut, and, from July to October 2010, chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy Bandara Seri Begawan in the Sultanate of Brunei. There, among other activities, she assisted with a disaster management training exercise.
Some of her other assignments were a one-year position as project director for China 2000, two years as director of operations for the Bureau of Administration during which she implemented Y2K readiness plan, and three years as executive director of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Llew compared preparing for work overseas to “learning to swim without a pool” and told the Times’ blogger that she wished she had studied more foreign languages as preparation for her career.
Nora V. Demleitner Named Dean of Washington and Lee School of Law
Nora V. Demleitner will be the new dean of Washington and Lee University’s School of Law. She becomes the first woman to hold that position and is the 17th dean in the 145-year history of W&L’s law school. She will also hold the Roy L. Steinheimer Jr. Professorship in Law.
A highly respected scholar on issues of criminal, comparative and immigration law, Demleitner is currently dean and professor of law at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.
Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio announced Demleitner’s appointment, which will be effective July 1, 2012, and culminates a national search for the successor to Rodney Smolla, who left in 2010 to become president of Furman University. Mark Grunewald, James P. Morefield Professor of Law, has served as interim dean.
“Dean Demleitner emerged from what we believe was an extraordinarily strong pool of candidates. Everyone who met with her was impressed with her energy and enthusiasm and vision,” said Ruscio. “In addition, she has a splendid reputation throughout the legal community for her scholarship and accomplishments.
“I want to thank the members of the search committee for their excellent work throughout this process and am also very appreciative of Mark Grunewald’s service as interim dean.”
A native of Germany, Demleitner received her law degree from Yale after earning a bachelor’s degree from Bates College. She also earned a master’s degree with distinction in international and comparative law from the Georgetown University Law Center. Following law school, she clerked for the Honorable Samuel A. Alito Jr., then a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and now a justice on the United States Supreme Court.
When she was named dean at Hofstra in 2008, Justice Alito told the New York Times: “She had a wonderful academic record and came highly recommended to me by people at Yale Law School. I was immediately impressed by her poise and intelligence.”
Under Demleitner’s leadership, the Hofstra law school has made impressive strides in a number of areas, including the creation of important partnerships both locally and internationally. The school has developed a closer relationship with the Nassau County (N.Y.) Bar Association to enhance collaboration between the law school and the legal profession and to increase the opportunity for law students to work directly with the bar association. In addition, she has led efforts to build new partnerships with institutions in Asia and Europe, to strengthen summer offerings by partnering with elite institutions in Europe and to establish innovative spring break programs in Ecuador and Cuba. Hofstra has been cited as one of the nation’s most diverse law schools by U.S. News & World Report.
As Washington and Lee’s law dean, Demleitner will be working with a talented faculty with proven commitments to scholarship and teaching and an excellent student body whose members have chosen to study at a small law school with an innovative curriculum.
“I am deeply honored to have been chosen as Washington and Lee’s next law dean. Its faculty and student body impressed me immensely during my visit,” said Demleitner. “W&L’s innovative curriculum challenges traditional legal education by merging high-caliber scholarship with the best legal practice has to offer. I could not be more excited about serving an institution that is on the forefront of the major changes legal education will have to undergo in the next few years.”
Demleitner’s first academic position came in 1994 when she joined the faculty at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, where she also served as the director of LL.M. programs. She joined Hofstra in 2001 as a faculty member. After serving as academic dean in 2006 and interim dean in 2007, she became that law school’s first female dean in January 2008.
She has special expertise in sentencing and collateral sentencing consequences. She is the lead author of Sentencing Law and Policy, a major casebook on sentencing law. She also is an editor of the Federal Sentencing Reporter, and serves on the executive editorial board of the American Journal of Comparative Law.
She has extensive international experience, having lectured and served as visiting professor at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and the Sant’ Anna Institute of Advanced Research in Pisa, Italy. She has been a research fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Germany. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School and St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami.
Demleitner is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.
“The law school community is looking forward with pleasure and excitement to Nora’s deanship,” said Joan M. Shaughnessy, W&L professor of law who chaired the search committee. “Her experience and her dedication impressed the search committee when we met her earlier this fall, and her positive energy filled Lewis Hall when she came to campus. I am confident that the law school will become even stronger during her tenure.”
In addition to Shaughnessy, members of the search committee were law professors Johanna Bond, Christopher Bruner, Mark Drumbl, David Millon and Mary Natkin; John Keyser, associate dean of the School of Law; Sidney Evans, the University’s vice president for student affairs; Stacey Gould Van Goor of San Diego, a 1995 graduate of the School of Law and immediate past president of the law council; and two members of the University’s board of trustees, Robert Grey of Richmond, a 1976 law graduate, and Jack Vardaman of Washington, D.C., a 1962 college graduate.
School of Law Director of Communications
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
Art & Science of Investing
In an interview for the website JustLuxe earlier this month, Washington and Lee alumnus and trustee Robert Balentine, of the Class of 1979, repeats a motto that his father used: “If you listen to your clients, they will tell you how to run your business.”
That, Robert tells the interviewers for JustLuxe, remains a guiding principle of Atlanta-based Balentine, which he co-founded with his father in 1987.
In the insightful “Thought Leader” interview, Robert discusses the distinctive nature of his investment counseling, which is based, in part, on the company’s motto, “The Art and Science of Investing.” Asked to describe what intuition and creativity have to do with successful investing, Robert says: “Intuition is a very strong element in the investment world, as it is based on greater understanding, and on that understanding, solid judgment. By adopting an intuitive, art based approach to investment management, we can recognize opportunities that aren’t always reflected in our scientific models.”
Robert began his investment career with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith. He was the youngest vice president in Merrill Lynch history. A French major at W&L, Robert joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010.
W&L Alum Named CEO of the Year
John, a member of the undergrad Class of 1971 and the law school Class of 1978, won the award in the Journal’s private company/medium category. This marked the first time that the publication had recognized the chief executive of a law firm, although John had been a finalist in the past.
In announcing the award, Randy Frisch, president and publisher of SDBJ, observed: “The practice of law, especially in this down economy, has demanded tighter, tougher management. Increasingly, we are seeing well-deserved recognition from those inside law firms where good management has been practiced.”
“This is truly an incredible honor, for which I am very grateful,” said John, who founded the firm in 1983. “To be singled out by your peers within the business community is very meaningful. However, this is a true team achievement, to be shared among the entire Klinedinst family of employees.”
John served as a trustee of the University from 2001 to 2010.
W&L Holds Second Annual Business Plan Competition
Businesses targeting college students and young professionals figured prominently among the business plans presented at the fall semi-final round of Washington and Lee University’s Business Plan Competition (BPC). Teams of W&L seniors presented their ideas to a panel of judges, mostly University alumni, with experience as entrepreneurs, in private equity or venture capital.
The students’ ideas included a business that facilitates buying and selling textbooks online, a smart phone application for an interactive campus map, tailored suits for college students and a mobile vendor of low-calorie breakfasts and lunches.
“I think all the business plans are very good ideas,” said Jeffrey Shay, the Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership at W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and the organizer of BPC.
Members of the team that presented a business plan for The Helm said that their idea came from a desire to do something with technology in an area they know best—education. Their aim is to use GPS technology to provide a smartphone-friendly alternative to a university’s website, providing students, visitors and members of a university community with an interactive campus map as well as up-to-date information about campus events.
“Like the name implies, it really is everything you need for college life in a single application, and it’s specific to each campus,” said team member Nicholas Lanoue, a business administration and German double major. “There isn’t anything like this currently out there. There are some apps that have basic information, or just the university’s website, but nothing that lets you pick and choose content and gives you an interactive map.”
Alex Shabo, a business administration and psychology double major, said that the team used Lanoue’s financial expertise to push the process forward as well as the presentation abilities of Corinne Smith, a business administration major who plans to work in marketing. “I think we all learned group dynamics and how to work best in a team, capitalize (I don’t think she means monopolize) on our strengths and get a great business plan out there,” said Shabo.
Another business plan that targeted college students was Sharra, a virtual service network for student textbook sales. It allows students to purchase or sell used textbooks online, eliminating the cost and inconvenience of both shipping and high transaction fees. In presenting its idea, the team called attention to students’ frustration with the high cost of textbooks and the inability to resell them for an amount close to the purchase price.
The business plan for Patrick Anthony Suits targeted college students and recent graduates by offering custom-made professional apparel through a website. The students laid out the case for the business by citing a market research survey that showed that more than 63 percent of young collegians stated that they only owned one suit or did not have one at all, and that 73 percent anticipated being required to wear suits in their future employment.
Lo Cal Wraps, an express mobile vendor providing low-calorie breakfasts and lunches, targeted the 129,300 young professional adults living in Boston. The business plan showed that young working people had, on average, 35.5 minutes for lunch during their workday, and often choose where they eat based on how much time it will take.
The proposed business name To Do Less also focused on career professionals with minimal leisure time and high disposable income by bundling three commonly used services—delivery dry cleaning, delivery grocery goods and home cleaning—while keeping prices well below those of concierge services.
One of the business plans that did not target college students and young professionals was Bullseye Tracking — a GPS tracking chip in a shoe insole that allows parents to track young children or caregivers to track people with Alzheimers. “Based on the feedback we received from the judges, we think it is actually a viable business plan,” said Austin Gideon, an accounting and business administration double major, and a member of the Bullseye team. “We all had faith in it from the very beginning, but it’s nice to hear from judges who are a step away from the business that they also support the idea.”
The team included Katie Hatfield, a business administration major, who pointed out that every 40 seconds a child is reported missing in the United States and that 5.2 million citizens have Alzheimers. “So out of our two customer bases, millions of people could benefit from this product. I think it’s definitely viable,” she said.
Matt Gossett, a business administration and French double major and the third member of the team, agreed and said that in preparing their business plan they talked with a manufacturer of insoles in China, a GPS chip manufacturer in San Francisco and a distribution warehouse in Missouri. “There’s no product out there that addresses the need for tracking in a discrete manner, so we would apply for a patent from day one,” he said. Hatfield agreed that the patent would be a deciding factor in whether they would choose to enter the market.
Shay said he would be surprised if any of the plans were actually launched as businesses because W&L’s entrepreneurship program is in only its second year. “Typically, you start to see students launch businesses when an entrepreneurship program has been around for four years,” he said. “That’s because the seed needs to be planted when students are in their first or sophomore year so that by the time they get to their senior year they have a notebook of ideas. They keep working on one idea, take the entrepreneurship class and then go out and try to launch the business. These students in the competition are fairly passionate about their ideas, but being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean every idea is going to be the golden one. Otherwise everybody would do it.”
The Business Plan Competition is part of the capstone course on entrepreneurship. and Shay explained that the main purpose is for students to learn how to integrate everything they’ve learned into a cohesive argument for the viability of a particular business idea. “It’s certainly opened their eyes as to how much they really know — whether it’s organizational behavior, human resource management, marketing, finance or other areas,” he said.
BPC judge Courtney Stovall, a 1999 W&L alumna who founded BounceBack.com, said “whether or not the students actually put their own money into working on these businesses, their passion is amazing. They’ve clearly put a lot of time into it and, watching these presentations, I’m just blown away at the level of detail. The teamwork they’ve shown and the different industries they’ve taken on have been really impressive. I think the ideas are great too.”
The final business plan, Clean Screen, addressed the need for convenient access to sunscreen at golf clubs, sailing clubs, resorts, etc., by providing innovative refillable large capacity dispensers. “The product also includes a dispenser that neutralizes sunscreen so the consumer’s hands aren’t left slippery, making it difficult to play sports like tennis and golf,” said Shay.
In describing the students’ work, Shay said he was enthusiastic about fusing a liberal arts education with a business school education. “On the one side you have the creativity and innovation from the liberal arts, and on the other you have the analytical tools, models and everything else you learn from the business school. You put them together and it should be the perfect formula for great business ideas and great teams,” he said.
A second semi-final of the Business Plan Competition will be held in April. Shay will post online ten-minute videos of the final business plans selected and will ask alumni to select three winners who will be announced during the William’s School annual awards ceremony before graduation.
Details of the Business Plan Competition can be found at http://entrepreneurship.wlu.edu/entrepreneurship_program/co-curricular/business-plan-competition/
Decrease in U.S. Executions Points to Eventual Abolishment, Says W&L Law Professor
The steady downward trend in the use of the death penalty in the United States represents a “fairly irreversible decline” and suggests a time when the death penalty will be abolished, says David Bruck, a Washington and Lee University law professor.
Statistics released this week by the Death Penalty Information Center indicate that the number of executions in the U.S. has decreased by 75 percent since 1996 and is at its lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976.
Bruck, clinical professor of law at W&L and director of the Virginia Capital Case Clearinghouse, cites several reasons for the decline.
States that still use the death penalty, he says, now provide an option for juries to sentence defendants to life imprisonment without parole. And, he adds, juries that do sentencing in capital cases must be told about that option.
“So juries understand that society is protected either way and the death penalty is generally not necessary as a way of protecting society against dangerous murderers,” said Bruck.
Another reason for the decline, in Bruck’s view, involves the number of people on death row who have been shown to be convicted in error, sometimes by use of DNA testing.
“Since the 1990s, the American public has received something of a shock about the fallibility of the criminal justice system,” he said. “For a long time, it was thought that the only mistakes the system ever made was failing to convict or failing to imprison dangerous people.
“Now, largely because of DNA, we have found that the system makes a lot of mistakes. That has led to a broad readjustment in people’s attitudes. The public still tends to favor capital punishment, but public support is much more nuanced. There is more anxiety that the death penalty runs the risk of causing disastrous errors that cannot be undone.”
Bruck said that the substantial increase in the quality of defense that is available to indigent clients is another reason for the decline.
“We recognize that who goes to death row and who doesn’t is more a case of who your lawyer is than of what you did, or even who you did it to,” he said.
Bruck believes that the 75 percent decrease in the number of death sentences over a 15-year period “tells us that we are headed in the same direction as the rest of the democratic world, and that, in the fullness of time, the United States will abolish the death penalty just as all of western Europe, all of the western democracies have already done.”
School of Law Director of Communications
A New York Times piece this week extols the “unconventional taste” of Washington and Lee alumna Hollister Hovey, of the Class of 2000, and her business partner and sister, Porter Hovey, who have recently established Hovey Design.
As the story in the Home & Garden section of the Times notes, Hollister and Porter had been considering pooling their talents and tastes into an interior design firm. They made the big move after they were hired to decorate a penthouse in The Edge, high-rise condominiums in New York’s Williamsburg area.
The sisters’ taste in things “unconventional” was already known by way of an earlier New York Times article, “The New Antiquarians,” back in 2009. Their own loft in Williamsburg is decorated with “late 19th-century relics like apothecary cabinets and dressmakers’ dummies.” Have a look at their personal space on the Design Sponge blog.
This is not a new interest for Hollister, a journalism major whose day job is as senior director at Lazar Partners, a health-care communications firm. As early as 2007, Hollister had started a design blog to “help the classics have a place in this cyber-world filled with ubiquitous modern design.” Although the blog now redirects to Hovey Design, you can still find Hollister’s picks on her Tumblr site, titled simply Hollister H. Hovey, and featuring images of some very cool stuff. That blog was cited way back in 2008 by the New York Times in a “Shopping with Design Bloggers” feature.