Feature Stories Campus Events

Allison Ballard, Young Gun

Washington and Lee alumna Allison Ballard, of the Class of 1996, has been honored by West Virginia Executive Magazine as one of the Mountain State’s “Young Guns.” The magazine identifies individuals who “represent West Virginia’s next generation of leaders who are already accomplishing great things through their careers both in the business world and in their communities.”

It’s the second such honor for Allison this year. Earlier she was named to the State-Journal’s Generation Next: 40 Under 40, which honors people younger than 40 who are making a difference in their business and communities.

An accounting major at W&L, Allison is a partner in the Charleston, W.Va., office of Dixon Hughes Goodman L.L.P., certified public accountants and advisors. Allison is part of the firm’s assurance group and provides accounting and assurance assistance to energy, manufacturing and service industry clients.

In an interview with West Virginia Executive, Allison said that she considers earning the partnership her greatest success thus far. “Not everyone accomplishes this goal in my profession, and I am honored that the other partners in the firm felt confidence in my skills and abilities to ask me to become an owner.”


W&L Law Alum Bob Goodlatte '77L to Chair House Judiciary Committee

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte ’77L has been elected chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when Congress convenes in January. As reported in the blog of the LegalTimes, Goodlatte released a statement saying:

“The Judiciary Committee, which has far-reaching legislative jurisdiction, is one of the most active committees in Congress,” Goodlatte said in a written statement. “Under my leadership, the House Judiciary Committee will play an active role in advancing a pro-growth agenda that will help to create jobs and restore economic prosperity to America.”

Goodlatte said that under his leadership the committee will focus on a number of issues, including “protecting onstitutional freedoms and civil liberties, oversight of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, legal and regulatory reform, innovation, competition and anti-trust laws, terrorism and crime, and immigration reform.”

Goodlatte, who represents Virginia’s 6th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, recently won reelection to his 11th term in congress.

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W&L Law Students to Serve as Court-Appointed Advocates in Child Abuse Cases

Several law students at Washington and Lee School of Law recently completed training to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children appearing in local juvenile and domestic courts. The students received the training through Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children, part of an association of CASA organizations nationwide.

CASA volunteers are appointed by judges in abuse and neglect cases to gather information to help the judge decide what is best for the child, whether that means removing the child from his or her home or helping a struggling family get access to social services. The students’ duties will include talking to everyone involved in the child’s life – including parents and relatives, foster parents (if any), teachers, medical professional, attorneys, and social workers.  The students will use the information they gain to provide information to the court and to assist with the determination of what would be the best placement for the child.

W&L adjunct professor Tammi Hellwig, director of externships and third-year program administration, serves as a facilitator for students volunteering for CASA. A CASA volunteer and former guardian ad litem herself, Hellwig says that the most important role these advocates play is as a reliable presence in the child’s life.

“Child abuse and neglect cases are very complex and children often interact with a number of different social workers or lawyers as the case proceeds through the system,” says Hellwig. “CASA volunteers are the one adult constant in the child’s life and they stay with the cases until it is closed and the child is in a safe, permanent home.”

“The students are given a unique opportunity to vigilantly fight for the rights of children in abuse and neglect situations and ensure that they are treated with dignity and respect,” adds Hellwig.

The CASA program was started in 1977 by a Seattle juvenile court judge concerned about making such difficult decisions about child welfare in the absence of complete information. Over 600,000 children are placed in foster care each year in the U.S., but with a nationwide compliment of fewer than 78,000, CASA volunteers are often assigned to only the most difficult abuse and neglect cases.

The W&L law students serving as CASA volunteers are Cara Parcell, Mitzi Hellmer, Alisa Abbott, Lydia Cancilla and Rebecca Reed. Reed, a second year law student, served in a similar capacity in Florida before attending law school. She says children show remarkable resilience in these situations, recalling one child she worked with who channeled her anger and fear into poetry, eventually winning a competition and a scholarship to a poetry camp.

“It is such a privilege to see how strong children can be and to help them along the way,” says Reed. “In these cases, the state has lawyers and both parents have lawyers, but the one person this is supposed to be about doesn’t have a voice unless you give it to them.”

Abbott, a third-year student, interned over the summer with the Office of the City Attorney in Richmond, helping represent the department of social services. She interacted with CASA volunteers during several cases and was eager to sign on to the program when it became available in the area.

The W&L students will receive their first cases soon, and after two years of mostly analytical exposure to the law, Abbott is eager to move even closer to experiencing the law’s true impact on people involved with the justice system.

“Law students don’t get much of a perspective on human interaction and how law changes peoples’ lives,” says Abbott. “This program helps make it real.”

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Doug Scovanner '77 Earns Career Achievement Award

Doug Scovanner, a 1977 graduate of Washington and Lee, was honored by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal when he received the Career Achievement Award in the magazine’s fifth annual CFO of the Year Awards.

Doug retired in March after 18 years as CFO of Target. He has stayed with the company part-time to assist in his successor’s transition.

As the MSP Business Journal reported, Doug played a key role in several major initiatives at Target, including its relaunch of Target.com, the sale of its credit card receivables portfolio and its upcoming expansion in Canada. But, the article added, “it’s the company’s commitment to a fully-funded, defined-benefit pension plan that he cites as ’emblematic of how the whole enterprise goes about accomplishing its objectives in a disciplined framework.’ “

Doug joined Target in June 1994, when it was named Dayton Hudson Corp. In addition to CFO, he also served as executive vice president at Target Corp., from February 2000 to March 31, 2012, and as its chief accounting officer until March 31, 2012. Prior to joining Target, he was senior vice president of finance at Fleming Companies Inc. and a vice president and treasurer at Coca-Cola Enterprises.

In a Minneapolis Star Tribune article announcing his retirement plans a year ago, Doug was called “the oil that greased the company’s wheels.”

Lincoln Scholar at Washington and Lee Praises New Lincoln Movie

If anyone learns about Abraham Lincoln only by watching Steven Spielberg’s highly praised new film, “Lincoln,” Lucas Morel thinks they would be “miles ahead” of previous generations in their understanding of the 16th president.

Morel, the Lewis G. John Term Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University, is a Lincoln scholar who has written one book on the president and is working on a second. He is chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, and he teaches an annual seminar, Lincoln’s Statesmanship.

“Some people get disturbed that kids and adults get their history from the movies,” said Morel. “But with this Lincoln movie, if that’s all they were to get on Lincoln, they will come away with an accurate understanding of Lincoln’s political cunning, his personality, his temperament, his home life, his work as politician, how he dealt with his cabinet and how he dealt with his enemies and his allies.”

For Morel, one small scene demonstrates how scrupulously Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner did their homework.

“With all the scenes that must have been left on the cutting-room floor, they included this little interlude where Lincoln is talking to telegraph operators from the War Department about the concept of self evidence in Euclid’s geometry,” Morel said. “That the filmmakers would think to include that is, in my view, really remarkable, because it is so very telling about Lincoln’s turn of mind.

“Here’s a man who had less than a year’s schooling in his life but who was an autodidact, who taught himself over and over. He trained his mind because he wanted to get off the farm. We have it in Lincoln’s writing that, as a congressman, he read Euclid’s Elements. Learning Euclid as a congressman, rather than reading, say, the Federalist Papers, was Lincoln’s way of sharpening his best tool. Kushner found the right telling examples. I’ve read more than my share of Lincoln, and this is fine, fine work.”

In Morel’s experience, some historical movies can be so conscientious about accuracy that they forget to tell a good story. In contrast, he points to the opening scene of “Lincoln.” “That first scene, with Lincoln talking to white and black soldiers, never happened,” Morel said. “But it’s still true in the sense that it showed the diversity of the soldiers’ admiration for President Lincoln — especially the black soldiers.”

While some commentators have lamented the absence of abolitionist Frederick Douglass from the film, Morel thinks that such a cameo appearance in a movie focusing on the 13th Amendment would have marginalized Douglass’ long-standing contributions to America’s progress. “There’s no question that Frederick Douglass deserves his own movie,” he said.

By focusing on the last four months of Lincoln’s life, noted Morel, the movie is able to portray Lincoln as both the great emancipator and the preserver of the Union. It does this by setting up the choice that Lincoln had to make: end the Civil War soon, or get the 13th Amendment passed.

“I think Spielberg and Kushner do a very good job of showing Lincoln trying to do both of these things — trying to get that amendment passed, especially getting it passed before the war is over, so that when the war is over, slavery is on its way out,” said Morel.

Morel is not the least surprised that the movie has created a significant buzz and drawn big crowds. In fact, he missed his first chance at seeing it because the showing was sold out.

What is it about Lincoln that makes him a draw today? Unlike the other popular president, George Washington, it’s impossible to be neutral about Lincoln, Morel said, adding that Lincoln remains a lightning rod for public opinion. He has critics on both sides of the political spectrum, right and left.

“People are either high on him or they hate him,” Morel said. “Everyone recognizes, I think, that he did something incredible at our most delicate time as a country. The question is whether he kept the country together in a way that was sound, a way that was constitutional and consistent with what our forefathers intended.”

When students enroll in his Lincoln seminar each year, they bring what Morel calls a “sophisticated assessment” of the president. That is, they rarely accept the icon at face value. “Somehow they’ve picked up that Lincoln gets maybe two cheers, but not three,” he said. “They want to be hesitant in their appreciation for Lincoln.”

Morel has no such hesitation. He considers Lincoln not just a good politician but one of the greats. He wants students to come to their own conclusions, however, through a careful reading of Lincoln’s speeches as well as through what his contemporaries said and wrote about him.

“I’m hoping that whatever impressions they have of Lincoln when they get to the class, they will get context that will help them understand him,” Morel said. “Implicitly, I trust his words and actions make the case for him.”

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

Calculating Your Powerball Odds

If you’re playing tonight’s $500-million Powerball lottery, good luck. You’ll need it. How much luck exactly?

According to Aaron Abrams, assistant professor of mathematics at Washington and Lee, you are 100 times more likely to die of a flesh-eating virus than you are of winning the lottery.

But, as Aaron has told numerous media interviewers in the past 48 hours, people still play because it’s fun.

Aaron has been in demand this week because of a paper that he wrote with a colleague some years back when he was at Emory University. That paper, “Finding Good Bets in the Lottery, and Why You Shouldn’t Take Them,” was published in the January 2010 issue of the American Mathematical Monthly and won the 2011 Lester R. Ford Award as one of five “articles of expository excellence.”

When the Mega Millions jackpot approached a lottery record of $640 million in March 2012, Aaron’s phone started to ring, and he was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered, CNN, and BBC’s Newshour. He was quoted far and wide about the astronomical odds facing lottery players.

Fast forward seven months to this week, and the media discovered that Aaron had moved from Atlanta to Lexington. And again the phone started ringing. He did a Fox News interview (which has not yet run) and then local spots for Roanoke’s WDBJ7 (with W&L alumnus Joe Dashiell ’80) and with WVTF’s Beverly Amsler with others in the offing. You can watch Aaron’s interview with WDBJ7 here and listen to the WVTF piece below:

In addition to the flesh-eating virus response, Aaron offered this additional illustration that appears on WDBJ7’s website: “Imagine sometimes in the next four years, a bell is going to ring. It’s going to go off for one second. You have to guess right now when that’s going to happen. What year, month, day, hour, minute, second. You write it down and you place your bet. The odds of your winning that are about the same odds of you winning the jackpot.”

Now, if you haven’t yet bought your Powerball ticket, will you? Aaron says he probably won’t.

W&L Law Prof Tim Jost on Liberty University's Affordable Care Act Challenge

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty has been pursuing a challenge to both the individual insurance mandate as well as the employer mandate, which requires all employers with more than fifty employees to provide them with adequate insurance coverage.  The Fourth Circuit had not ruled on the challenges because it ruled that Liberty was barred by the federal Anti-Injunction Act from suing to stop the mandates.

Washington and Lee University law professor Tim Jost, a health law expert and supporter of the Affordable Care Act, told the Los Angeles Times:

“It’s a frivolous argument. Congress had regulated wages and benefits issues under the commerce clause for decades.”

View the Los Angeles Times Story online.

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Keaton Fletcher Wins Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology

Keaton Fletcher, a Washington and Lee University senior from Littleton, Colo., has been named the 2012 recipient of the David G. Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology.

The Elmes Pathfinder prize recognizes a student who has shown extraordinary promise in psychological science or in the application of psychological science in the professions through outstanding scholarship in basic or applied psychology.

Fletcher, a double major in neuroscience and psychology, worked as a research assistant with W&L Professor of Psychology Wythe Whiting, researching the difference in positivity bias between older and younger adults. He also worked with W&L Leonard Jarrard, an emeritus psychology professor, on the effects of a high fat diet on memory.

He also spent the 2012 summer as an intern for Dana’s Angels Research Trust, conducting research in Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), a rare genetic disease. W&L alumnus Phil Marella, whose two children have been diagnosed with NPC, sponsors three W&L student interns to work in different laboratories each summer.

In addition to his involvement in psychological research, Fletcher serves as co-president of LIFE, a student-run organization that provides information, programs and campus-wide speakers for students to make informed decisions about their lives.

He is also co-president of Washington and Lee Chamber Singers, recognized as one of the finest a cappella choirs in the region, and is a member of W&L’s student-run a capella group, General Admission, that performs frequently on campus.

He is a member of both Beta Beta Beta, the Phi Xi Chapter of the National Biological Honor Society, and Psy Chi, the National Psychology Honor Society, and vice president of the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Fletcher’s future plans include a career in the health profession, and he is applying to public health programs and industrial organizational psychology programs.

The Elmes Pathfinder Prize was established in 2007 through the Elmes Fund, a permanently endowed fund that honors David G. Elmes, emeritus professor of psychology at Washington and Lee. The fund was created by contributions from the many alumni, colleagues, and friends who benefited from Elmes’ abiding integrity and commitment to learning during his 40-year career as a scientist, teacher and mentor at Washington and Lee.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director

W&L Alumnus Named Head of Peddie School

Peter Quinn, a 1978 graduate of Washington and Lee, has been named the next headmaster of Peddie School in Hightstown, N.Y.

Peter will assume his duties on July 1, 2013, when the current head of school, John Green, retires after 12 years.

Peter has had a successful 16-year tenure as the headmaster of Wakefield School, a preschool through 12th grade college preparatory school in The Plains, Va. He started his teaching career at Wakefield after his graduation from W&L, left to go to Peddie School where he was a teacher, coach and director of admissions, and then returned to Wakefield in 1996 when the school opened its campus in The Plains. Since then, Wakefield has increased from 245 to 400 students and graduated its largest class in 2012.

In an announcement on the Wakefield website, Peter was quoted as saying: “Peddie is one of three schools I have lived in and loved over my career, and it would be a new and very different opportunity from Wakefield. One does not control the timing of these opportunities, and I was not planning on leaving Wakefield until retirement. Life is what happens when you are making other plans, as they say.”

Peter was the director of admission and financial aid at Peddie when the school received the $100 million gift from Walter H. Annenberg, a member of the Peddie School class of 1927. The gift helped create the Annenberg scholarship program and applications to the school tripled. Peter was credited with being a “voice of integrity” during that period.

An English major at W&L, Peter received an M.A. in English from the University of Virginia.

Reminders Along the Way

by Christian Roden ’11

Dusty and footsore, my 17-year-old brother, Nathan, and I trudged into Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, one of the most beautiful villages in France, one day this past June. I wondered why I had taken us on a two-day detour from the Camino de Santiago to see the summer home of artist Pierre Daura (1896-1976), who had lived for many years in Rockbridge County. We’d be lucky to find anyone who knew who he was, let alone track down his house. Then a poster for a museum exhibition caught my attention: “Pierre Daura: A Catalan-American Artist in France.” I had been told my experiences at W&L would stay with me for the rest of my life. No one mentioned such a reminder would be waiting halfway around the world.

Seeing Daura’s work was the first of many college experiences that lapped into each other to bring me to the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James). As a high school senior on a visit to campus, I saw the 2007 exhibition of his paintings of the Virginia countryside. His depictions of the mountains caught my imagination; later, as I’d drive down Route 64, House Mountain would herald my imminent arrival in Lexington. I double-majored in art history and English, and under the superb tutelage of Pam Simpson transformed my strong interest in art into a powerful interest into its continually evolving cultural significance. I worked with this interaction firsthand through posts at the Lee House and the Reeves Center.

I could study my tangential interest, ocean liners, only through cultural memory, also an important component of W&L’s culture. That academic subject is uncommon, but Simpson’s research into concrete-block and butter sculptures gave me the courage to apply for a Fulbright grant to work with the Association French Lines, which studies liners in the cultural development and exchange of the 20th century. I received the grant and happily discovered that my French colleagues applied the same principles so important to cultural studies at W&L.

It is because of the Chamber Singers, however, that I found myself in a tiny village in the middle of rural France this summer. The director, Shane Lynch, continually pushed the group to greater excellence than any of us envisioned, and still fostered our joy in music. Inspired by his example, and by a song we sang during my bittersweet final year, I took on a new challenge: hiking the Camino de Santiago. It proved difficult, but I found plenty of encouragement, from my brother and other pilgrims, and from the breathtaking scenery and long history.

On Aug. 3, five weeks and several hundred miles after seeing the Daura exhibition, we arrived at the end, in Santiago, Spain, still dusty and footsore. As we wandered around the crowded city, giddy with accomplishment, I spotted a baseball cap sporting a familiar blue trident. Jess, a 2009 law graduate (I never did catch her last name), was just completing her own trek. That was one final lesson I learned. Your time at Washington and Lee will indeed always stay with you-and reminders will turn up along the way to cheer you on.