Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L's Brodie Gregory on “Virginia Insight”

What does it mean to be “in the zone”? How do you get there?

Brodie Gregory, visiting professor of psychology at Washington and Lee University, discussed peak performance and how to achieve it during an appearance on NPR affiliate WMRA’s “Virginia Insight” show, on Monday, April 30.

Gregory, a 2003 graduate of Washington and Lee, is teaching a Spring Term class about peak performance. She has managed leadership development for Procter & Gamble and is the incoming president of the Washington and Lee Alumni Association.

“Virginia Insight,” hosted by Tom Graham, is a live call-in show. You can listen to the archive of the program below:


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Art in Science on Display at W&L's Kamen Gallery

Images highlighting the work of Washington and Lee University alumni who are scientists form an unusual art exhibit in the University’s Kamen Gallery, opening April 30 and continuing through May 17.

Alumni scientists were asked to submit images not from their hobbies as painters, sculptors or photographers but rather from their scientific work. Consequently, the show offers an assortment of subjects and techniques. For instance, there are microscopic images of an adult mouse hippocampus, illustrations of sea stars of the Galapagos, and a post-operative computed tomography, or CT, scan of the brain.

One of the works depicts a microscopic nematode roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans, which was genetically engineered to illuminate the muscle cells lining its body. The image, taken in the University of Alabama laboratory of Guy Caldwell, a 1986 Washington and Lee alumnus, was the official representation of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Martin Chalfie (Columbia University) for the discovery of the jellyfish Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), a revolutionary tool for cellular imaging now used worldwide.  The image appeared in the program for the 2008 Nobel ceremonies in Stockholm.

“What all of these images have in common is that they convey the scientists’ findings with poignancy, clarity and, quite often, beauty,” said exhibition organizer Tyler Lorig, the Ruth Parmly Professor of Psychology and chair of the Neuroscience Program at W&L.

A student panel selected the works and curated the show. Alumni with artwork included in the exhibit represent class years ranging from 1953 to 2011.

A reception to celebrate these works of art is planned in the Kamen Gallery on Friday, May 11 at 4 p.m. Following the reception, Corinne Sandone, associate professor of art as applied to medicine at Johns Hopkins University, will lecture on the power of the image in science in the concert hall of Wilson Hall.

Sandone specializes in surgical illustration and has used watercolors to create several surgical atlases. The co-author of the “Cameron-Sandone Atlas of Gastrointestinal Surgery,” she teaches and illustrates in the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine. A board-certified medical illustrator (CMI), Sandone received her B. A. in studio art from Oberlin College in 1982. She did graduate work at Johns Hopkins, receiving her M.A. in medical and biological illustration in 1986.

See a sample of the images below. Click on each image to enlarge.

Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
(540) 458-8459

Bill Johnston '61 on Career and Retirement

When the Bradenton, Fla., Herald decided to run profiles of retired executives of U.S. companies who now live in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, the paper chose Washington and Lee alumnus Bill Johnston, of the Class of 1961, as the first subject.

The result is a Q&A with Bill on his tenure from 1996 to 2001 as president and chief operating officer of the New York Stock Exchange, as well as his volunteer roles in the Brandenton/Sarasota area where, among other things, he serves on the board of trustees of the New College of Florida.

In describing how he got involved in the financial industry in the first place, Bill told the Herald that because his father was in the financial business, “the conversations around the dinner table when I was a child were stocks and bonds.”

A trustee emeritus at W&L, Bill also told the Herald about his post-retirement plans: “My wife and I made a conscious decision when I retired, it was time to give back. I definitely enjoy that. The reason I love it so much is because young people keep people my age young. They challenge us.”

Bent Presents Childress Professor Lecture at W&L

George Bent, professor of art history and head of the Department of Art and Art History at Washington and Lee University, will present the Sidney Gause Childress Professorship Inaugural Lecture on Wednesday, May 2, at 8 p.m. in Northen Auditorium of Leyburn Library. Bent is the first to hold the professorship, which was established in 2008.

His lecture, “Art into Science, Science into Art: Leonardo da Vinci and the Body,” is open to the public at no charge.

A member of the Washington and Lee faculty since 1993, Bent focused his early scholarly work on artistic production, the function of liturgical images, and institutional patronage in early Renaissance Florence. He is the author of the 2006 volume “Monastic Art in Lorenzo Monaco’s Florence.” His current research interests revolve around paintings produced for public spaces in Florence between 1250 and 1450. He is working on a book to be titled “Public Pictures for Common People in Late Medieval Florence.”

Earlier this year, Bent filmed 36 half-hour lectures for The Great Courses program, which offers DVDs of courses by professors from leading colleges and universities in diverse fields such as philosophy, history, literature, science and the arts. The title of Bent’s course is “Leonardo da Vinci and the Italian High Renaissance,” and it covers da Vinci’s personal and professional life within the framework of the political instability of Europe during the High Renaissance of the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Bent has received two Fulbright Scholarships for study in Italy and two Mednick Grants from the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges.

At Washington and Lee, he served as associate dean of the College from 2003 through 2006 and has chaired both the East Asian Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies programs in addition to the Department of Art and Art History.

Bent received his bachelor’s degree in history from Oberlin College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of art from Stanford University.

The Sidney Gause Childress Professorship in the Arts was established in 2008 through a gift from J. Donald Childress, of Atlanta, Ga. Childress, a 1970 graduate of W&L, is rector of the University’s Board of Trustees. The professorship, named in honor of his wife, supports a faculty member in one of the departments in the visual and performing arts, with preference for art or art history. The professorship is also the University’s first dedicated solely to the arts.

News Contact:
Jeffery G. Hanna
Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs
(540) 458-8459

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The Auto Industry and the Economy

By Michael Smitka
Professor of Economics
(This piece originally appeared in The Roanoke Times.)

Overall, the United States remains mired in unemployment, still above 8percent some five years after the onset of the Great Recession. Against this backdrop, the auto industry seems to offer hope of recovery.

Yes … but.

Yes, car and truck sales are booming. March’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.8 million units represented a 60 percent increase from the 8.5 million rate of February2009. Output tripled; jobs followed.

Since the doldrums of the summer of 2009, factories have added 140,000 workers, while new and used car dealerships hired 232,000. That’s roughly 8percent of the jobs added during our anemic recovery, and well above the industry’s 2 percent share of overall employment.

Other slices of the data show a similar story. Michigan has added 150,000 jobs overall, lowering unemployment by 1.9 percentage points during the past 12 months, the sharpest decline in the nation. That recovery continues, with the auto industry featuring prominently. For example, Toyota and Nissan will add 150 engineers each to their engineering centers, reflecting Michigan’s role as the world’s single biggest nexus of vehicle development.

And it’s not just Michigan: exports are at a 20-year high, helped by plants such as BMW’s in South Carolina, which ships 70 percent of its output of X-3s and other high-value products to other countries. Spartanburg is an island of low unemployment in a state performing worse than average.

But looked at from another angle, the news remains grim. Sales may be up sharply but are still 2.5 million units below the 16.3 million average pace of the previous 15 years. In the mid-2000s, the industry employed 3 million workers. Despite the recent gains, we are still more than 500,000 jobs below peak. On the employment front, the glass is not yet half full.

Will recovery add back all these jobs? On the negative side, the U.S. is now the third-largest car market, behind China and the European Union. As the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and other economies grow, sales will rise and investment to assemble cars locally will increase. Over time, design and engineering jobs will follow.

We face long-term, and not just short-term, challenges as the industry continues to globalize. China, for example, is serious about electric cars. But in the face of an outcry by Congress over a failed solar panel venture, the U.S. has pulled the plug on electric vehicle startups, refusing to disburse funds for firms that have finished the engineering stage to hire the workers and buy the parts needed to commence production. If the Chinese market grows, we can expect to see technology — high-tech jobs — flow to where the money is.

It’s not just batteries, either. For the first time ever, more than half of the finalists for the Automotive News PACE supplier innovation competition were based outside the U.S. As an independent judge for the competition, one firm I visited this year was Continental, a German company launching a new telematics system that will facilitate hands-free services outside the luxury segment.

The first company to adopt the system is GM — but it will be on Chevys sold in China, not in the U.S. That’s where the growth is. The hardware was developed at Continental’s telematics R&D center outside Chicago, but the software engineering was done in Shanghai, where the electronics “black box” is also assembled. We’re a player, but with globalization, we’re not as big a player as in the past.

On the flip side, there is encouraging news: BMW and Mercedes chose to base plants in the U.S. to make key global products, while Korean and Japanese assemblers and suppliers continue to move jobs here: Production follows sales, and Toyota, Honda and Nissan — the Japanese Big Three — now have full-fledged vehicle engineering capabilities in the U.S.

Given current exchange rates, we remain an attractive production base, with a wide array of suppliers and specialized engineering firms, good infrastructure, stable politics and a robust ability to overcome shocks. But the slower the recovery, the more we will see new technologies and the accompanying skilled jobs shift to where the sales are. On net, I doubt we’ll ever fully recover.

Michael Smitka, professor of economics at Washington and Lee University, has conducted research on the auto industry for more than two decades.

Holocaust Remembrance Week at W&L

Washington and Lee University will observe Holocaust Remembrance Week April 26 through May 3 with a variety of activities beginning with a vigil and featuring several films, a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and a talk by Holocaust survivor Jay M. Ipson.

The Holocaust Vigil will be observed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, at the Hillel House. According to Brett M. Schwartz, director of W&L’s Hill, the vigil will feature music and readings “to help those in attendance remember the six million lost in the Holocaust and also the many lost through oppression in Darfur, Bosnia, Kashmir.”

On Saturday, April 28, Hillel will sponsor the visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Busses will leave Lexington at 9 a.m. There will be a three-hour, self-guided tour of the museum, including several hours to experience Washington. Busses will leave Washington around 8 p.m. to return to Lexington.  To participate in the trip, which is free for W&L students, contact Schwartz at bschwartz@wlu.edu by Monday, April 23, to reserve space on a first come, first served basis.

“The Last Days,” winner of  Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1998, will be shown on Tuesday, May 1, at 6 p.m. in Hillel. The film combines interviews with five Hungarian survivors of HItler’s “Final Solution” with stark historical footage to tell the story of the Nazi destruction of Hungarian Jews in the last year of the war.

On Wednesday, May 2, “Sarah’s Key” will be shown at 6 p.m. at Hillel. This 2011 film tells the story of 10-year-old Sarah Starzynski, who was among the Jewish families of Paris who were rounded up and deported by French police in June 1942.

Jay M. Ipson, a Holocaust survivor and executive director and founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, will share his experiences on Thursday, May 3, at 6 p.m. at Hillel. Born in Lithuania in 1935, Ipson was forced into a concentration camp with his family at age six. After escaping with his parents in 1943, he endured bleak post-war conditions until the family immigrated to Richmond when he was 12. In 1997 Ipson and two other Richmonders founded the Virginia Holocaust Museum in an effort to preserve and educate people on the atrocities of the Holocaust of World War II.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer

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A W&L Family and a Military Deployment

Jenny Williams and David Foster are both members of the Washington and Lee Class of 1998. Jenny teaches English and writing in a high school near Philadelphia. Dave, a former lawyer and former Army officer, is the president of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, an organization that’s revitalizing Camden, N.J. They met at W&L, married in 2002 and have two children.

Now Dave is deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Army Reserves. And Jenny has written a moving essay about that signal event in their family’s life for the New York Times.

In the April 5 “Modern Love” column, Jenny details their post-W&L lives in Tennessee, when Dave served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. “My friends were 24, single and living in San Francisco, Washington and New York,” she writes. “But as the saying goes, sometimes you don’t get what you want but what you need. I had spent my high school years naïvely bashing the military, so now I would live with a soldier in a military town.”

After they married, Dave left the Army, although he wanted to continue with the National Guard or the Reserves. Jenny resisted. “It was always easy for me to explain why the timing was wrong,” she writes. “Couldn’t he finish law school first? And what about the debt we faced and the promise of being grown-ups with children and money to spend?”

An accumulation of events and observations led Jenny to change her mind. Read why in her graceful column, “A Surrender to War, After an Uneasy Peace.”

W&L bestowed the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award on Dave in 2010. And the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of the alumni magazine detailed his work with the predecessor of Cooper’s Ferry, the Greater Camden Partnership, which in both old and new guises often employs students from W&L’s Shepherd Poverty Program. You can read that article here.

Last spring when he was back on campus, Dave videotaped a Generals’ Perspective. You can watch it below:

W&L Anthropologist Creates Exhibit on Race Relations in Brownsburg, Va.

The new exhibit “Sentimental Attachments” at the Brownsburg (Va.) Museum aims to provide visitors with more understanding of the ambiguities of race relations in the small Rockbridge County community before and after the Civil War.

The exhibit is the work of Sascha Goluboff, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Washington and Lee University, and draws on her four years of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research. A poster in the museum describes the exhibit as exploring “the sentimental connections among white landowning families and their slaves, and later hired African-American laborers and domestics, in the Brownsburg area.”

“This exhibit is not just about African-American history,” said Goluboff. “We need to understand the history of African-American life through understanding the emotional relationships between blacks and whites and talk about them together. And it can be both uncomfortable as well as enlightening to try and understand the ambiguities of their everyday experiences.”

The exhibit shows that the 100- to 200-acre family farms in the Shenandoah Valley generally had small slave holdings. The average number of slaves per household was 5.97 compared to 10.9 in the South as a whole. According to New Providence Presbyterian Church records, there were 200 white families and 300 slaves in the Brownsburg region.

“As an anthropologist, I’m really interested in how people live their lives,” said Goluboff. “The examples in the exhibit give little vignettes into the details of how people made their way through their daily lives and how they reinforced racism, but also how their relationships challenged racism. So it’s the messiness of how everyday life was lived. Obviously, it was a system of oppression, but there were ambiguities, especially in the reliance that whites had on their slaves.”

One example, titled “Aunt Peggy: Queen of the Kitchen,” focuses on the main cook to the Rev. James Morrison, the pastor of the local white church who said he wouldn’t have had his status without Aunty Peggy’s cooking such wonderful breads and food. But when he tried to get her to attend family services in the house every Sunday she would refuse to come. “He was really reluctant to force her to attend, so there was this back and forth tension,” said Goluboff.

Another example highlights the underlying racism that existed among whites. One of the letters on display tells the story of a woman from Brownsburg who went to school in Ohio and saw a black nanny who made her nostalgic for home. “There were restrictions involved in these emotional attachments,” said Goluboff. “On the one hand she wrote that this nanny made her remember her home fondly, but when someone suggested she kiss her, that was like anathema to her.”

According to Goluboff, all the posters reveal different aspects of the attachments between blacks and whites. “One of the important things to remember about race relations before the Civil War is that slaves were seen as both family and property,” she said.

“The Museum has the diary of Captain Henry Boswell Jones, an entrepreneur who lived near Brownsburg, on display from Special Collections at W&L. An excerpt from the diary is on a poster. At the beginning of the New Year in 1854, he tabulated how many family members he had, both black and white, and that’s a common thing you see throughout the slave period. But on the other hand, slaves were property so they were worth money and he would hire out his slaves to family members or he would sell them.”

During her research, Goluboff discovered newspapers advertisements for slaves from Brownsburg. “Some of the ads talk about selling a slave just as property for sale,” she noted. “Some mention that the person who is selling the slave feels bad about it and wants the slave to remain in the area because he or she had family there. And some ads were reward notices about slaves who had run away.”

Goluboff said that one of the things she found fascinating was trying to trace what happened to slaves after the Civil War. “A significant number of slaves stayed and settled in the area after emancipation and worked for former owners or other white people they knew,” she explained. “One would imagine that the same sort of relationships that existed before emancipation still existed afterwards when the main work for African-Americans was to work for white people.

An interesting feature of the exhibit is a Maytag wringer-washer displayed beneath the poem Ode to a Washerwoman by Langston Hughes. “The poem talks about the work that black women did for whites, washing their laundry every day so they could send their kids to school and pay for food and other things,” said Goluboff. “So I thought it was important to talk about that. The machine was owned by the Porterfield family, African-Americans who are descendants of Agnes Craney who did the laundry for several white families in the area.”

The exhibit is on display until November 2012 and was funded in part by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Goluboff’s research was supported by a Sabbatical Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society, an Engaged Scholars Studying Congregations Fellowship and a Washington and Lee Lenfest Grant.

Goluboff received her B.A in sociology/anthropology and Russian studies from Colgate University. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Jewish Russians: Upheavals in a Moscow Synagogue (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).

Further information about the Brownsburg Museum can be found at http://brownsburgva.org/museum.htm. See below for a slideshow of images from the exhibit.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director

Memphis Alumni in the News

Two Washington and Lee alumni in Memphis made the business news in that city recently.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that Tom Baker, of the W&L School of Law Class of 1971, was lured out of retirement to become executive vice president for business development and strategy with the Memphis office of CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), which provides services to real estate owners, investors and tenants.

Tom had retired two years ago as vice president and chief procurement officer with First Horizon National Corp. in Memphis. According to the Commercial Appeal, he had been in charge of “6 million square feet of building space First Horizon owned or leased in more than 40 states.”

Tom and his wife, Elizabeth Beach Baker, have three children and six grandchildren, and he told the Commercial Appeal that one of his goals of retirement was to have time to enjoy the grandchildren before they were “too cool” to spend time with him. But he based his decision to return to CBRE on his ability to set his own hours. “Technology,” he noted, “allows you to do things without being in the office.”

Back in March, the Memphis Business Journal featured the Fulmer Companies and its president, Arthur F. Fulmer Jr., of the Class of 1983. Arthur’s grandfather began the family business in 1919.

It began as a manufacturer and seller of automobile seat covers, and transitioned over time to a manufacturer of motocycle helmets and then other items associated with motorcyles, including gloves, jackets and windshields.

The MBJ story noted that Arthur got his start with the company making saddlebags. Fulmer has begun renovating its headquarters in downtown Memphis and, as the story explains, has taken the unusual step of creating 60 apartments in space previously used for warehousing and manufacturing.

Kerry Egan '95 on PBS This Week

Washington and Lee alumna Kerry Egan, of the Class of 1995, was featured on the April 26, 2012, edition of the PBS series “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.”

Watch the video on the PBS website.

Kerry is a hospice chaplain in Massachusetts. In January, we wrote about her remarkable essay about death and dying on CNN.com. That essay resulted in more than 4,000 comments, pro and con.

On the PBS show, she discussed discussing how she works with dying patients. You can see a preview of the show on the “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly” website.

Kerry is the author of the 2004 book, “Fumbling: A Journey of Love, Adventure, and Renewal on the Camino de Santiago,” a journal of her experiences with her then boyfriend (now husband), Alex Ruskell, of the Class of 1994, on the pilgrimage route in southern France and northern Spain known as Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James.