Feature Stories Campus Events

Wake Forest Professor Eric Wilson Addresses Happiness Seminar

Eric Wilson, Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English at Wake Forest University, will be the second speaker in Washington and Lee’s year-long “Questioning the Good Life” interdisciplinary seminar series. His talk will be Thursday, Nov. 8, at 4:30 p.m. in Stackhouse Theater, Elrod Commons.

The title of the speech, which is free and open to the public, is “Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy,” which is the title of his first book.

This book makes a compelling case that the loss of sadness would be sad for the culture of the United States and adds a healthy note of caution about the national obsession with happiness.

“Against Happiness” was reviewed in more than 20 publications, including “The Wall Street Journal,” “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” “The Economist” and “Globe and Mail.” It has been translated into 10 languages,  appeared on the bestseller list of the “Los Angeles Times” and was featured on the Today Show, NPR’s All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation, the BBC’s Today Programme and CBC’s The Current.

Wilson is the author of “Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: or Why We Can’t Stop Looking at Terrible Things” (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012), “The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace” (Northwestern University Press, 2010), “My Business Is to Create: Blake’s Infinite Writing” (Iowa University Press, 2011), “The Melancholy Android: On the Psychology of Sacred Machines” (State University of New York Press, 2006) and “The Spiritual History of Ice: Romanticism, Science, and the Imagination” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), including other essays.

“Questioning the Good Life” featurse six visiting speakers during the 2012-2013 academic year, each of whom is recognized as a leader in the respective discipline (economics, literature, philosophy, psychology/sociology, neuroscience and business). The speakers will bring their considerable insight and expertise to bear on the topic of happiness.

Wilson earned his B.A. from Appalachian State University, his M.A. from Wake Forest University and his Ph.D. from The Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

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Christian Wiman's Remarkable Essay in The American Scholar

Back in April, we blogged about Christian Wiman, a member of the Washington and Lee Class of 1988, for two pieces of news. He had just won a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he had sat for an interview with journalist Bill Moyers (father of Cope Moyers, W&L Class of 1981) about his diagnosis with Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, an incurable cancer of the blood. He’s written about the disease before, and now he has published another searing and beautiful essay: “Mortify Our Wolves,” in the Autumn 2012 issue of The American Scholar.

Christian fills the essay with reflections on parenthood, faith, marriage, pain, art, science, poetry—the list is long. We’ll go with two samples.

Here is Christian on grace: “Part of the mystery of grace is the way it operates not only as present joy and future hope, but also retroactively, in a way: the past is suffused with a presence that, at the time, you could only feel as the most implacable absence.”

And on poetry: “Poetry has its uses for despair. It can carve a shape in which a pain can seem to be; it can give one’s loss a form and dimension so that it might be loss and not simply a hopeless haunting. It can do these things for one person, or it can do them for an entire culture. But poetry is for psychological, spiritual, or emotional pain. For physical pain it is, like everything but drugs, useless.”

It is tempting to quote one elegant passage after another, but really, the best thing to do is to clear the decks for a while and immerse yourself in “Mortify Our Wolves.”

The editor of Poetry magazine, Christian has published six books. Next spring, he will add a seventh to that list: “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.”

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CNN at W&L

The CNN Election Express rolled into Lexington on Saturday, Oct. 27, as part of its ongoing Battleground State Bus Tour and spent about 18 hours on the Washington and Lee campus.

Producers had asked to have a group of students participate in a town hall-style meeting to discuss the campaign and the issues. In addition, CNN contributor John Avlon, who is also a senior columnist for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, did several live “hits” from just outside the bus, with Lee Chapel in the background.

Fifteen Washington and Lee seniors joined five seniors from Southern Virginia University for a wide-ranging, hour-long conversation in front of the cameras in the Hillel House. A three-and-half minute spot from that session aired on CNN Sunday morning and was also posted to CNN.com and YouTube.

You can see that video below.

In addition, Avlon posted a blog about the session, quoting several of the students and concluding with this compliment:

“Talking with these engaged, informed students was refreshing and a rebuke to the kind of cynical political consultants who believe policy isn’t important in presidential campaigns. These students have done their homework and they care passionately about the future of our country. And that’s good news for whichever candidate wins this election.”

In addition to Avlon, CNN reporter Ali Velshi has toured with the Election Express, which started in Florida and came to Lexington from Winston-Salem, N.C. Velshi missed the town hall meeting because he was on another assignment. He drove into Lexington late Saturday night and rejoined the bus just long enough to be reassigned to follow Hurricane Sandy. If you watched the CNN coverage, you might have seen Velshi standing in the middle of a street in Atlantic City. It was a far cry from the quiet tour of Lee Chapel he had taken less than 24 hours earlier.

Watch the video of the CNN town hall:


W&L to Host Inaugural Entrepreneurship Summit

The Entrepreneurship Program at Washington and Lee University will host 31 W&L alumni for its inaugural Entrepreneurship Summit on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 – 10.

“This will be a weekend when we really celebrate entrepreneurship here by bringing back a group of alumni entrepreneurs, have them engage with each other and with students, share ideas and challenges and also establish a strong and valuable network with each other,” said Jeffrey Shay, the Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership at Washington and Lee.

The idea for the summit arose from the Entrepreneurship Advisory Board, which was formed in April 2012 and consists of alumni who judged the Business Plan Competition but wanted to be more engaged.

The alumni represent a span of almost five decades at W&L with participants who graduated in 1967 but also graduates from last year. Their majors include philosophy, biology, European history, business, economics and law. They come from as far away as Texas, New York City, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Kentucky. The businesses they have established include online marketing, social media, financial firms, private equity firms, real estate and a company that markets an air purification system.

Shay acknowledged that the summit could have been twice the size since many alumni wanted to attend but had prior commitments. “We sent information to our master list of alumni interested in entrepreneurship and also used LinkedIn,” said Shay of the social networking site. “LinkedIn is particularly important since we’re in the process of building a network of W&L entrepreneurs. We have 468 people already in the first couple of years, which is pretty amazing for a school the size of W&L.”

The summit is designed to provide opportunities for networking, and the schedule begins with a reception on Friday night, followed by interactive panels and mentoring sessions on Saturday. The Venture Club, W&L’s student entrepreneurship organization, will sponsor a “pitch” competition for students to pitch their idea for a new business.

Alumni will share their experiences of how they arrived at their present positions, in four panel sessions on managing new ventures, marketing and sales in new ventures, financing new ventures and legal issues for entrepreneurs. “Some people started their businesses right out of school, and some took a different route,” explained Shay. “By sharing their experiences, these alumni become more accessible and real to students and make entrepreneurship seem more possible. So I think this will definitely help students make a better connection.”

Alumni on the panels have also been asked to share three “pearls of wisdom” each. “These are things they’ve learned along the way with regard to the topic they’re speaking on,” said Shay. “The hope is that students will hear maybe 90 pearls of wisdom over the weekend and that some of them will sink in and really help them.”

Matt Langan, a 2010 graduate, from Louisville, Ky,.is co-founder and CEO of CadenceMed, and was in the first entrepreneurship class that Shay taught at W&L. His company provides medical practices with a virtual back office that does their patient relationship management and marketing for them. He will discuss “taking the leap” to becoming an entrepreneur. He expects the summit to be “an opportunity for me to help share what I’ve learned as a recent graduate-turned-entrepreneur with current students who might be interested in pursuing a similar path. If I can help paint a picture of why I took the leap into entrepreneurship and what it has taken for me to survive and succeed—from the mindset that an entrepreneur needs to adopt, to the financial and intellectual resources they’ll likely need, and where to get them—then I will consider it a huge win.”

Langan will also be on the receiving end of advice when he takes part in one of several mentoring sessions designed for alumni to help other alumni with the entrepreneurial challenges they are facing, with W&L students participating as well.

“I hope that all alumni receiving mentoring will speak more freely in this nice community of W&L alumni and students than they maybe would back in their hometown,” said Shay. “It’s important that everyone walks away feeling like they’ve gained something from the weekend. While the more experienced alumni will feel like they’ve gained through giving back to students and to other alumni, they are also going to meet some people that they didn’t know who could be valuable resources for them in the future. For example, they’ll hear from two experts who have much to offer them: Tom Dunlap, from the W&L School of Law, is an expert on intellectual property law and Leslie Croland, the father of W&L junior Harlyn Corland, is an expert on contract law.”

Langan is looking forward to the networking opportunities during the summit. “I hear that there will be other W&L alumni from both sides of the table—those who fund and those who might need funding,” he said. “It will be fun to meet these folks, hear what they are excited about working on, learn how they’ve overcome key challenges and, of course, look back on some good W&L memories.”

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director
stschiggfrie@wlu.edu
540-458-8235

W&L Seniors Ali Hamed, Jennifer Ritter Named Generals of the Month

Washington and Lee University seniors Jennifer Ritter and Ali Hamed will be recognized at the Generals of the Month presentation for October on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 11:45 a.m. in the Marketplace in Elrod Commons.

Hamed, from Zarqa, Jordan, is a double major in physics-engineering and economics. He has done research during the summers of 2011 and 2012 resulting in a co-written journal article and research during the summer of 2010 resulting in two presentations at the American Physical Society Meeting and at the W&L-Virginia Tech Research Symposium. He has been a teaching assistant to physics students.

A graduate of Al-Walid Bin Abd Al Malik, Hamed also is a member of Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society, Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society for first year students, and has been on the Honor Roll and Dean’s List. He has won four scholarships: Elizabeth B. Garrett Scholarship, Henry Ruffner Scholarship, Walter LeConte Stevens Scholarship and James McDowell Scholarship.

Ritter, from Mariposa, Calif., is majoring in religion with a minor in dance. She is the co-president and student choreographer of the W&L Repertory Dance Company and an Appalachian Adventure Leading Edge Trip Leader. She is the co-president of Catholic Campus Ministry and the personnel chair of Chi Omega sorority.

She is a graduate of Mariposa County High School and is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Med Honor Society, Nu Delta Alpha Dance Honor Society and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society for first year students. She has been on the Dean’s List and has won the William Hirschmann Memorial Award, a dance study scholarship, and the Cynthia D. Klinedinst Award, a scholarship award for summer study of dance.

Generals of the Month is coordinated by the Celebrating Student Success (CSS) initiative and sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs to inspire engaged citizenship at Washington and Lee University.  CSS seeks to recognize students who are not typically or sufficiently touted for the depth and breadth they add to our campus community.

Ritter and Hamed were selected by the CSS Committee, which is composed of students, faculty and staff. Any member of the campus community can nominate a W&L student at any time with the online form at go.wlu.edu/css.

Future CSS presentations during the 2012-2013 academic year will be held during lunch in the Marketplace in the Elrod Commons on Nov. 15, Dec. 6, and dates in Jan., Feb., March, April and May, as yet to be determined.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

Associated Press Photo Exhibit of U.S. Presidents on Display at W&L

“The American President,” a compelling Associated Press photo exhibit portraying American presidents during memorable events in American history, is currently on display in Washington and Lee University’s Leyburn Library.

The exhibit, consisting of 16 panels and more than 80 photos, shows American presidents leading the country through times of war, peace, victory, defeat, and scandal. It is currently open for public view on the first floor of Leyburn Library, and it will remain on display through Nov. 9.

“The American President” exhibit features both famous Pulitzer Prize-winning images, like Paul Vathis’ photo of John F. Kennedy conferring with Dwight D. Eisenhower at Camp David after the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion, and less recognized photos, like former President George H.W. Bush reacting jokingly as he attempts to open a locked door at a news conference in China.

The exhibit also includes an introduction written by former President George H.W. Bush that reads: “The men and women who have covered the White House for the AP dating back to the middle part of the 19th Century have truly had a ‘front-row seat to history.’ Through their lenses, succeeding generations of AP ‘photodogs’ have captured both the ecstasy and agony of the American Presidency, and contributed in important ways to the historical record of each administration.”

The department of journalism and mass communications teamed up with the University Library to bring the exhibition to campus. Pamela Luecke, Reynolds Professor of Journalism and chair of the department, worked with Associated Press officials to obtain the display, and Richard Grefe, senior reference librarian, has handled all of the logistics.

According to Grefe, the exhibit has already caught the eyes of many W&L students. He also mentioned that the photos from the exhibit, along with many thousands of other AP photos, are available to researchers through the AP images database, which can be accessed through the University Library.

Luecke said that she is especially excited about having the exhibit at W&L. “As a former journalist myself I have great reverence for the job that photojournalists do,” she said.

Luecke added that the AP photo exhibit is one of many activities planned by the journalism department for this academic year in efforts to put greater emphasis on photojournalism.

For instance, the W&L journalism department will collaborate with Virginia Military Institute’s George C. Marshall Museum to present another photojournalism exhibit this month entitled, “Conflict Zone.”

That exhibit displays moving photographs capturing the devastation and realities of war. Photojournalist Ben Brody, who has covered war as both a soldier and a civilian, will open the exhibit with a talk entitled, “Photojournalism in an Era of Counterinsurgency.” His talk is at 5:30 on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the Marshall Museum on the VMI Post. The talk and exhibit are free and open to the public.

Along with presenting the exhibits, the W&L journalism department is hoping to offer a new one-credit photojournalism course.

— by  Sara Korash-Schiff ’15

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

CNN Election Express Visits Washington and Lee


W&L Law Symposium Explores Landmark Gideon Case and Right to Counsel

Fifty years ago the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright established the right to counsel for criminal defendants. An upcoming symposium at Washington and Lee School of Law will explore the legacy of this case, its impact on the criminal justice system, and the future of the right to counsel.

The symposium is scheduled for Nov. 8-9 in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the grounds of Washington and Lee University. The event is free and open to the public.

W&L professor and symposium co-organizer J.D. King, who directs the school’s Criminal Justice Clinic, notes that this is not a celebration of the case, but rather a cold, hard assessment of what has gone right and what has gone wrong since Gideon became law.

“One of the failings of the criminal justice system is that while we do provide lawyers to people who can’t afford their own, there is no meaningful check on how good those lawyers are,” says King. “The reality of indigent defense is that in many cases defendants get a lawyer in physical presence only.”

Another problem, says King, is how Gideon and the right to counsel has been limited to apply only to so-called “serious” cases, that is, cases that could result in incarceration. However, there are more serious consequences that can result from a misdemeanor conviction now than there were when Gideon was decided.

“You can get deported, kicked out of your housing, lose student aid, not a get a job because of a background check, or wind up on the sex offender registry, all for misdemeanors for which you were not entitled to counsel,” says King.

The symposium is especially timely, adds King, as the fiscal crisis of the last several years has put increased strain on funding for public defender systems. Indeed, in many states, including Virginia, defendants eventually bear the burden of the cost of their attorney, which can force them to waive their right to counsel from the outset.

The symposium will bring together scholars and practitioners representing a range of views on the issues. Symposium attendees include Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Robin Steinberg, founder of the visionary defense support service The Bronx Defenders, as well as leading academics from law schools around the country.

The symposium is sponsored by the W&L Law Review, the Frances Lewis Law Center, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Foundation for Criminal Justice. A complete list of panelists, symposium schedule and registration information is available online at law.wlu.edu/gideon.

News Contact:
Peter Jetton
School of Law Director of Communications
pjetton@wlu.edu
(540) 458-8782

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W&L Trustees Approve Renovations to Residence Halls, Belfield

Washington and Lee University’s Board of Trustees approved a $22.5 million project to renovate Graham-Lees Hall and remodel Gaines Hall as part of an overall plan to improve residential life for first-year students at the University.

Approval came during the board’s October meeting in Lexington last weekend.

The trustees also approved a proposal to convert Belfield, the former residence of the late Frank Gilliam, W&L’s longtime dean of students, into a guest house.

In addition to those two actions, the trustees heard proposals for revisions to upper-class housing and for the eventual development of new indoor athletic and recreation facilities.

“We are pleased with the board’s decision on Graham-Lees and Gaines halls and are anxious to get started on this critical project,” said Sidney Evans, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, who co-chaired a special task force on housing with Trustee Dallas Hagewood Wilt, of the W&L Class of 1990.

The task force was empaneled by W&L Rector Donald Childress and President Kenneth P. Ruscio. It was guided by the 2007 Strategic Plan, which specified improvements and enhancements to first-year residential life plus consideration of upper-class alternatives. Childress is a member of the W&L Class of 1970; Ruscio, Class of 1976.

“In developing these plans, we are motivated by our desire to improve the experience for our students by creating a greater sense of community during that important first year,” Evans said.

According to John Hoogakker, executive director of facilities, plans call for the project to begin in the summer of 2013 and to take two years to complete. “There are some significant logistical challenges,” Hoogakker said. “But we have been creative in our planning and fully intend to get this accomplished on schedule.”

Graham-Lees is the combination of Lees Hall, built in 1904, and Graham Hall, built in 1920. The buildings were connected in the 1940s, and Graham-Lees was last renovated in 1982. “Generations of W&L students have lived in the building and, over time, developed real fondness for it,” said Hoogakker. “We plan to take advantage of its distinctive character. But the fixtures and finishes in Graham-Lees are extremely worn, and the building does not have air conditioning. This will be a major upgrade.”

Gaines Hall was built in 1986 and was originally designated for upper-class students, featuring suites along long hallways. “Gaines was an early experiment in suite-style living in a traditional hall,” said Hoogakker. “In recent years, the layout has not been well received by students, and we think that it will be much more functional when it is turned into a more traditional hall arrangement with program, social and laundry spaces.”

The required capacity to house all of Washington and Lee’s first-year class, including resident advisers, is 481. During the project, the capacity of Graham-Lees will be decreased slightly from 258 to 236, while the capacity of Gaines will be increased by 27, for a net increase of five spaces overall.

Evans said that the Residential Life Task Force was especially anxious to maintain the location of the first-year residence halls in the core of campus. It also wanted to create internal spaces that were not as isolating as is currently the case in the buildings.

“The architectural drawings that we have seen do an excellent job of establishing opportunities for casual interaction within the two buildings,” Evans said. “We are pleased with the common areas and program spaces that are planned and think this will meet the committee’s goals.”

The University has been working with Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co., of Norfolk, Va., to the renovations. The architectural and planning firm specializes in campus buildings, including renovations of residence halls at the University of Michigan and Rollins College.

Hoogakker said that two facilities will be renovated in sequence, beginning with one half of Graham-Lees during the summer and fall of 2013, and the other half during the spring and summer of 2014. Gaines will also be done one half at a time, during the summer and fall of 2014 and the spring and summer of 2015.

“In order for us to do this, students will move from one side of the buildings to the other as we complete the work,” Hoogakker said. “We are fairly sure that we have enough capacity on the campus to be able to do this, but it is a logistical challenge.”

A final element in the overall plan will be to create new green space that connects the two residence halls. “This plan does call for us to open up the space between Gaines and Graham-Lee and to unite them visually,” said Evans. “This will establish a very strong concept of a residential-life neighborhood for our first-year students.”

Funding for the projects will come through the sale of bonds.

Belfield Approved

Meanwhile, construction on Belfield will begin late this year and is planned for completion by next fall.

The $1.5 million project involves renovating, furnishing and equipping the main floor for small-scale programs and events. The upper floor will become guest accommodations, with four guest rooms and baths. Belfield is a 6,000-square-foot, Tudor-revival house built in 1929 and surrounded by 2.63 acres.

The formal gardens, which were designed by Charles Gillette, the preeminent Southern landscape architect, will be restored.

The University received an anonymous gift in 2010 from an alumnus and former member of the Board of Trustees to purchase Belfield and to conduct a study to determine the best use of the facility. Since the purchase, two other donors have made gifts in honor of Dean Gilliam to help with the project.

New Indoor Athletic and Recreation Facility Discussed

Meanwhile, the trustees also heard a report from a task force of trustees and members of the administration who have been exploring a new indoor athletic and recreation facility, which is one of the capital-project targets in the current campaign.

After exploring several alternatives, the task force asked the trustees to consider a plan under which a new facility is built on the current Warner Center site, with Doremus Gymnasium, which adjoins Warner, maintained and remodeled. Under the plan, a separate natatorium would be constructed on another site on the campus.

“The task force was very thorough in its work,” said Steve McAllister, vice president for finance and treasurer, who co-chaired the task force. “Our recommendation retains the majority of indoor athletics and recreation programs within the core of campus, which was a major consideration. It takes advantage of both Doremus, which not only has substantial value but is also a campus landmark, and the Warner Center site, which remains extremely advantageous.”

Additional Residential Life Task Force Proposals Considered

In addition, the trustees discussed the proposals of the Residential Life Task Force with regard to upper-class students. Among those is a requirement that students live on campus for three years rather than two. The task force based its recommendation on extensive research into housing patterns both at W&L and at other colleges. Among the issues it cited were the safety and security of current off-campus options, as well as the impact on the sense of community at the University of the many students now living more than a mile and a half from campus.

Currently, on-campus housing options for upper-class students include a small number of so-called theme houses, Gaines Hall, Woods Creek Apartments and the University-owned fraternity and sorority houses. The proposal suggests that W&L offer upper-class students an array of attractive, varied options for on-campus living. Those choices would include new construction, the renovation of existing facilities and leasing options. The goal would be to provide numerous choices for location and style of housing.

“As we explored this question, one of the resources that we discovered was a report that had been issued in 1968 on student housing,” said Evans. “We were amazed to see that a self-study from 1966 raised these issues, and that a visiting accreditation team expressed concerns that off-campus housing patterns were hindering the development of an effective academic community. Many of the issues identified in that report are strikingly similar to those that we have now discovered.”

The trustees also heard a presentation on campus planning, which offered one possibility for establishing a neighborhood on campus that could be anchored by a natatorium, and might also feature new student housing, along with other amenities.

“I think it is important that the trustees consider these issues together,” said Ruscio of the recommendations issued by the task forces. “For instance, one of the possibilities would be to unify the campus by creating a dynamic neighborhood to include established facilities, such as Lewis Hall, the baseball stadium and the indoor tennis center, while carefully incorporating any new facilities. If a decision is made to go in this direction, the area now referred to as ‘across the ravine’ would no longer seem separate and remote.

“The key element in the trustees’ deliberations, in my view, is to consider the way these plans will help us preserve the traditional features of our historic campus while constantly improving the academic and co-curricular experiences of our students.”

The trustees are expected to consider these recommendations at their next meeting in February.

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


Outdoorsman Aron Ralston of 127 Hours Speaks at W&L

The Contact Committee and the Outing Club at Washington and Lee University will present Aron Ralston and the real-life story behind the movie “127 Hours.” He will speak on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Keller Theater in Lenfest Hall. The doors will open at 7 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

There will be a screening of “127 Hours” in the Stackhouse Theater, W&L University Commons, on Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 4 p.m.

There also will be members of the Contact Committee answering questions about the event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, Wednesday, Oct. 31 and Thursday, Nov. 1 in the Commons. They will be giving out Contact cups and koozies and Outing Club stickers and holding a raffle for free signed copies of Ralston’s book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.”

An experienced climber and avid outdoorsman, Ralston was descending a remote Utah canyon alone when an 800-lb. boulder broke loose, crushing his right hand and pinning him against the canyon wall. After nearly five days — without water and with no hope of escape — Ralston made a life-or-death decision. He chose life by severing his arm below the elbow, rappelling a 65-foot cliff out of the canyon and trekking seven miles to find help.

Ralston documented his life-altering experience in The New York Times best-selling memoir, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” which has been adapted for the big screen by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire.” The film stars James Franco as Ralston, and his performance, as well as the movie, have been nominated for numerous awards.

As an inspirational speaker, Ralston moves audiences with his unforgettable story. An ordinary man pushed to the limits, Ralston demonstrates the human capacity for the extraordinary. He describes his riveting journey in which courage and perseverance defy the inevitable outcome.

An experienced climber and avid outdoorsman, Ralston was descending a remote Utah canyon alone when an 800-lb. boulder broke loose, crushing his right hand and pinning him against the canyon wall. After nearly five days — without water and with no hope of escape — Ralston made a life-or-death decision. He chose life by severing his arm below the elbow, rappelling a 65-foot cliff out of the canyon and trekking seven miles to find help.

Ralston documented his life-altering experience in The New York Times best-selling memoir, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” which has been adapted for the big screen by Danny Boyle, the Academy Award-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire.” The film stars James Franco as Ralston, and his performance, as well as the movie, have been nominated for numerous awards.

As an inspirational speaker, Ralston moves audiences with his unforgettable story. An ordinary man pushed to the limits, Ralston demonstrates the human capacity for the extraordinary. He describes his riveting journey in which courage and perseverance defy the inevitable outcome.

News Contact:
Julie Cline
News Writer
jcline@wlu.edu
540-458-8954

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