Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L Welcomes Class of 2017

Washington and Lee University welcomed its Class of 2017 on Saturday, Aug. 31, when the 480 new students checked in and began four days of orientation prior to the start of classes on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

This will be the 265th year of undergraduate instruction at W&L.

“These are exceptional young men and women who bring a diverse set of interests and talents that will enrich the campus,” said William Hartog, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Not only do they possess outstanding academic credentials by all the measures, but they also have excelled in a wide variety of activities beyond the classroom. We are excited to see all that they will achieve during their four years here.”

• Complete move-in coverage on the #wlu17 Storify page

The students come from as nearby as Rockbridge County High School, which has four students in the class, and as far away as Shanghai, China, which is home to three of the entering students.

Members of the class come from 40 states and the District of Columbia and 18 foreign countries. The top states are Virginia with 60 students, followed by North Carolina (38), Texas (31), New Jersey (24), Florida (24), New York (24), Georgia (23), and California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania with 20 each.

There are 383 different secondary schools represented, divided evenly between public and private.

W&L selected the Class of 2017 from a pool of 6,222 applicants. The University offered 18 percent of those applicants a place in this year’s class.

In terms of their academic credentials, the average SAT score is just under 1390 on critical reading and math sections, and the average ACT composite score is 31. There are 21 National Merit finalists and scholars in the class, while 31 were either valedictorians or salutatorians of their respective high school classes.

In addition, 138 served as presidents of major student organizations, 229 were varsity team captains, 321 belonged to the National Honor Society or the Cum Laude Society, and more than half reported performing 100 hours or more of community service.

Almost half of the class (47 percent) has received more than $9.1 million in grant assistance from the University; the average grant for students receiving an institutional award is $39,950. That group includes 40 recipients of a Johnson Scholarship. This is the sixth class of Johnson Scholars to enroll at W&L since the University received the $100 million gift that established the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity. The scholarship recognizes students with exceptional leadership potential, personal promise and academic achievement regardless of their ability to afford tuition and other expenses.

Children of W&L alumni compose 7 percent of the class. More than 19 percent of the class are members of American ethnic or racial minorities, first-generation college students or recipients of Pell Grants.

The orientation program features a variety of mandatory and voluntary sessions that help students become acquainted with the University. In addition to meetings with resident advisers and with faculty advisers, students attend a mandatory, student-led session on the Honor System, which is a central feature of the University, and learn about W&L’s emphasis on student self-governance.

W&L will formally launch the academic year with the Fall Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 5, when W&L alumna Alston Parker Watt, executive director of The Williams Family Foundation of Georgia, presents the convocation address.

Exhibit in Williams Gallery, “Serious Play,” Runs until Dec. 30

An exhibit of paintings and works on paper, “Serious Play,” by Kathleen Carey Hall, is on display at the Williams Gallery in Huntley Hall at Washington and Lee University until Dec. 30.

The exhibit is sponsored by W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and is free and open to the public.

Hall works from observation in painting, drawing and printmaking. Much of her current work resides somewhere between still life and landscape. In her studio, a combination of toys, found objects and detritus come together into ambiguous environments. The union of these diverse elements, each with their own histories, begets unusual narratives.

Hall also draws from art history and is particularly influenced by early Italian and northern Renaissance painting.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and her M.F.A. from the University of New Hampshire. She has also studied at the New York Studio School and at the University of Lyon in France.

Some of the works on exhibit are landscapes from a trip to Ascoli Piceno, Italy. Hall currently lives in New York.

The hours of Williams Gallery are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

W&L Athletic Hall of Fame to Induct Five on Sept. 6

Washington and Lee’s athletic seasons open today (Friday, Aug. 30), and next weekend the University will be honoring the five newest members of the Athletic Hall of Fame during ceremonies on campus.

This will be the 26th class inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. The weekend begins with the banquet on Friday, Sept. 6, and continues with the Generals’ first football game of the season, against Franklin & Marshall, on Saturday, Sept. 7. The new Hall of Famers will be introduced at halftime of the game.

The Hall of Fame Ceremony will be streamed live on the website starting at 8:15 p.m. on Friday, and the football game against Franklin & Marshall, including the halftime events, will be live at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The new Hall of Famers:

Christian Batcheller, of the Class of 2000, a three-year letterwinner in both football and baseball. A quarterback, he held 13 school records, including career passing yardage and career total offense, when he graduated. He won the ODAC triple crown in baseball as a freshman when he batted .490 with nine home runs and 45 RBI.

Matt Dugan, of the Class of 2001, was the all-time leading scorer in lacrosse when he graduated with 290 points. He was a four-year starter and was Player of the Year in the ODAC following both his junior and senior seasons. He was named Division III Attackman of the Year in 2001.

Eloise Priest Southard, of the Class of 2002, was captain of the lacrosse team in her junior and senior seasons. She was named a first team All-America player as both a junior and senior and was the Division III Defender of the Year in 2002.

Erika Proko Hamilton, of the Class of 2002, was nationally ranked in both singles and doubles during all four seasons of her tennis career at W&L. She won three ODAC titles and made it to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament all four years, finishing third in 2002 and as runner-up in 2003. She won an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships and was a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year.

Mike Walsh served as athletic director at W&L for 17 years, from 1989 until 2006. He led the Generals’ athletic program through a period of expansion and excellence. Under his leadership, W&L added three new varsity sports and upgraded or built new athletic facilities. Generals’ teams won 103 conference titles during his tenure and captured the ODAC Commissioner’s Cup as the top program in the conference 10 times in the 12 years it was presented while he was athletic director.

The newest inductees will bring the total number of former athletes, teams, coaches and administrators enshrined to 122.

W&L International Law Expert Discusses Syria (Audio)

An expert on international law at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law sees the shadow of Iraq looming large in the current crisis over how the world will respond to alleged chemical attacks against its own people by the Syrian government.

Mark Drumbl, director of the Transnational Institute at the W&L School of Law, notes that the use of force by one nation against another is legal only when either authorized by the United Nations Security Council or on the grounds of self-defense.

“It’s difficult to make the argument that the use of chemical weapons within Syria itself rises to the level of an imminent threat to interests outside the country,” said Drumbl.

“That leaves us with the following situation. Can countries use force against another country that harms its own citizens, on humanitarian grounds? And the answer to that is, not really.”

All of the conversation about Syria, Drumbl adds, is happening under the shadow of the force that was used in Iraq a decade ago. At the time, the coalition built by the United States operated outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council.

“There was a lot of concern at the time that when the United States the coalition used force against Iraq, it would liberalize the use of violence in international relations to punish rogue states and rogue dictators. In actuality, it’s had the opposite effect in the Syrian case,” Drumbl said.

Because no weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq despite the assurances that they did, countries are now nervous about going into Syria.

“The shadow of Iraq hasn’t increased the use of force, but has actually shrunk that space. In this sense, when it comes to protecting human rights, Iraq was not only controversial at the time, but now, if you believe that missile use would deter further chemical weapon attacks in Syria, you have the situation where the shadow of Iraq has shrunk that space for the use of force in that context.”

Drumbl has just returned from speaking at the 7th Annual International Humanitarian Law Dialogs, a historic gathering of renowned international prosecutors and leading professionals in the field of international criminal law. The subject of the conference was “The Hot Summer after the Arab Spring: Accountability and the Rule of Law.” Drumbl addressed the work of all the international criminal tribunals this year, focusing on accomplishments and challenges.

He is the Class of 1975 Alumni Law Professor and the author of “Reimagining Child Soldiers in International Law and Policy” (Oxford University Press, 2012).

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W&L's R.T. Smith Wins Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry

Washington and Lee University writer-in-residence R. T. Smith has won the 2013 Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry awarded each year to a poet with strong connections to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The award will be presented on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the 16th Annual Library of Virginia Awards Celebration Honoring Virginia Authors and Friends.

In addition to serving as writer-in-residence at W&L, Smith is editor of W&L’s literary journal “Shenandoah” and author of a dozen books of poetry.

The prize recognizes significant recent contribution to the art of poetry and is awarded on the basis of a range of achievement in the field of poetry.

“Rod represents the full range of what we look for in honoring a Virginia poet with the Carole Weinstein Prize in Poetry,” said Don Selby, one of the four-member board of curators that awarded the prize.

“His most recent poetry collections ‘Messenger,’ ‘Outlaw Style’ — both honored with the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize — and this year’s ‘The Red Wolf: A Dream of Flannery O’Connor’ continue his long career of brilliant writing. And his distinguished editorship of ‘Shenandoah,’ one of our country’s crucial literary journals, is just one of many examples of the broader extent of his commitment to the art. This was an easy, happy choice for us.”

Smith said he was surprised and delighted to receive the prize, and “I thought it was so much better than finding a copperhead in the wood pile in the morning. I rejoiced and danced. They may say it was an easy decision but I’m sure it wasn’t. I’m sure there were at least a half dozen people who are all worthy and ready.”

Smith added that he was very glad that Carole Weinstein created a prize for poets, whom he described as being “among the tribe of creative writers considered obscure, if not rogue. Ask someone to name a living American poet and the reply would be ‘why do I need to?’ But ask someone to name a living American novelist and they will reel off the names.”

According to Smith, poetry has more recently retreated into the shadows although it has existed for much longer than prose writing. Every culture had its cultural epic poem such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, whereas novels only arrived in the late 18th century. “So the fact that poetry is being wheeled into the light a little bit through this prize is such a rewarding thing. And Carole Weinstein has done this in a generous way and it is absolutely commendable,” he said.

Smith is joining an impressive list of poets who have won the prize before him, such as Charles Wright, Claudia Emerson and Eleanor Ross Taylor, all major forces in American poetry.

“I can think of so many people the judges could have given the prize to other than me” said Smith, “and I would have said ‘that’s right, that’s the appropriate person.’ So I stand in the slightly awkward position of feeling like I’ve been bumped to the head of the line through no responsibility of my own, for which I thank the judges heartily. Maybe they looked at how old I am and decided that if they were going to give the prize to me they’d better hurry. We poets live a hard life.”

Elizabeth Seydel Morgan, another judge, said “I have been reading Rod Smith’s poetry for two decades and cheering for ‘Shenandoah’ under his editorship for almost as long.”

Smith observed that, in citing his editorship of “Shenandoah” (which won the Virginia Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2008), the judges were reminding everyone that the literary journal is important and should be read and thought about.” It is not a negligible factor that they took my editing of ‘Shenandoah’ into consideration. I’m thankful for the journal all the time and I’m glad to see that the judges are as well,” he said.

Smith is the former editor of “Southern Humanities Review,” as well as former Alumni Writer-in-Residence at Auburn University. His poetry has also been published in “Best American Poetry,” and his stories have appeared in “Best American Mystery Stories,” “The Pushcart Prize Anthology,” “New Stories from the South” and “Best American Short Stories,” as well as in three earlier collections, and his 2011 collection of stories, “Sherburne.” He has edited “Shenandoah” since 1995 and was named writer-in-residence in 2009.

New Exhibit to Open at McCarthy Gallery in Holekamp Hall at W&L

“Relics,” an exhibit of photo documentation of sculptures installed in Italy, by Char Norman, will be on display at the McCarthy Gallery in Holekamp Hall at Washington and Lee University from Sept. 1 to Dec. 30.

The exhibit is sponsored by W&L’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and is free and open to the public.

The artist’s numerous trips to Italy fostered an interest in shrines, icons and tabernacles found throughout Florence and Rome. This fascination, along with the realization that “the natural landscape had become essentially obliterated by stonework in the magnificent buildings and pavements of the Renaissance, led to an examination of the layers of history, culture and religion,” Norman said.

This feeling, along with her reverence of nature and her concern with environmental issues, made her want to build shrines which venerated natural elements from the area and referenced pagan religious beliefs upon which Christianity is based.

“The resulting small sculptures employ detritus of nature as objects of veneration much as a bone fragment of a saint is revered in religious traditions,” Norman said. Her sculptures were then installed in niches in the historic cities. This exhibition shows the photo documentation of these sculptures printed on and embedded in handmade paper.

Norman is a fiber artist specializing in papermaking and fiber sculpture. She received a B.A. from Scripps College and an M.F.A. from Claremont Graduate University. She has lectured and exhibited both nationally and internationally, developed and conducted workshops for all ages and worked as a consultant to schools, colleges and community arts organizations.

Norman is dean of faculty emeritus at Columbus College of Art & Design and has recently returned to her professional practice as a full-time studio artist.

The McCarthy Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Alston Parker Watt To Address Opening Convocation (Watch Live)

Alston Parker Watt, executive director of The Williams Family Foundation of Georgia and a 1989 graduate of Washington and Lee University, will address W&L’s 2013 Fall Convocation at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5. She has titled her convocation address “Make It Count.”

Convocation, held on the Front Campus in front of Lee Chapel, marks the official opening of the University’s 265th academic year and the 165th year of the School of Law. Classes begin in the School of Law on Sept. 2, while undergraduate classes begin on Sept. 4.

Watt was the first undergraduate woman to serve on the Washington and Lee Board of Trustees, from 2003 to 2011. As a member of the first coeducational class at W&L, she served on the student Executive Committee, the Student Activities Board and the Student Recruitment Committee. She won the 1989 Ring-tum Phi Award for outstanding leadership and dedication to the University. A two-sport letter winner in swimming and diving and in lacrosse, Watt captained the lacrosse team from 1987 to 1989.

In addition to her bachelor’s degree in economics from W&L, Watt holds a master’s in health science from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Watt has been active in national and international public service, working with CARE-USA in Haiti and Bangladesh. In 1994, she directed community development for the North Luangwa Conservation Project in Zambia.

She has served as a trustee of the Bryn Mawr School, in Baltimore, is a founding board member of Hands on Thomas County, in Georgia, and is a founding committee member of the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance.

The Williams Family Foundation supports programs that focus on children, preservation and conservation, with a geographic focus in southwest Georgia.

Alumna's Website Helps Sandy Hook Families

Back in 2007, when a close friend of Washington and Lee alumna Adina Erdman Bailey became ill, family, friends and neighbors immediately offered meals for the family. That is not a new scenario, of course; nor is the issue of how to coordinate all that goodwill so that three lasagnas don’t arrive on the same night.

So Adina, of the W&L Class of 1996, and Scott Rogers, a friend in her hometown of Harrisonburg, Va., created a website — TakeThemAMeal.com — that is a free online tool to coordinate the delivery of meals to someone who is in need. People have created more than 2 million meal schedules with the site.

A meal coordinator sets up a private TakeThemAMeal.com account and then gives access to friends and families to a customized, online sign-up sheet with phone numbers, driving directions, food allergies, etc.

That original concept has now grown to include a second website-based service —PerfectPotluck.com, which coordinates meals for groups — plus a partnership with Harrisonburg-based A Bowl of Good, to offer meals that you can send to individuals in need of food.

This month and next, TakeThemAMeal.com and A Bowl of Good have partnered to provide meals to the faculty and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., as they begin the first school year since last December’s shootings. They’ve been gathering sponsors for the $50 meals, and Adina’s husband and fellow W&L alumnus, Michael Bailey, of the Class of 1998, will join the site’s co-founder to hand deliver them to Newtown next month.

In a story about on WSHV-TV in Harrisonburg, Adina said: “We’re thankful for the privilege to be able to care for the Sandy Hook Elementary School community in this way at this time. After the fact, it really is helpful for them to know that we haven’t forgotten them and we still care.”

For information, go to the special page on the TakeThemAMeal site.

Commentary: A Prosecutor's Response to “Too Much, Too Many”

The following is a response to “Too Much  & Too Many,” the cover story of the most recent issue of the W&L Law alumni magazine. The author is Christopher Russell, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Buena Vista, Virginia and director of the public prosecutor’s externship program at W&L Law. 

I wish to offer a few thoughts in response to Stephanie Wilkinson’s well-written cover article “Too Much & Too Many” examining faculty perspectives on the criminal justice system.

As Justice Kennedy wrote in a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, “criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials.” (1) It is true, as Professor King notes, that defense lawyers sometimes meet a client for the first time in the courthouse hallway on the day of trial. Prosecutors wonder why this occurs given the resources of the defense bar.(2) Some of the same defense lawyers who cannot manage to speak to a client before the trial date often find ample time before trial to file procedural objections with an eye towards a plea deal. For example, a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that reversed decades of Confrontation Clause jurisprudence has needlessly stalled prosecutions of drunk drivers and drug dealers and others who threaten our public safety. Defense lawyers use the ruling as a bargaining chip. An objection is waived in return for lenient treatment of a guilty client.(3)

Plea deals almost never result from innocents who are wrongly accused yet choose to mitigate their misfortune by voluntarily agreeing to suffer some punishment. Instead, they overwhelmingly result from prosecutors who agree to requests for leniency, probation and other alternatives to incarceration, all of which saves the justice system time and money. To Professor Bruck’s point that by having a death penalty at all, “we create the illusion that every other punishment is mild,” the reality is that in huge percentages of cases involving drug crimes, property crimes, non-felonious assaults and traffic crimes including DWI, punishment is mild. Don’t take my word for it. Visit your local courthouse when sentencing hearings are conducted.

As esteemed Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Bryant noted in a recent op-ed in the Virginian-Pilot responding to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments about incarceration levels in our country, “it’s not that easy to get into a penitentiary. Those who contend that there are loads of nonviolent, low-level offenders serving lengthy sentences need to provide the names and criminal histories of those prisoners. … Almost no one goes to prison for their first-offense burglary, grand larceny, car theft or other nonviolent offenses.”(4) Furthermore, many first-time drug offenders, even those who admit their guilt, receive deferred adjudications; in other words, they are not even convicted, let alone incarcerated.(5)

As Judge Louis Trosch commented in the article, probation officers are indeed overloaded with work.(6) A big part of that problem is that success on probation can be elusive. Prosecutors and probation officers spend significant time proceeding against recidivist convicts who did not go to jail for their crimes and yet did not follow the rules of probation supervision.(7) Having been given a second chance, their own actions make the case for more stringent forms of retribution and deterrence.

There is no better example of why some Americans believe in the need for more, not less accountability than in the tragic realm of domestic violence and sexual abuse. These conditions exist at epidemic levels in our society. Yet persons who abuse intimate partners and other family members are treated with more leniency by our criminal justice system than nearly any other group. Even abusers who are not exonerated generally suffer fewer consequences and fewer probation restrictions than first-time drug offenders or teenagers who get speeding tickets.

Worse yet, vigorous prosecution of domestic abusers has negative consequences for victims. Their experience during the course of a prosecution can be analogous to a re-victimization. The trend is especially evident in cases involving child victims of sexual abuse, but touches many who suffer at the hands of a family or household member. To borrow some phrasing from Professor Luna in the article, this comment is not intended as a slam against defense lawyers, but a lawyer’s duty to her client, when the client is alleged to be a child predator, brings its own issues, its own collateral consequences.

Domestic abusers need to experience meaningful accountability when they inflict physical injury on others, sometimes even when the victim has ‘forgiven’ the offender and asked the Commonwealth not to pursue a criminal charge. Cases like those, most of them misdemeanors, are common even in a tiny jurisdiction like Buena Vista, Virginia. A frequent complaint I receive for pursuing such a case to trial goes something like: “why are you pushing this case when the family wants it dropped?” I have spent some time considering these questions during the past 12 years. Apart from my desire not to sanction the intense pressure an accused abuser frequently exerts on a victim to recant, I have concluded that more appropriate questions are: “why does physical violence exist within families in our community, and: what can the justice system do to impress upon batterers that violence will not be tolerated?” Unfortunately, for many victims, the consequences for offenders and repeat offenders are “Too Little & Too Few.”


1. Laffler v. Cooper, 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1388 (2012).

2.Public defenders, many of whom are paid higher salaries than their prosecutor counterparts, handle a significant portion of the indigent criminal cases in Virginia. (2012 statistics demonstrate that Assistant Public Defenders have a starting salary of $48,183. By contrast, entry level Commonwealth’s Attorneys earn $45,385. Some Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorneys earning $45,385 handle capital murder cases. A separate Capital Defender office where lawyers earn a minimum of $73,216 handles the public defense for these crimes.) Some defendants who initially request and qualify for a court-appointed lawyer find the means to hire private counsel before trial. Many indigent defendants are assigned other lawyers like Professor King who are not employed by the public defender commission. Private practice lawyers throughout Virginia actively seek court-appointed criminal defense work. Apparently they are not deterred by a fee cap, for in some nearby jurisdictions, private lawyers compete for priority on a court-maintained roster.

3. Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009). The case prompted a significant revision of Virginia’s criminal procedure code that encouraged defendants to more aggressively assert their age-old right to cross-examine state forensic scientists. Defense lawyers in drug cases and impaired driving cases now routinely file a demand for the state to arrange the cross-examination, invariably delaying trial in order for the Commonwealth to subpoena the scientist who tested the drugs or blood in a laboratory. But when trial day arrives, these lawyers actually question the scientist in court in only a miniscule percentage of cases in which a demand is even filed. It is easy to conclude that the procedure is almost always employed as a bargaining tool.

4. http://hamptonroads.com/2013/08/too-many-prisoners-not-really. Harvey Bryant is a board member of the National District Attorneys Association, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and the Virginia Sentencing Commission.

5. See, for example, Virginia Code § 18.2-251.

6. So are rape crisis shelter workers, child protective services staff, civil legal aid attorneys, and public mental health advocates to name just a few other occupations that fit the description.

7. As of August 2, 2013, the Rockbridge Regional Jail housed 123 inmates, 30 of which (24%) were incarcerated in connection with probation violations.

W&L Law Welcomes Class of 2016

On Monday, August 26, Washington and Lee University School of Law enrolled 112 students in the J.D. Class of 2016.

In addition, one student from Afghanistan entered the School’s LL.M. program. Hussain Moin received the Friends of the Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan’s LLM Scholarship to support his legal education in the U.S. W&L previously hosted LL.M. students from Afghanistan under this program in 2009.

“Last year’s class was larger than we planned because of an unexpected yield from our pool of admitted students,” said Dean Nora Demleitner. “Recognizing the challenges new graduates are facing in a changing legal economy, we were determined this year to keep the class size closer to our historic norms.”

The median LSAT score for the entering class is 164, and the median undergraduate grade point average for the class is 3.51. The average age of class members is 24; students range in age from 21 to 34. The class is 47% female, and 21% of the class has identified as being a member of an ethnically diverse group.

The first-year students hail from 31 states and earned undergraduate degrees from 90 different institutions. The class includes six students who attended Washington and Lee for their undergraduate degree. Political Science remains one of the most popular undergraduate majors (22), with English (16), History (12) Economics (5), and International Studies (5) also well-represented.

64% of the class worked for a year or more before entering law school, including at top accounting firms, for political campaigns, in web technology and for the military. Volunteerism is a common interest of the class, with members participating in Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, and the Peace Corps, among many other volunteer activities.

A number of the members of the Class of 2016 have traveled extensively. Consistent with this international orientation, members of the class speak a variety of languages including Arabic, Cantonese, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Twi.

Joining the W&L Brewers

Justin Baccary left investment banking two years ago to become a brewer at Dad & Dude’s Breweria, in Denver.

This October Justin, a 2005 graduate, will join a growing list of Washington and Lee alumni in the business when he opens his own brewery, Station 26 Brewing Co., in a former fire station in northeast Denver.

Last September, we blogged about new breweries run by alumni in Norfolk and Nashville. And, of course, there is Blue Lab here in Lexington.

According to a piece on Denver Westword Blogs, Justin chose his location carefully — he rode his bicycle up and down the streets and noticed the fire station was for lease. “I got lucky,” he said.

You can follow Justin’s progress on the Station 26 Facebook page.

Former W&L Coaches Meet in MLL Semifinals

Two former Washington and Lee lacrosse coaches met up in the Major Lacrosse League semifinals last weekend, when the Charlotte Hounds, coached by Mike Cerino, upset the Denver Outlaws, coached by Jim Stagnitta, 17-14, in Philadelphia.

The Hounds, playing their second year in MLL, fell to the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks on Sunday, 10-9, in the championship match.

The semifinal loss ended what had been a perfect season for Stagnitta’s Outlaws, earning him the 2013 Brine MLL Coach of the Year award. The Outlaws had beaten the Hounds 17-11 in the regular season.

Stagnitta led the Generals for 12 seasons from 1990-2001 and was followed by Cerino, who had five seasons at W&L. Both of the former Generals’ coaches are in their second years coaching their respective teams.

Stagnitta has compiled a 25-3 record, which is best in the league during that period. Cerino is the only coach that the Hounds have had, and his teams have been 12-16 overall but improved to 7-7 and came within a goal of the championship this year.

Stagnitta went to Denver after spending 10 years as coach at Rutgers, where he led the Scarlett Knights to seven NCAA Tournament berths and two Final Four appearances. In addition to his duties with the Hounds, Cerino continues as the vice president for intercollegiate athletics at Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C., where he coached the lacrosse team to a Division II national title in 2000 prior to coming to W&L.

NSF Grant Brings New Mass Spectrometer to W&L and Region

Washington and Lee University has received a grant from the National Science Foundation to acquire a stable isotope ratio mass spectrometer, which will be shared through a variety of collaborations with neighboring Virginia Military Institute. In the future, W&L will accept samples from other academic institutions and become a regional hub for isotope analysis.

The powerful and sophisticated instrument, scheduled to be installed this fall, will enhance teaching at W&L as well as elevate a variety of research projects across different academic disciplines such as biology, geology and archaeology and anthropology. It will be an important addition to W&L’s scientific instrumentation and will complement an expanding array in laboratories and the new Integrative and Quantitative (IQ) Science Center.

Bill Hamilton, professor of biology at W&L, was the principal investigator and submitted the application along with three other W&L faculty members: Larry Hurd, Herwick Professor of Biology, Robert Humston, associate professor of biology, Lisa Greer, associate professor of geology, as well as Major Pieter deHart, assistant professor of biology at VMI.

According to Hamilton, the mass spectrometer can detect stable isotopes that tend to occur in very low amounts in carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Peripherals that accompany the machine will allow the combustion and analysis of solid, liquid and gas samples of different types of organic matter, such as soil, plant tissue and hair.

Hamilton expects the instrument to be incorporated into biology and geology undergraduate classes by the academic year 2014-2015, as well into undergraduate research programs.

“Not many undergraduate institutions have this instrument,” Hamilton pointed out, “and it fits with W&L’s goal of engaging more students in science, whatever their majors or career goals. We plan to expose students in several courses to its different uses early on and then build on that. Beginning students will gain an understanding of what mass spectrometers can do and how to interpret the data, then intermediate level students will be able to prep some of the samples and finally upper division students will learn to actually run the instrument.

“Being able to prepare samples is a very specialized skill and gets students to think about things quantitatively. It also applies across a lot of different areas and for a student who is going to graduate school for geology or biology it will be very beneficial.”

On the research side, the instrument will strengthen the projects on which students and faculty collaborate. Applications will range across time scales—from days to millennia—and from bacteria to ecosystems.

Hamilton’s research in Yellowstone National Park examines the interactions of large ungulate grazers such as bison and elk with grasses and soil microbes and covers a wide spectrum, from bacterial work to ecosystems. “In my restoration project, most of the organic matter is young, but I can’t prove that until I actually get to see the stable isotope data on the nitrogen and carbon ratios,” he said. “With this instrument I can, for example, identify a urine hit from a bison from several years ago in Yellowstone.”

The mass spectrometer will also benefit Humston’s research into fish tissue and scales and show where fish were when they were juveniles and herbivores, before switching to being omnivores. Hurd, in collaboration with deHart, will conduct similar research into mantids (commonly referred to as the praying mantis) since they start as herbivores and then become predators, and the new instrument will allow for the analysis of their bodies and solid excreta.

Greer’s research into coral reefs will also greatly benefit from the mass spectrometer.  She uses the geochemistry of corals, specifically the stable isotopes, to tell her about past climate change and environmental conditions. “I look at the ratio of heavy to light oxygen in the coral skeleton, which varies with the temperature of the water that the coral is growing in,” she said. “Also, fresh water has a distinctly different isotope signature from marine water, so I can actually capture periods of fresh water flooding or high rainfall in the coral skeleton.

“I can also core through living coral and look at the stable isotopes down through time, from the present to 100 years ago, and see changes in the carbon composition of the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. So it’s very exciting that we have this instrument at W&L.”

The mass spectrometer will also benefit W&L’s outreach and service to the community and region in efforts to protect the environment.  The instrument is capable of analyzing water and will be used to look for contamination of local water and identify whether the water is coming from municipal water sources or if there’s any human waste.

W&L’s archaeology program led by Alison Bell, associate professor of archaeology, and Don Gaylord, staff archaeologist/instructor at W&L, will also benefit from the spectrometer. Bell’s research concentrates on material culture, consumption, production and social stratification in the 18th and 19th centuries in the eastern United States. The mass spectrometer will enable her to identify human diet from tissue in a skull and particularly cartilage from a bone and, using Colonial history, place the status of an individual within a plantation.

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director

W&L's Pre-Orientation Creates Bonds, Builds Skills of Trip Leaders

Washington and Lee University senior Meredith Hardy’s pre-orientation trip four years ago was such a memorable experience that she decided to do it again…and again… and again.

While the week-long trips as part of W&L’s Leading Edge program are designed to help incoming first year students get a head start on making friends and adjusting to life away from home, the students who organize and lead the trips gain invaluable experience as well.

This is Hardy’s third year as a leader (now senior coordinator) of the Volunteer Venture trip to Washington D.C. Volunteer Venture is a service-learning experience where students examine first-hand the causes and realities of poverty in six cities surrounding Lexington. The program was originally a student initiative, and it has grown over time to 32 student leaders and participants living, learning and working with the communities they serve.

It is one of three Leading Edge programs which bring entering students together for the week before they undergo general orientation with the entire class. The two other tracks are Leadership Venture, which builds leadership skills among a group of 15 students, and Appalachian Adventure, with students hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail. In 2013, 39 trip leaders are organizing 13 different Appalachian trips of varying difficulty and distance.

Approximately 42 percent of incoming W&L students participate in one of these programs, and it’s not unusual for them to apply to become trip leaders in their sophomore year and stay involved until they graduate.

According to Hardy, a neuroscience and psychology double major with a minor in poverty studies, part of the success of Volunteer Venture is that, in spite of the sometimes emotional sites where they volunteer, it is also great fun. “In the soup kitchen, you’re working as a team chopping crates of cabbages, packing miles of sandwiches and meeting people who work there all the time,” she said.

As an example of the lasting bonds the trips can foster, Hardy cited the Class of 2016 whose members are now entering their sophomore year. “They were an unusually excited group, and I think that without that trip this particular group of friends would never have materialized. The trip brought them together and I know some of them are still as thick as thieves. I get snapshots on my phone from them all the time,” she said, “and I count that group as some of my closest friends at W&L.”

Hardy recalled that it was the leaders on her pre-orientation trip that made her want to get involved. She called them “an incredible set of leaders who were my role models from the first week of school.”

Senior Alvin Thomas is a chemistry and engineering major with a minor in poverty studies. He, too, is leading his third Volunteer Venture trip to Richmond, VA. He pointed out that the trip leaders are an interesting cross section of campus, with different fraternities, sororities, student organizations and majors represented.

“W&L’s pre-orientation trips are a tradition that has become successful due to the fact that our student trip leaders do such good work and provide rich experiences for the participants,” said David Leonard, dean of student life at W&L.”A ton of training, preparation and detailed planning takes place to create a productive five-day trip. Frankly, the story behind the story is the remarkable commitment of our student trip leaders.”

James Dick, director of student activities and outdoor education, explained that student trip leaders on the Appalachian Trail are getting real world leadership experience. “It’s tough sometimes,” he said. “Rain, bugs, whiny participants — it’s not always easy. The main goal for trip leaders is to provide a safe and welcoming adventure into the college experience. Many of the students who graduate tell me that the trip and trip leader training was the best experience they had while at W&L and most recommend being a leader to other students for what they get out of it.”

Senior Katie Jarrell is a biochemistry and German double major and is leading the Volunteer Venture trip to Greensboro, N.C. for the third time. She agreed that a lot of responsibility comes with the job, from making sure the business office sends the deposit to the accommodations on time to planning activities and what people will eat each day within a predetermined budget.

Leaders also make arrangements with the local W&L alumni chapter whose members often interact with the students during the stay. “I’ve learned that the W&L alumni network is fantastic, and you can ask them for nearly anything and they will find a way to get it for you, even if it’s a really strange request,” said Jarrell. “The participants don’t see any of that and think it all just magically happens.”

The training for trip leaders includes learning how to deal with home sickness among the participants. “You have to make sure that you notice if students are hanging out by themselves or they’re on the phone a lot. But we have some useful tools to deal with that, and we know how to have conversations with them. It’s a great way to learn to read people and see how they’re feeling and, as a leader, it’s your job to make sure you include them,” said Jarrell.

Thomas said he was surprised when he became a leader himself at the amount of trust the students place in the trip leaders. “They are so eager to learn about W&L and the college experience and they look to you as the encyclopedia of W&L and rely on you in many ways – a lot more than you would imagine,” he said. “That’s sometimes a difficult role to fill when you’re only a year or two older than them. But when I was a first-year student, the connection I made with the trip leaders was just as important as making friends in my own year and I still stay in touch with some of them today.”

The connections built during pre-orientation week don’t end when everyone is back on campus. “We try to keep those connections going,” said Thomas. “A lot of my pre-orientation students still contact me years later about their schedules. It happens all the time.”

“They are like younger siblings in a way,” agreed Jarrell, “because they’re under your wing and you feel more protective of them than other first-year students you meet on campus.Some of us meet throughout the year just to check in with each other and make sure the year is going well and they have everything they need. It’s a really great bond that can’t be formed if you don’t go on the trip because it brings you together in a special way.”

News Contact:

Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director

W&L Historian Reflects on March on Washington (Audio)

As a 20-year-old African-American growing up in the South, Ted DeLaney has clear memories of the March on Washington as a time when tears of joy replaced, at least momentarily, the tears of despair that were more common during the tumultuous year of 1963.

Fifty years later, DeLaney is professor of history at Washington and Lee University, where he teaches about the civil rights era, including a course on the Freedom Rides.

When he considers the 50th anniversary of the march (Aug. 28), DeLaney said that he can’t help but think of those major figures who were instrumental in the movement and the march who are no longer alive, including, of course, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream Speech” to a crowd of 250,000 on the National Mall and to millions via television.

“The march was a triumphal time that helped the nation think about and reflect upon the problems of civil rights,” DeLaney said. “The march became a highlight of that year — if there was a time during 1963 that seemed sensible among all the turmoil, it was that moment in Washington when people seemed to come together to dream about and talk about equality.”

All in all, though, DeLaney remembers 1963 as a nightmare, with violent clashes between demonstrators and police, the shooting of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, the Birmingham church bombing that killed four black girls in Sunday school, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

King’s speech was, DeLaney said, “the essence of the march” even though it was not as substantive, in his view, as another of King’s works.

“In my judgment, the most important thing Dr. King ever wrote was not the ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ but his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’ That is magnificent prose but also has real substance,” DeLaney said.

“The Washington speech is a cheerleading kind of speech where you’re saying things to excite the listeners,” DeLaney said. “The last part seems to resonate through the last 50 years — this whole ‘I have a dream,’ which seems to be so American. The country is founded on this idea that you can dream the impossible. In this case, though, the dream was of fairness and of equality and of those natural-rights principles on which the country was founded.”

DeLaney said that the most important thing that happened on that day is that white Americans around the country saw on television an event that was very different from the images that they had been accustomed to seeing as representative of the civil rights movement. Rather than seeing the demonstrators meet with violent resistance, viewers saw a march that was peaceful and prayerful.

In addition, he said, there was a clear presence of non-blacks in the event. Though that had been true in marches in the South, it wasn’t always as apparent as, say, having folk singers like Peter, Paul and Mary taking a prominent role.

“The message was that there was more to the movement than just black insistence on a change in how we do things in the United States,” DeLaney said. “I think that’s extremely important. A lot of times both black people and white people forget about the white presence, particularly the Southern whites who took a very strong stand.”

DeLaney thinks that events of recent years demonstrate that Americans’ patience for fixing the problem of equality is short lived. Pointing to recent voting-rights issues and to racial divisions that were clear in the Trayvon Martin case, in Florida, DeLaney said he believes that “we still have a great deal of work to do, and I’m not sure it will be easily resolved in the near future.”

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

Prolific Writer Sarah Gilbert '95 Founds New Magazine

A former investment banker turned award-winning memoirist and blogger, Sarah Gilbert, of the Class of 1995, is founder of the Portland, Ore., parenting community urbanmamas.com and also founder and editor-in-chief of a new magazine, Stealing Time.

The quarterly literary magazine for parents, which she got started through a Kickstarter campaign, gives “not judgment, not advice, but our stories.” In an interview last spring for Flyover Feminism website, Sarah talked about how the magazine came to be:

This idea came from where come all good ideas: the void. Specifically, a void of truly-told, carefully-examined parenting stories. There are many parenting stories in the mainstream media, but they’re often very flat and one-dimensional. In my experience as a consumer of other parenting stories and as a writer of them, I have repeatedly felt this hunger for better, clearer, wider-angle looks at the spectrum of parenting experience, told without the context of what you should do, or what a perfect socially-acceptable, best-of-all-possible-worlds parent would do, feel, think — but what we actually DO.

The parent of three sons, Sarah is also president of the Oregon Writers Colony board of directors and writes in a variety of styles on an even wider variety of topics — from food to photography to finances. She calls herself a “blogger by trade and a finance geek at heart.”

With an M.B.A. from Wharton, Sarah also writes for “Get Rich Slowly,” a blog devoted to “sensible personal finance.” Her most recent post there, from July 30, is titled “Can you be friends with rich people?” And she’s also won awards for her essays: “Veteran’s Day” received the 2011 Water-Stone Review Judith Kitchen Creative Nonfiction Prize. It was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize and listed as a “Notable Essay” in Best American Essays 2012.

In an interview last March with literary mama, Sarah indicated that “Veteran’s Day” is the basis for a book-length project that she’s working on titled “Penelope and Other Heroes: Retelling the Myth of the Waiting Wife.” Her husband has been serving with the Army Reserves in Kuwait.

And if all that isn’t enough, Sarah made some national headlines back in 2009 with her tweets of protest about being turned away from a hamburger chain’s drive-through because she and her three boys were all on a stretch bicycle. You can still read about that incident on USA Today, and you need to remember that this was back when Twitter was really in its infancy.

WVTF Reports on Summer Language Academies

The three Governor’s Language Academies held this summer on the Washington and Lee campus were the subject of a feature story on WVTF, the public radio station based in Roanoke.

Sandy Hausman of WVTF interviewed several students in the languages they were learning — Spanish, German and French — for the report. Dick Kuettner, director of the Tucker Multimedia Center at W&L and director of the academies, was also interviewed.

Listen to the report on WVTF at http://myw.lu/181IwUQ.

Cooking Up a Career in New Orleans

When Patrick Brennan, a 2010 graduate of Washington and Lee, received his associate’s degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, Calif., last Friday, Aug. 16, the identity of the commencement speaker had special meaning for him: his father, Ralph Brennan, head of the family’s New Orleans restaurant dynasty.

Patrick’s sister, Kathryn Brennan, also graduated from Washington and Lee, in 2007. And she also works for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, which comprises six restaurants (one at Disneyland) and catering. Both siblings studied business administration at W&L, excellent preparation for their careers. With his new degree—he’s the first Brennan to graduate from culinary school—Patrick will take his place behind the stove.

According to the Times-Picayune story about Ralph’s commencement address, Ralph “never urged Patrick or his two sisters to enter the restaurant business. But growing up in the city’s most prominent restaurant family, it was hard to avoid the call to the kitchen. When Patrick was 8 or 9 years old, Brennan said, he started working with the pastry chef at the Red Fish Grill.”

Ralph told the paper of Patrick, “He did it on his own. I encouraged them to go to school. That was the most important thing.”

W&L Research Featured on WDBJ

The research being conducted by Washington and Lee University chemistry professor Erich Uffelman and his students was the subject of a feature story on WDBJ, Roanoke’s Channel 7, on Monday, Aug. 20, 2013.

The piece, which was filmed in W&L’s Reeves Center, described the methods the Uffelman Group uses to examine the chemical composition of works of art.

One of the highlights of the team’s work this summer was a trip to several major European museums, including the opportunity study Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” at the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Watch the WDBJ segment at http://myw.lu/19u5iYE.

Exhibition Features Photography of Kate Cordsen '86

An exhibition of the photography of Kate Cordsen, of the Washington and Lee Class of 1986, is on display at the Lori Warner Gallery, in Chester, Conn.

The first woman to receive an undergraduate degree from W&L, Kate studied public policy at Georgetown and art history at Harvard and attended the International Center for Photography.

A successful commercial photographer, she has more recently focused on art photography. Her current exhibition, “Ravine,” displays the transcendent quality of her work.

A story about her exhibit in The Hartford Courant describes the painstaking process that she uses to get her images, spending days watching the water of a pond or the Connecticut River and taking notes before actually snapping a photograph: “When she is sure she has the exact time to take her picture, Cordsen shoots. Her photos are ethereal images shot into bodies of water to show not the natural world itself, but the natural world reflected by that water.”

Kate’s photographs are in private collections worldwide, and she has been published in regional, national and international publications.

According to the Courant review, “Ravine” is the latest in her exploration of distorting elements. She has also shot through antique glass and black linen and has created a “fog” series, plus a black-and-white series on sleepwalking.

She told the Courant that the goal is for viewers to question the nature of reality, adding: “All photographers are obsessed with the notion of photos and reality. But once a moment is captured, what have we captured? By the time that moment has been captured, it’s long gone. It’s not reality any more.”

You can see photos from “Ravine” online at the Lori Warner Gallery Website.

W&L's Kahn Assesses Decision to Drill in Amazon Rainforest (Audio)

For Washington and Lee University professor James Kahn, last week’s announcement that Ecuador will begin drilling for oil in a portion of Yasuni National Park was alarming. But Kahn is less concerned about the potential impact on the  total Amazonian system and more concerned about local environmental problems and the likely impact on indigenous populations.

Kahn, the John F. Hendon Professor of Economics at W&L, heads the University’s interdisciplinary department of environmental studies. He has been affiliated with the  Universidade Federal do Amazonas  (Manaus, Brazil) since 1992, where he has, with colleagues there and with W&L faculty and students, been conducting research on issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development in the Amazon watershed.

Consequently, Kahn is intimately familiar with environmental threats to the rainforest system in the Amazon. He says that the implications of the decision to open oil drilling in the Yasuni Park are not that great because it is such a small area — only about 4,000 square miles of rainforest.

“In terms of the threat to rainforest in total or the threat to green house gas emissions, it’s not that high,” he said. “It’s the local effects that potentially devastating. There is an indigenous group that lives in that national park. They are likely to suffer contamination of their water from oil and from chemicals used in the drilling process. They are likely to lose access to fish, which is their primary source of protein. And there are likely to be very negative social consequences associated with this type of activity.”

Kahn said that Ecuador has a history of problems with oil production. It was, he said, “a colossal mess” that has resulted in “a historical legacy of great abuse of the environment of oil production in Ecuador.”

Oil production, he added, is never risk free. But with redundancies in safety features and equipment and personnel onsite for immediate cleanup, impact from accidents can be minimized. Kahn was part of a team led by Brazilian professors Alexandre Rivas and Carlos Freitas (both collaborating professors at W&L) that led a 10-year project to look at the social and environmental aspects of oil production in the Brazilian portion of the Amazon.

“Most of the recommendations that our team made were followed by Petrobras, including avoiding areas of unusual biodiversity, not allowing roads along the pipeline, and servicing the pipeline by robots and helicopters,” he said. “But Brazil has a higher state of technological and scientific expertise than Ecuador, and solutions that would work in countries like Brazil or the United States won’t necessarily work in a country like Ecuador.”

Although the Ecuadorian government was willing to forgo oil production if they received $3.6 billion to protect the environment, only $13 million was donated. Kahn does not believe that this represents a lack of concern in other countries for the Amazonian ecosystem, but simply that the price was too high. The price was based on the value of the forgone oil production, not the value of the ecosystem or the cost of preserving it. For $3.6 billion, one should be able to protect hundreds of thousands of square miles of forest. It is not surprising that foreign governments and NGOs were not willing to contribute to this fund, he said.

Kahn thinks that hydroelectric facilities are a greater threat to the Amazon than oil drilling. “There are dozens of hydroelectric projects planned for the Andean portion of the Amazon and 58 projects planned for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon. These projects, such as the widely criticized Belo Monte project, have the potential to have much greater environmental effects,” he said.

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

W&L Research Team Explores Link Between Memory, Stories and Learning

After several years in the classroom, Washington and Lee University psychology professor Dan Johnson had begun noticing an interesting trend in his students’ answers on exams. Whenever he used a story in class to illustrate an abstract concept, those same stories later showed up fairly often in the students’ essays.

“Maybe six weeks had gone by between my telling a story and when students had used it in a essay,” Johnson said. “I hadn’t told the story again. But they were retelling it to help them think through that concept.”

So Johnson decided to test a hypothesis about memory and abstract concepts. His hunch is that having students create what he calls a “nano-narrative” — a two- or three-sentence story — can improve their ability to remember the concepts that they were being taught.

This summer, Johnson and three W&L senior psychology majors — Brandie Huffman of Warrenton, Va., Meredith Roberts of Sequim, Wash., and Eric Shuman of Black Mountain, N.C. — conducted a series of experiments in the study, titled “Imagining the Abstract: Using a Brief Narrative as a Memory Aid.”

“Our hypothesis is that generating a very brief narrative about the concepts in something new you’re trying to learn can help clarify those concepts, and will create an anchor in memory that you can then go back to,” Johnson said. “In the future, when you’re trying to recall these concepts again, you have this story in mind that you can follow along. As you follow that story along, those concepts come to life for you, and, therefore, should provide better learning in the long term.”

Through both in-person and on-line experiments, the team compared the subjects’ ability to recall abstract concepts using different techniques. They asked one group to link the concept to a single image, while they told two other groups to create these nano-narratives. There was a difference between the narratives, too. While one group wrote a general story to illustrate the concept, members of the other group made themselves the protagonists of these “self-relevant” narratives.

“Our hypothesis is that the most potent form of these stories will be the self-relevant narratives,” said Johnson. “Prior research suggests that integrating a concept with your own self-knowledge is really the most effective way for you to remember a concept.”

Johnson notes that it has long been clear that imagery is intimately tied to memory. But using imagery to remember something abstract is another matter, since such concepts do not have easily accessible images. If you want to remember the word “boat,” it’s fairly easy to close your eyes and form a mental image of a boat, Johnson explained.

“If I were to say close your eyes and come up with an image of the word ‘nonsense,’ that won’t be as easy,” he said.  The narrative may provide the bridge between abstracts concepts and imagery — the best stories automatically generate imagery.

In the early stages of the study, the team used individual words. Some of those words were concrete, like “boat,” and others abstract, like “nonsense.” They showed subjects a series of words on a computer screen, one at a time, and the nano-narrative groups composed a brief story for each word that would help them remember it later.

“These are very brief but they need to be a microcosm of a real narrative,” said Johnson. “It should have a beginning, middle and end. The most important thing is for it to include vivid imagery.”

Johnson noted that the team told those subjects who put themselves in the story to provide as many idiosyncratic details as possible. Anchoring a concept in your own meaningful knowledge, he said, will be more durable in the long run. That’s why some students who have trouble remembering, say, the dates on a history test may have no trouble reciting the number of triple-doubles Lebron James had last season. “It’s a matter of what’s relevant to them,” said Johnson.

After testing subjects on the concrete and abstract words, the study moved to more complex material by having subjects read through passages of textbook-like material that explain a concept and then build a story around it. One example discussed how and why bats hang upside down.

“So the concept here is that, well, it’s easier to take up flight if you hang from the ceiling and just drop, as opposed to having to generate the speed to take off from the ground,” Johnson said. “Our hope is that by telling yourself a brief story — a story that preferably includes you as the main character — that demonstrates that this concept will ultimately be the most effective way for you to understand the concept and to retain that understanding over time.”

There is, Johnson admits, a key issue to overcome. If someone does not understand a concept to begin with, then it will be hard to generate a narrative that demonstrates that concept.  However, this issue is not unique to the nano-narrative technique, but rather any memory technique requires an understanding of the concept to work.

“While the research is in its early stages, we were able to demonstrate that generating nano-narratives improved recall for abstract, textbook-like material when subjects were tested seven to 10 days after generating their nano-narratives compared with control conditions,” Johnson said. “I think we have been able to show experimentally what my students have been demonstrating for me when they bring these stories back up on an exam. There is something about these brief narratives that sticks. It’s not a fleeting thing, either. It really sticks in memory.”

Although one of Johnson’s primary interests is how college students might improve their capacity to remember these concepts, he would like to think that it would be something that might benefit anybody.

“Memory is a prerequisite for applied learning,” he said. “If we can show that using these nano-narratives works in memory, great. That should come first. Then maybe we can show it as it’s applied to other domains.”

Although the early results were promising, Johnson said that many unanswered questions remain. In addition, the sample size (15 to 25 in each condition) was small, and that means caution is warranted. “I’m not close to recommending it to my students as a study strategy yet,” he said. “But we will continue to pursue this area.”

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

W&L Law’s Calhoun Named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Washington and Lee University School of Law Dean Nora V. Demleitner has announced the appointment of veteran law professor Samuel Calhoun to the position of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Calhoun’s appointment took effect on Aug. 15.

“I could not be more delighted to have Sam as our academic dean and am deeply grateful to him for having accepting this challenging and institutionally crucial position,” said Demleitner. “His excellent judgment, organizational talent, steady hand, and deep understanding of the institution will serve us well in what remain challenging times for all of higher education, but especially for legal education.”

Calhoun joined the W&L Law faculty in 1978, following teaching stints at the University of Wyoming and the University of Puget Sound. A highly-regarded teacher, Calhoun has twice been awarded with fellowships recognizing excellence in the classroom.

As academic dean, Calhoun will spearhead curricular initiatives, oversee the staffing and scheduling of all law classes, coordinate student advising on academic resources and course selection, and serve as the primary liaison between the faculty and dean of the law school.

“The Law School has been a wonderful place to work for 35 years. I’m honored to serve as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and look forward to the challenges of this new job,” said Calhoun.

In addition to teaching contracts, sales and legal writing, Calhoun teaches and researches on the legal and religious issues implicated by the controversy over abortion. His recent articles in this area have addressed the case of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, as well as partial-birth abortion. Calhoun is spearheading this year’s W&L Law Review Symposium commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Calhoun has also written about the role religion played in the beliefs and actions of Abraham Lincoln.

Prior to entering the legal academy, Calhoun was an associate with King & Spalding in Atlanta. He received his J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law and his B.A. from Harvard.

W&L Alumnus on HBO's “Hard Knocks”

HBO subscribers and fans of the National Football League are no doubt familiar with the series “Hard Knocks,” which follows an NFL team through training camp and preseason.

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the spotlight this year, and that means that Washington and Lee alumnus James Urban, of the Class of 1996, is likely to be in front of the cameras from time to time. The program airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. (EDT).

James is in his third year as the Bengals’ wide receivers coach, after spending seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the first episode of “Hard Knocks,” James gave an interview about his receiving corps, which includes All-Pro A. J. Green. Last December, when the Bengals were in the playoffs, the New York Times featured story Green and quoted James at length.

Unfortunately for the Bengals, the initial episode of “Hard Knocks” also included segments in which  Green and another wide receiver, Andrew Hawkins, were both injured. Green is back at practice; Hawkins is not. But Urban had told the Cincinnati Inquirer earlier in an interview that this was the deepest group of receivers he’s had in Cincinnati.

A wide receiver and kick returner at W&L, James coached in college at Clarion State (Pa.) and Penn before joining the Eagles. Watch for James on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” when it airs tonight.

Kosky Book on “Arts of Wonder” Wins National Award

Jeffrey Kosky, professor and head of the department of religion at Washington and Lee University, has received a major award from the American Academy of Religion for his book, “Arts of Wonder: Enchanting Secularity—Walter De Maria, Diller + Scofidio, James Turrell, Andy Goldsworthy” (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Kosky’s book won a 2013 Award of Excellence in the “constructive-reflective” category. The award honors books of “distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity and importance that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood and interpreted.” The American Academy of Religion (AAR) is the world’s largest association of religion scholars. The award will be presented at the AAR’s 2013 Annual Meeting in November.

In his book, Kosky focuses on a handful of artists — De Maria, Diller + Scofidio, Turrell and Goldsworthy — to discuss the connections between modern secularity, disenchantment and religion.

Social scientist Max Weber popularized the term “disenchantment” for understanding the modern world and its increasing rationalization and intellectualization.

Kosky recalled a story popular among students of modern secularity that holds that “to be modern is to share in the disenchantment of the world. This is not just a thesis about our psyche or a matter of saying that we moderns are jaded or bored, frustrated of uncommitted. It’s also a thesis about the world and the dismissal of the notion of ‘mystery’ from our encounter with the world and ourselves.”

This story, Kosky said, goes on to suggest that a good modern is disenchanted and neither comes under the spell of mysteries nor is held in thrall “by the charm of unspeakable wonders.”

Kosky uses clouds as an example of disenchantment in his book and cites the work of René Descartes, a founding figure of modern enlightenment who opened his scientific treatise on meteorology by observing that because we must look up to the clouds, they are often depicted as seats and thrones of gods. Descartes went on to suggest that this form of wonder and admiration blocks men from investigating the causes of things and thereby impedes human mastery of nature.

“What Descartes proposes instead,” said Kosky, “is to follow a methodical procedure of intellectual inquiry that will ‘bring the clouds down to earth’ so that we ‘no longer have occasion to admire anything that we see in the sky.'”

In Kosky’s view, one “increasingly feels the limitations of the disenchanted world. A lot of artists and scholars are becoming disenchanted with modern disenchantment and are seeking a new story to tell about modern secularity.”

In the case of the clouds, for example, Kosky explores “Blur,” a project of the architectural firm Diller + Scofidio that involved building a nearly 300 by 200 foot shifting cloud over Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. Visitors to the site were invited to enter the cloud on architectural scaffolding and enjoy the wonderful vision inside — reversing the movement of disenchantment proposed by Descartes.

Kosky described his book as an academic work intended for a general audience and drawing on multiple disciplines — theology, philosophy, and art, chiefly, but also some anthropology, and even a little cultural history of science. In the book, he poses questions regarding the nature, or lack thereof, of humanity, the world, and even God in the wake of modern disenchantment, by approaching them through his intimate encounters with particular works of art.

Kosky conceived the idea for his book while he was looking for pictures to illustrate difficult conceptual material to his students at W&L. “I came across these mostly avant-garde works of art from the second half of the 20th century and wanted to go see them and write about them,” he said.

In his introduction, Kosky writes that the works of art he encounters are most often thought to be representative of secular modernity and therefore to share in the disenchantment of the world. However, when he encountered these works in person he found that the vocabulary he was drawn to in order to speak about his experiences was not the vocabulary of disenchantment.

One of the artists whose work Kosky discusses is James Turrell, an American artist concerned primarily with light and space.

According to Kosky, critics love Turrell’s work because of his mastery in controlling light to produce sculptural effects. “The critics do an excellent job describing the technique and the science that produces the work of art, but our account of the work still needs to account for the wonder that is essential to its appearance.” he said.

“My question was how to talk about Turrell’s work in a way that doesn’t turn on the lights in a dark room so that the thing disappears. The other-worldly light in Turrell’s work is clearly beautiful, and it has a certain spirituality. But, after the critics described it that way, I found that their language no longer resonated.

“How could I prolong the experience with the work of art and increase its power to come over me? In my efforts to understand this emblem of avant-garde culture I was drawn to the theological texts that I have been trained in. With this particular work of art, I found I could articulate the experience of standing before it by referencing Pseudo-Dionysius’ account of the cosmos in terms of light. He is one of the most important sources of Christian theological reflection, so the move of describing the secular experience of an emblematic work of secular modernity through references to his texts and themes is very pregnant—for both the art and the theology.”

Kosky also explores British artist Andy Goldsworthy, who produces site-specific sculpture and land art in natural and urban settings.

“Goldsworthy is really interesting because he makes ephemeral and fragile works of art using natural materials,” said Kosky. “In his work you see a human being whose creative activity is not about building something that’s going to last, but making works that are transient and passing. He’s committed to beauty and very comfortable using the language of beauty in ways that many modern approaches to art are not.”

Kosky examines the “snow throw,” in which a cloud of snow is thrown into the air. It can be seen in the closing scene of “Rivers and Tides,” a popular documentary movie about Goldsworthy , and it forms the coda to Kosky’s book.

“The creative act resides not in laying hold of something, seizing it and setting it in place, but in letting go. The snow is a shape shifter: its form changes as it blows away. The creativity lies not just with Andy Goldsworthy but also with the wind and snow with which he creates. And by creating with the wind and snow, I mean not just as raw material but as partner. That collaboration with nature strikes me as a different way to work than building the disenchanted world,” he said.

A subtext of the book concerns the relationship between art and religion. According to Kosky, many art critics are wary of offering a religious interpretation of a work of art. “I think that has to do with concern about the autonomy of the discipline,” he said. “This book ventures to say that these secular works of art might make up places where some of what we think of as religious longings are played out. I want to say to the secular art critics that they are actually selling themselves short by not having recourse to religious texts, themes, and figures in order to understand the works of art before them. And I want to say to the religious that these works of art make sacred places worthy of their spiritual concern.”

Kosky’s book has been described as appealing to those who “feel the absence of charm and wonder as deeply enervating.” Another reviewer calls “Arts of Wonder” stimulating and provocative and “an academic page-turner that represents an emerging intellectual movement and will be influential to scholars drawn to this area of inquiry.”

Kosky received his B.A. from Williams College and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

“Arts of Wonder: Enchanting Secularity—Walter De Maria, Diller + Scofidio, James Turrell, Andy Goldsworthy” is available at the University Store and through its website at http://bookstore.wlu.edu

News Contact:
Sarah Tschiggfrie
News Director

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A Geologist's Remembrance of Things Past

The July 2013 issue of Earth, a publication of the American Geosciences Institute, features a column by Fred Schwab, emeritus professor of geology at Washington and Lee, about the 2012 reunion held by W&L’s Department of Geology.JulyEARTH2013_GeoColumn_Schwab

About 40 alumni returned last fall to participate in the two-day event, which featured a field trip and presentations by alumni about their current research.

For Fred, it was a time to reflect on his 37-year career as a professor. He retired in 2003.

Writes Fred: “On the field trip, we revisited old friends: well-exposed classical stratigraphic sections, broad vistas of spectacular Appalachian geomorphology, and picturesque folds and faults. As we were exploring these familiar sites, I realized that the concepts, approaches and jargon of geology are like a foreign language: Constantly use them, or lose them!”

Further, he observes: “At times, I felt like I was drifting through my own memorial service, cloaked in a cloud of irrelevancy. My science is doing quite well without me.”

You can read the complete piece by clicking on the pdf of the story below.

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W&L Magazine, Summer 2013: Vol. 88 | No. 2

In This Issue:

  • Entrepreneurship Program
  • Documentary Filmmaker Lorena Manriquez ’88
  • Digging an Unexpected Bonanza

General Stats

  • Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics, Military Commissions, Coed Day of Service


  • Thoughts of a Non-Alum
  • Classroom Technology

Along the Colonnade

  • The Class of 2013 Says Goodbye to W&L
  • New Provost: Daniel Wubah
  • Noteworthy
  • Lucas Morel Named Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics
  • Angela Smith Heads Mudd Center for Ethics
  • A Happy Retirement to All
  • Phi Beta Kappa Welcomes New Members
  • Questioning the Good Life
  • Peterson Center Dedicated
  • Books & CDs
  • Giving Dance a Twirl at the Corcoran
  • Bringing Campus Events to You

Generals Report

  • Track Coach John Tucker ’77 Eases into Retirement
  • Athletic Awards Honor Top Student Athletes, Team Supporters

Lewis Hall Notes

  • Robin Wood ’62 Inducted into the Order of the Coif
  • Monica Tulchinsky Wins Pro Bono Award


  • Alumni Weekend 2013


  • The Survey Results Are In
  • Remembering Crew
  • Beau Knows — State of the University
  • Russ Knudson, French Professor Emeritus
  • 2013: Moms, Dads and Grads
  • President Ruscio’s Message

Last Look

  • Taylor Gilfillan’s Honor System Test

Successful IPO for Company Founded by Reggie Aggarwal '94L

Reggie Aggarwal rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 9 to celebrate the IPO of Cvent, the company that the 1994 graduate of the Washington and Lee Law School founded.

Cvent is a cloud-based, event-management platform with headquarters in McLean, Va. Reggie is chairman and chief executive officer. In its initial public offering, Cvent priced 5.6 million shares at $21 per share and raised $117.6 million.

Reggie told the Washington Post that the money will help the company’s expansion into international markets, particularly Europe and Asia. Cvent has recently opened an office in London and has operations in India. In addition, Cvent will continue to invest in mobile.

“This is a great day to be excited, to smell the roses,” Reggie said in the Post interview, adding: “But on Monday we’re going to get back to building meeting technology tools and serving our customers.”

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Reggie said that the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) helped the company’s growth: “I think it gives an opportunity for smaller companies that don’t have to go through all that regulatory bureaucracy, frankly, so they can focus on building their business.”

Watch Reggie’s interview on “Squawk Box” at the CNBC website.

Reggie founded the company 14 years ago, and it’s grown steadily. He’s won numerous awards along the way, including Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the Washington, D.C., Area in 2010.

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A Tale of an Oar: A Hidden Message Revealed

by Charles C. Lewis ’68, ’71L

My father, Charles Irving Lewis ’30, ’31 (M.A.), was a member of the Harry Lee crew that raced for many years against the Albert Sidney crew on the Maury River. He died in February of 1994, but I still have his 1931 Calyx that shows him standing defiantly on a wooden dock with his Harry Lee teammates, each holding an upright oar that towered over their heads.

When I came to Washington and Lee as a freshman in 1964, I remember seeing the crossed oars of the two crews on display in Doremus Gymnasium. The oars reflected the colors of each crew: blue for Albert Sidney and red for Harry Lee. I would never have known the significance of those crossed oars if my father had not pulled one for Harry Lee almost two decades before I was born. Since crew was no longer a University sport in 1964, I suspect my classmates must have seen the oars only as decoration. But that was not so with me.

From the time I was a small child, I was aware that my father had rowed in races on the Maury River. No, my father did not tell me bedtime stories of long-ago victories or defeats in those races. Instead, I could see evidence of those races in the rather dark and damp basement of our home in Petersburg, Va. For up on a wall, over my father’s old, fat-tire bicycle, was a single wooden oar that he had once used at W&L as a young man when he rowed for Harry Lee.

It was probably the first family story I ever remembered. No one seems to have told me about it; I just remember always knowing it. If a crew member pulled so hard on an oar that it broke, he was allowed to take the oar home with him as a remembrance of his time on the river. The end of this oar, where the rower’s hands would have gripped it, had been cleanly broken off. As a child, I imagined my father making one last mighty pull on that oar as Harry Lee raced desperately to beat Albert Sidney, only to hear the ominous crack and to have the oar fall lifelessly in his hands. But whether the race was won or not, my father had his trophy. And there it was on the wall for his three small sons, all future W&L graduates, to see and believe in their father’s strength.

Indeed, the oar was to me a symbol of my father’s mighty strength, and it certainly must have symbolized something similar to him — perhaps the vigor of his youth — because he always kept the oar with him. Over his long career as a Presbyterian minister, the oar followed the family as it moved from town to town and church to church, and then to still more places after his retirement. Strangely, though, the oar never had a place of honor in the home. Instead, it was usually stored in a basement, a garage, a barn or a backyard shed.

After my father died and the home was broken up, I did not take the oar with me. I am not even sure where it was at that time. My brother John finally ended up with the oar. Almost two decades after our father’s death, he telephoned me out of the blue and asked if I wanted the oar that he was then storing in a backyard shed. Amazingly, the oar had recently been on my mind, and I accepted his offer immediately.

Not having seen the oar for many years, I was amazed by its lightness and its length, over eight feet long. I saw that the end of the oar was cleanly broken off near the point where the oar had been set in the oarlock. Looking at the Calyx picture of my father holding perhaps the same oar, I am able to estimate that about three feet of the oar is missing, making the oar’s original length about 12 feet long. Certainly the oar in the picture is over twice my father’s height, and he was probably 5 feet, 10 inches tall. Even at eight feet long, the shortened oar barely fit in my car for the trip home.

It was later on a hot summer day that I took the oar out to my backyard and began to clean off the dust and dirt that had accumulated on it over the years. I used a lemon oil treatment that was designed to clean wood and restore its natural oils. As I reverentially rubbed the oil on the old oar, the wood turned a much darker and richer color, and I had a warm feeling that the treatment was peeling back the years to 1928 and 1929, when my father rowed with Harry Lee. And when I rubbed the oil over the paddle portion of the oar, I immediately noticed that the oil brought out the color red that was barely visible through the dirt and dust of the years. Yes, indeed, it was the red of old Harry Lee shining clearly through the years!

And then suddenly, quite magically, as I rubbed the oil over a portion of the oar that had otherwise no describable features, some letters and a number, obviously scratched by hand into the oar, appeared distinctly before my eyes. Apparently the oil, in making the outer wood of the oar darker, did not seep into the scratched indentations and darken them in a similar manner. The resulting contrast in color then revealed to my eyes the previously hidden letters and number: “H.F. Madison, Jr., ’19.”

This revelation stunned me for a moment as I stared at it with astonishment, trying to take in what had so suddenly appeared as if from nowhere. Of course, I eventually recognized the letters and number as a name and a date, possibly that of a W&L student who had previously used the same oar as my father.

Who then was H.F. Madison Jr.? Surprisingly, my deceased father was able to give me the answer. In 1981, he had sent to me a Washington and Lee alumni directory. Using that directory, I found an entry for H. Flood Madison Jr. ’20,* from Monroe, La. He had attended W&L during the years 1916–1920. This entry apparently identified the person who scratched his name on the oar. The only inconsistency between the directory entry and the scratched letters and number on the oar was that H. Flood Madison Jr. graduated in 1920 and not 1919. Why then did he put ’19 after his name and not ’20, the year of his graduation? My guess is that he meant to identify the year when he scratched his name on the oar and not the date when he hoped to graduate.

Assuming that the ’19 indicates the year when H.F. Madison Jr. scratched his name on the oar, it dates back at least 10 or 11 years before my father ever used it. Using the year 1919 as a starting point, the oar in 2013 would be at least 94 years old. World War I had just been over for a year, and the Great Depression was still a decade away when H.F. Madison Jr. scratched his name and the date on the oar.

The oar could have been used by a number of W&L students even before H.F. Madison Jr. used it in 1919. Others certainly used it afterwards and before my father ever joined the Harry Lee crew. The more I thought about the number of W&L students who also might have used the oar, the more I began to see the oar not just as a symbol of my father’s great strength, but instead as a symbol of the long line of W&L students, like H.F. Madison Jr. and my father, who over the years have loved Washington and Lee, its history and traditions, as well as Lexington and the Valley of Virginia. Those students, of course, rowed not just for Harry Lee, but also for Albert Sidney, and, indeed, include all of us who have over the years come to Washington and Lee and left with a part of it in our blood.

Thinking of that long line of students reminded me of a passage that I read years ago in Dr. Crenshaw’s history of Washington and Lee, “General Lee’s College.” In that passage, he described an event that took place in 1869, four years after General Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. General Lee, by this time, was president of Washington College, and he sat upon his horse on a high bank of the North River (later the Maury) and watched a boat race on the river between Washington College students. He was joined by faculty from Washington College and the Virginia Military Institute, some of whom had served with him in the army. Women and children were also there to cheer along with the others for the team they hoped would win the race. This event, so simple in description and seemingly insignificant, was in fact significant in that it occurred so soon after the death, destruction and desolation brought about by the Civil War in Virginia.

The event was also significant for another reason as well. The boat race on the river that day in 1869, according to Dr. Crenshaw, triggered the “official encouragement” of crew at Washington College. The next year, 1870, two rival clubs were formed, Albert Sidney and Harry Lee, and an annual regatta developed between the two clubs as a regular part of Commencement. I suppose we do not know the names of the students who raced on that memorable day in 1869, but they certainly started the long line of men who pulled the oars for Albert Sidney and Harry Lee.

I should add that my father’s oar now has a place of honor in my home. After cleaning and oiling it, I bought brackets, on which it now rests high over the bookshelves in my home office, where I can see it as I type this Tale of an Oar.

Charlie Lewis is a professor of law at Campbell University, Raleigh, N.C. His brothers are Dr. John Lewis ’66 and Dr. Tom Lewis ’64.

*Madison appears in W&L records as both Henry Flood Madison and Henry Ford Madison. According to the 1920 Calyx, Henry Ford “Buddy” Madison Jr. served as the president of the Harry Lee Club and as No. 2 on the first crew.

W&L Alum Qualifies for U.S. Amateur Golf

Washington and Lee alumnus and former Generals’ varsity golfer Max Adler, of the Class of 2004, makes his living writing about golf these days. But he still plays — and pretty well, it seems.

Back in July, Max birdied the final two holes at the Shorehaven Golf Club in East Norwalk, Conn., to finish with a six-under-par, 36-hole total of 136. That was good for first place in the field and allowed Max to fulfill a dream by qualifying for the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championships.

On Monday (Aug. 12), Max joined 311 other amateur qualifiers to compete in what Golf Digest (where Max is a staff writer) described as “the world’s most prestigious amateur golf tournament” at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

It would be nice to report that Max blew away the field. That’s not exactly the way it happened. His two-day total was 153, and he failed to make it through to the match-play rounds, which featured the top 64 golfers in the field.

But Max did come away with great memories. As he said in the story on Golf Digest’s Website: “I feel like a pretty beaten man after playing The Country Club. It was the sternest, longest, but most importantly, most beautiful test of golf I’ve ever experienced…. I didn’t play great, but was happy to soak it up.”

He added that playing in front of 30 to 40 people was a new experience — “not exactly a big gallery, but it makes it different.”

In 2010, Max qualified or and played in the U.S. Public Links Championship and wrote about that experience here.

You can also find an archive of all of Max’s Golf Digest content here. Max is joined on the Golf Digest staff by Mike Stachura, another W&L alumnus (Class of 1986) and a former Sports Information director, who is the publication’s equipment editor. You can see Mike’s Golf Digest content here.

Cellphones and Sleep

Two Washington and Lee University students are hoping their summer research puts fellow classmates to sleep — literally.

The students — senior Maia Robbins and junior McCauley Massie — spent the summer helping to build a sleep study as part of psychology professor Karla Murdock’s ongoing analysis of the relationship between cellphone use and student health and well-being. This latest project will delve into the sleep patterns of W&L students.

“We’ve been collecting data continuously,” said Murdock. “And one of the interesting findings is that heavy cellphone use is related to sleep disruption.” The link between cellphone use and poor sleep, however, is not well understood.

Cell phone use by young adults is at an all-time high. According to a 2010 report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a whopping 96 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds own cellphones. A Pew report the following year found that cellphone users between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of nearly 110 texts per day, which exceeds 3,200 texts per month.

The sleep study may provide insight about the connection between heavy cellphone use and sleep disruption. Previous research by Murdock and others suggests several potential culprits. “It could be that heavy cellphone use is related to disruptions in sleep because when people get in bed, they spend an hour and a half playing on their phone, before going to sleep,” said Murdock. “So they’re getting less sleep.”

The proximity of cell phones could also be an issue. “There’s data indicating that some overwhelming majority of college students and adolescents sleep with their cellphones within arm’s reach, and many of them are sleeping with it under the pillow,” said Murdock. “Notifications coming in the middle of the night may wake them up.”

Literature also indicates that the light emitted by screens on cellphones and electronic devices may disrupt the production of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep.

Massie, a neuroscience major from Atlanta, and Robbins, a psychology and sociology double major from Seattle, have helped to develop the study, which will begin running this fall and will potentially include as many as 100 students. To monitor sleep cycles, the research team will use an objective, non-invasive method known as actigraphy.

Massie’s first project was a market analysis of actigraphic wristbands, which are worn around the clock. The bands record activity levels throughout the day and monitor sleep cycles at night. “I probably looked at 20-plus articles just to see which devices researchers were using on which populations,” said Massie. The team ultimately selected the Actiwatch 2, a gray, water-resistant band.

Robbins and Massie tested the bands on themselves. They discovered that wearing them too snugly was distracting during the course of the day and users should wear the bands slightly loose. They noted this problem and other issues in an Actiwatch 2 instruction manual they created for the study.

The two student researchers also drafted a sleep diary, which asks about the length and quality of the previous night’s sleep and about stress and sleep disruptions. Student participants will wear the Actiwatch and maintain their diary for a week. The Actiwatch data will then be downloaded directly into a computer for review.

“Even as a neuroscience student, I really didn’t truly understand until this summer how much goes into forming a study, because you can’t just make it up on your own,” said Massie. “You have to look at what has been previously done and find good ways to measure things.”

As the students formulated their questions for the sleep diary, they considered why they were asking a particular question and why the answer mattered. “It’s justifying what you’re doing at every step basically,” said Robbins, who also learned the importance of developing a study with broad appeal. “Once you get somebody’s attention about a topic, and once somebody else thinks it’s interesting, there’s a world of opportunity that opens up as far as things to learn.”

The dramatic increase in cellphone usage is a topic that’s catching people’s attention.
“There’s a feeling that all of this cellphone use might not be a good thing, but no one is sure how or why. What is clear is that  everyone is doing it,” said Murdock.

—Amy C. Balfour ’89, ’93L

Pew Internet & American Life Project

2010 Report: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Gadgets/Overview.aspx?view=all

2011 Report: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Cell-Phone-Texting-2011.aspx

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

W&L Completes Successful Fundraising Year

Washington and Lee University received $39.3 million in new gifts and pledges during the 2012–13 fiscal year and has raised $424.2 million, as of June 30, toward the $500 million goal of its capital campaign, Honor Our Past, Build Our Future: The Campaign for Washington and Lee.

With two years left before it ends on June 30, 2015, the campaign remains on target, according to Dennis Cross, vice president for advancement at W&L. The campaign began in July 2008 and had a public kickoff in October 2010.

The $39.3 million in new gifts and pledges represents an increase of 22 percent over the previous year; 69 percent of those gifts came from W&L alumni.

The total cash received for 2012–13, which includes payments on previous pledges, was $75.1 million, an increase of 47 percent over 2011–12. Fifty-two percent of the total was added to the University’s endowment.

The University’s Annual Fund received a record $8.72 million, an 11 percent increase from the previous year and the first time in history that the fund has exceeded $8 million.

As components of the Annual Fund, both the Parents Fund and the Law School Annual Fund reached milestones. The Parents Fund received a record $1.36 million, a 24 percent increase over the previous year’s record of $1.1 million, while the Law School Annual Fund surpassed the $1 million mark for the first time with $1,017,109 raised.

In addition, the rate of undergraduate alumni participation in giving to the University exceeded 50 percent for the second year in a row at 53.7 percent, exceeding last year’s 51.38 percent. That increase also met The Generals’ Challenge, a multi-year effort to raise participation by the undergraduate alumni to 55 percent by June 30, 2015.

“This has been an extraordinary year in the support of Washington and Lee,” Cross said. “W&L is widely known to be blessed with hundreds of volunteer leaders and thousands of loyal undergraduate and law alumni, enthusiastic parents who value the education their sons and daughters receive, and friends who appreciate what W&L has long stood for: honor, community, tradition and academic excellence. Our students benefit directly and significantly from the generosity of the University’s supporters each year and over the generations.”

Cross noted that 42 percent of W&L’s annual operating budget comes from the new gifts made or from income earned by endowments established over the generations.

“It’s hard to imagine how we could provide the personalized W&L experience without this support and the sacrifices of so many over the years,” he said. “Our donors and volunteers are true partners in a Washington and Lee education today.”

W&L’s campaign has targeted five priorities, with the largest segments designated to support people and programs. The biggest goal — $160 million — is to raise funds to recruit and support students through need-based aid.

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

From Generation Lex to Blundergrads

Washington and Lee alumni from the 1990s will remember a Ring-tum Phi cartoon called “Generation Lex,” by Phil Flickinger, of the Class of 1997.

Phil even collected many of those cartoons in a book, “Invasion of the Bug-Eyed Preppies: A Generation Lex Collection.”

A business administration major, Phil is now an advertiser by trade. He did postgraduate work at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, and he pursues a day job as a brand-strategy director for Venables Bell and Partners, in San Francisco.

But cartooning remains his hobby, and he’s been drawing a college-theme strip, off and on, since graduation. For about seven years, he drew “Lex” and syndicated it independently. After a three-year hiatus, he picked up the pens again in 2008. He jettisoned the main character, Lex, from his previous strip because, as Phil admits on Facebook, “he had become a pain to draw.” He renamed the strip “Blundergrads.”
>Now, five years after he began “Blundergrads,” Phil is taking a big step by launching a Kickstarter project to publish a collection of his favorite “Blundergrads” strips as a book, “Higher Learning from Mistakes.”

You can read about his project and see a video at the “Blundergrads” page on Kickstarter. Phil describes the evolution of his work in a blog post on his website, Higher Learning from Mistakes:

You won’t see any strips with copyrights from the first two years, and there are scant few from 2000 & 2001. Why? Overall, my artwork was horrible. My composition was off. My writing was cumbersome, too; I had yet to discover that brevity & levity are correlated. (I still struggle with this.) But you know what? There were some diamonds in the rough that I eventually reworked & redrew. You know what the comic did have from the outset, though? A mission. A heart. A scrappy desire to entertain, regardless of whether it succeeded or fell short. It was resilient. If you’re an aspiring or fledgling cartoonist, my advice is to be resilient.

From W&L Law Magazine: Too Much and Too Many

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that the Justice Department will no longer pursue mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.

In his announcement, Holder cited both excessive incarceration and racial disparities in sentencing as critical problems with the criminal justice system.

The cover story for the most recent edition of W&L Law magazine digs in on just this very issue. Several members of W&L Law’s stellar criminal law faculty analyze over-criminalization in the U.S. Topics covered include financial costs, the growth of federal criminal law, and collateral sentencing consequences, among others.

Read the feature story online.

Editor’s note: For another perspective on this issue, read this commentary by Christopher Russell, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Buena Vista, Virginia and director of the public prosecutor’s externship program at W&L Law.

Kipnes Named Director of Campus Safety at Washington and Lee

Ethan Kipnes, associate director of campus safety at Keene State College in New Hampshire, has been named director of public safety at Washington and Lee University.

Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, announced Kipnes’ appointment. He will assume his new duties on Aug. 19.

Kipnes succeeds Michael Young, who retired from the position that he had held since 1991.

“We’re pleased to have Ethan join the University in this capacity,” said Evans. “He was selected as the result of a national search and brings a wealth of experience, having worked on two different campuses over the past seven years.”

A graduate of Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice, Kipnes was director of campus safety at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt., for five years, from 2006 to 2011. He directed the department responsible for safety, security and transportation services for the 375-acre campus. Among other duties at SVC, he was charged with developing and implementing departmental policies and procedures, rules and regulations, as well as college-wide policies such as the institution’s Emergency Action Plan.

He was named associate director of campus safety at Keene State in 2011. He had responsibility for day-to-day management and supervision of campus safety operations, including uniformed officers, dispatch functions, transportation services and parking operations for the campus of more than 5,500 students and 700 faculty and staff. He directly supervised the staff of 30-plus officers along with transportation and student employees and led emergency planning and management in conjunction with the college’s health and safety manager.

Since 2002, he has served part-time as a dispatcher for the Town of Wilmington, Vt., and is certified as a part-time police officer in the State of Vermont.

The director of public safety at Washington and Lee is a member of the Student Affairs division and provides vision, leadership and direction to the Department of Public Safety.

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

Love and Economics

Richard Marmorstein, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2014, has parlayed his interests in economics and music into a third-place prize in an unusual competition — the economics music video contest sponsored by Fayetteville State University.

The topic for the second annual contest was “Economic Value is Subjective.” Three judges —economists from Duke and Brown universities and a music video producer — selected winners, along with viewer votes, on the contest’s YouTube channel.

Richard shot his song, “Econ Love Ballad,” on the W&L campus and in the classrooms. It features his original lyrics and guitar performance; he won second place in WLUR’s solo acts competition last fall.

The video features Sara Hardman, of the Class of 2013, as the “Creeped Out Girl” to Richard’s “Creepy Economist.” Tyson Janney, also of the Class of 2013, directed and filmed the video.

A native of Aberdeen, S.D., Richard told his hometown newspaper, Aberdeen News. That he wanted to to highlight the parallels between love and market value. As he explained, in his ballad: “This economist is trying to tell this girl he loves her, but he can’t find a quantitative way to value love. He tries to find a way to describe his love in numbers. However, none of this is any good because, ultimately, it is meaningless.”

Richard is an economics and computer science major at W&L. Watch his video below:

Singing About Mud

Ever since he was a student at Washington and Lee, Roger Day, of the Class of 1985, has known that music is a powerful way to reach kids.

Roger was half of the popular music duo Heinsohn and Day during their college days and beyond. (The other half, Eric Heinsohn, is a 1983 graduate.) As Roger related in a feature in the Savannah Morning News, it was while working as a program director at a summer camp in Birmingham, Ala., that he saw how children responded to his music.

Now a Parents Choice Gold Award-winning musician and performer, Roger calls his latest venture, a DVD called “Marsh Mud Madness,” “the most specifically educational project” that he’s done. It’s been receiving rave reviews since its release earlier this summer.

Collaborating with the Savannah Music Festival and Georgia Sea Grant, Roger developed an hour-long show about the importance of marshes and wetlands. A feature in the Savannah Morning News details the way he developed the idea and how, three years later, it wound up as a DVD.

Roger spent five days in 2009 exploring Sapelo Island, near Savannah. As he told the Morning News, he followed scientists around “and let them educate me about the ecosystem, what plants and animals are there, what roles they play.”

He put what he learned to music, performed the show and then filmed the DVD live at the Savannah Music Festival and on location on Sapelo Island.

Here’s how Roger describes what he hopes the project does: “The goal is that when kids watch this video, that they fall in love with all the creatures. We feel if you love something, you’re going to take care of it. The ultimate goal is to have the next generation of kids learning about how important the Atlantic coast and barrier islands are. If they love the hermit crab song, they’ll take care of it.”

It’s been a rousing success on every count. As the Christian Science Monitor wrote in June, “The science is sneakily good, the songs are fun, and the rhythms are downright infectious.”

You can read more about “Marsh Mud Madness” on Roger’s website at http://www.rogerday.com. And you can peek at one of the songs, “I Love to Study Mud!” in the video below:

Commentary: Knapp, Strong on W&L's Uncommon Curriculum

The following opinion piece appeared in The Hechinger Report,  a nonprofit news organization focused on producing in-depth education journalism on Aug. 6, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission.

Liberal arts and pre-professional education, intertwined

By Elizabeth Knapp and Robert Strong

Oil and water, cats and dogs, liberal arts and pre-professional education. Lots of things don’t go together. Or so we are told.

But assumptions about compatibility can sometimes be wrong and most rules have exceptions.

At our university, Washington and Lee, there is a long-standing and successful association between traditional studies in the liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs in journalism, accounting, business and engineering. The association is an old one that some date to the post Civil War college presidency of Robert E. Lee and others to the early decades of the 20th century. Whichever date you choose, Washington and Lee has had both liberal education and pre-professional training for a very long time in an institutional environment that allows both to prosper.

Because of this long history, we don’t have many serious disputes and debates about the fundamentals of curricular content. Our curriculum, like all others, evolves over time but there is no expectation that we will abandon either our commitment to the liberal arts or to our pre-professional programs. Our current arrangements have the benefits of age, but longevity is but a small part of our story and our success. Here are some of the key elements.

Serious general education

At W&L we have a large set of general education requirements, much larger than those at many peer institutions. Our requirements include courses in writing, math, foreign language, science, literature, arts, social science, the humanities and physical education. Those courses occupy the better part of the first two years of study, and most are delivered by the traditional liberal arts and science departments. No student leaves without a substantial sampling of the ideas and disciplines that constitute the core of a conventional liberal education. The pre-professional departments accept that they can make only a marginal contribution to this important aspect of our curriculum and that the study of their subjects appropriately comes later in a college career.

Modest requirements for majors

Requirements at W&L, whether for majors in the liberal arts or in pre-professional education, are kept relatively modest — with no majors for the BA degree involving more than 50 credits and many majors with fewer. This is important for two reasons: Students have plenty of time to complete their general education explorations and they have flexibility to pursue multiple interests. More than a third of our students have two majors. Many pursue a minor along with one or two majors. It is not uncommon for a business major to have a second field of study in a modern foreign language or for a student of history to have a second major in journalism. Among the most popular minors are mathematics, Latin American and Caribbean studies and a special program providing an interdisciplinary examination of poverty.

Mutual respect

Modest requirements for majors and many choices for minors allow students to make their own creative combinations and links between closely related or disparate intellectual interests. Faculty advisers support that creativity and do not demand or mandate narrow study within a single discipline.

For example, Creative Writing is one our most popular minors and many of these students are Business Administration majors. We attribute this success to the revision of the Business major to include electives in the arts. These students then, in turn, make good candidates for work in advertising and marketing.

The differences between the liberal arts and pre-professional education are often exaggerated. Both aim to equip students with skills in analysis and communication that can be used in a variety of employment settings and careers. Both challenge students to do independent research and writing as well as group activities that provide collaborative experiences. Both deliver specific syllabi with broad objectives. Both have high expectations for the future accomplishments of current students. Pre-professional education can be an enhancement of a liberal education without becoming a substitute for it. And, in many ways, the liberal arts always have provided a generic pre-professional training for unanticipated professions.

George Washington, in a letter to a prospective college student, once observed that the college years provide a unique and valuable time “when the mind will be turned to things useful and praiseworthy.” Things “useful” and things “praiseworthy:” This is not a bad way to describe the categories of study that always have been important in American higher education. At one institution that bears Washington’s name, they still are.

Elizabeth Knapp ’90 and Robert Strong are professors of geology and politics at Washington and Lee, respectively. Knapp teaches in the College, Strong in the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics. For the last two years Knapp served as Associate Provost and Strong as Interim Provost at W&L

W&L Law Alumna Named President of AT&T Tennessee

Joelle James Phillips, a 1995 alumna of Washington and Lee’s School of Law, is the new president of AT&T Tennessee.

A 12-year veteran of AT&T and its predecessor companies, Joelle was most recently general attorney for AT&T Tennessee. As president, she’ll work closely with community and business leaders and with elected officials throughout the state.

In a new release announcing the appointment, Joelle said: “I am honored for this opportunity and look forward to leading our great AT&T team in Tennessee. We are off to a great start on Project VIP, an initiative to significantly expand and enhance our wireless and wired broadband services to more Tennesseans in order to deliver the advanced services consumers and businesses demand.  Our company and our employees have been a part of local communities in Tennessee since 1879, and I look forward to continuing our legacy of investment, job creation, innovation and community engagement.”

Joelle started in the company’s legal department and moved through positions of increasing responsibility at the state and regional level. The Nashville Business Journal recently gave her the peer-selected “Best of the Bar” award for corporate counsel.

She’s married to fellow Law School alum Brant Phillips, of the Class of 1997, a partner with Nashville-based Bass, Berry and Sims Law Firm.

Matt Simpson '12 Helps U.S. Goalball Team to Silver Medal

Folks around Washington and Lee may have been unfamiliar with the sport of goalball until Matt Simpson came to town, five years ago. The Atlanta native and 2012 graduate helped change that. Matt has competed on the U.S. National Goalball team since his undergraduate days, and he’s continued playing since graduation.

Matt is visually impaired, and goalball is a sport for blind and visually impaired athletes. It was developed in Austria to rehabilitate veterans who were blinded during World War II. The three-person teams try to roll a ball past each other into a net. All players wear blindfolds.

In addition to being a member of the team, Matt is now the membership and outreach coordinator. He was featured in a story about the competition in The Gazette of Colorado Springs, where the team was competing in the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) 2013 Pan American Games last month.

After failing to qualify for the London Paralympics, the U.S. men’s team is hoping to get a spot in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Asked before the tournament about the team’s goals, Matt told The Gazette: “We’re really focused on Rio, for sure.” He added that their performance at the Pan American Games would serve as “a barometer for how well we’re doing since they were second in London.”

After a 9-9 tie in the first game, with Brazil, the team that kept them from the London Paralympics, the U.S. team ran off six dominating wins to make to the gold medal game, where it lost to Canada 8-6. Their silver medal performance earned them a spot in the IBSA 2014 World Goalball Championships, in Finland.

Stay tuned to see if Matt and his teammates can make it to Rio in 2016.

Small Particles, Big Effects

When you hear the term “nanotechnology,” what image comes to mind? A medically enhanced athlete capable of superhuman feats? A Michael Crichton-esque horror show of swarming, self-replicating nanobots, as depicted in his 2002 novel “Prey”?

As Paul Youngman, professor of German at Washington and Lee University, and student researchers Matthew Bittner and Curtis Correll learned this summer, your perception of nanotechnology—the manipulation of extremely small particles to make materials and machines—may depend on where you live.

“Nanotechnology is an emerging science that we don’t completely have a handle on, and our premise is always that science is never divorced from the larger culture at hand,” said Youngman. “What we’re doing is analyzing the cultural reception of nanotechnology as it exists right now. It’s a comparative study between German and U.S. reception.”

Rhetoric and public perception affect how nanotechnology is funded and regulated. Youngman’s book-in-progress, “National Nanotechnologies: Nanodiscourse in Germany and the United States,” compares rhetoric from a variety of sources in both countries. The book also examines nano imagery.

He focuses on Germany and the U.S. because they are the largest investors in nanoscience and technology (NST) in the European Union and North America, and the countries have partnered on numerous commercial and academic NST endeavors. Youngman is collaborating with Ljiljana Fruk, group leader at the Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

Matthew Bittner, a rising senior who is a biology and German double major, from Voorhees, N.J., spent the summer analyzing and comparing television media coverage. In Germany, the scientific newsmagazine Nano spotlights nanoscience and emerging technologies. The show airs alongside other news programs. In the U.S., nanoscience is not featured regularly in the news. When U.S. broadcasters do run nanoscience stories, the coverage tends to be more sensational, said Bittner, whose research was funded by the W&L German Department.

“The Germans will look more at the short-term effect of science and technology—more realistic expectations,” said Bittner. American shows, while realistic, tend to look further into the future, and they highlight the most breathtaking possibilities.

One memorable American video spotlighted the potential power of medical nanobots.

“You could have nanobots—medical nanobots—in your body that allow you to do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath,” Bittner said. “It’s exciting, really captivating. And it creates a large audience for the program.”

Curtis Correll, an economics and German and double major, from Memphis, Tenn., spent several weeks at CFN in Karlsruhe studying the ethics, usefulness and reliability of nano imagery. The rising junior’s research was funded by W&L’s Robert E. Lee Summer Scholars Program and a Johnson Opportunity Grant.

Correll watched an atomic force microscope (AFM) create nano images, a process called scanning probing microscopy. A probe uses electromagnetic waves to create a relief image of the nanoparticles, which are smaller than a wavelength of light and invisible to the human eye. This image is processed by computer software, which creates a final likeness.

“Some people call into question whether these images are truly reliable because they’re not raw data,” said Correll. Nano imagery initially appears in black and white. Scientists add colors and shadows to create contrasts for easier viewing. The choice of colors, however, can affect how the image is received.

The most controversial image Correll studied was an exploding nanowire. “It’s imaged in yellow-orange color scales, which makes it look like nuclear bombs going off on this background that looks like a peaceful ocean,” recalled Correll. “So people see that and think, ‘Oh my gosh, when we have nanotechnology everywhere, there will be little bombs going off every place.’ ” When imaged in green, said Correll, the nanoparticles looked like broccoli growing in a green pasture, which was much less threatening.

Both students relished delving into an emerging area of science. For Correll, observing the scientists create the nano images in Karlsruhe was especially memorable. “Not many people get to watch that,” said Correll. “I would sit, for eight hours at a time in some instances, just watching them do their work, and it was fascinating.”

Bittner, who is pre-med, enjoyed learning about potential medical advancements. ” always talked about how we could have these nanobots inside of our body that could instantly deliver drugs and repair wounds. Stuff like that I find to be particularly futuristic and cool to think about, like how much longer could we live with these things?”

Considerations about what it means to be human are what drew Youngman to the field of nanotechnology. In Western philosophies, humans have typically seen themselves as an entity separate from their environment and from surrounding tools and technologies. This dichotomy gives order to the world and makes it seem more controllable.

The concept of separateness is muddied, however, when nanoparticles are absorbed into the body through the skin. When this happens, the skin acts like an interface, not a barrier, between the body and the outside world. The separation becomes even less clear as human-made nanoparticles meld with body parts. “That’s my theme in all of my writing. What is the line between human and technological?” said Youngman.

Perhaps we should fear the blurring of this line. Or perhaps nanoparticles are simply the next creation in a long line of tools—from hammers to cell phones—that have aided humankind. Youngman’s book explores the discourse that springs from these questions.

 —by Amy C. Balfour, ’89, 93L

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

A Golden W&L Anniversary for Agnes Gilmore

Happy anniversary to Agnes Gilmore, who started work at W&L 50 years ago today— Aug. 6, 1963. Visitors to Elrod Commons and callers to the University switchboard receive a warm greeting from Agnes, whose official title is receptionist/office assistant for Public Safety.

That title tells only part of the story. Since 1963, first in the lobby of Washington Hall (which served as the unofficial W&L visitors’ center for many years), then in the Commons (which opened in 2003), Agnes has greeted thousands of visitors to campus, answered telephones in all of their technological iterations, maintained the lost-and-found, monitored security cameras, befriended students, and so much more.

Carrying on the family tradition at W&L is one of Agnes’ daughters, Jill Gilmore Straub, who’s the administrative assistant for the Department of Theater and Dance.

Thank you, Agnes, for embodying the civility and courtesy of W&L for five decades—and counting.

Perspectives on Poverty

After spending the past eight weeks assisting impoverished communities and individuals around the country, students in the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty internship program spent Tuesday morning, Aug. 6, listening to three national leaders in poverty education paint a picture that was equal parts hopeful, pessimistic and realistic.

The interns represent 17 of the 19 institutions that compose the consortium, which was established in 2011 and is an outgrowth of Washington and Lee University’s Shepherd Poverty Program.

During their internships, students taught in classrooms from New York to St. Anne’s Mission to the Navajo Nation in Arizona; helped clients obtain employment in Washington and Boston; worked in legal clinics in Helena, Ark., and Fredericksburg, Va.; and assisted in health-care facilities in Richmond, Va., and Camden, N.J., among many assignments.

Once they returned to Lexington for a three-day summing-up of the experience, each student described their experiences and what they had learned on Monday, Aug. 5, at the W&L School of Law.

Then the consortium staged its second annual teaching symposium on Tuesday in Virginia Military Institute’s Gillis Theater. In addition to the interns, faculty and staff representatives of the member colleges also attended.

Kirsten Lodal, who is the CEO and co-founder of the innovative LIFT program, congratulated the interns on their accomplishments while acknowledging that they may not have come away from the experience feeling as if they had really made a dent.

“Even if you felt that you weren’t able to see the big, concrete, marquee headline successes that you wanted to see — huge shifts in household incomes, huge employment gains, huge family stability gains — the fact that you treated people with dignity and respect is really the most important first step in powerfully combatting poverty and expanding opportunity in this country,” Lodal said.

Lodal was a Yale University sophomore when she co-founded LIFT in 1998. She described how she and the volunteers in her young organization essentially stalked President Bill Clinton in order to get the program on his radar with the hope of gaining some funding.

LIFT now runs centers trained by volunteers in major U.S. cities, where the organization serves low-income individuals and families and plays a leadership role in numerous poverty-related policy initiatives. Three Shepherd interns worked for LIFT in Washington.

Lodal asked the interns about their primary takeaway from their experience.

“They said that the main thing they took away from their experience was that people are the solution. They said, ‘Poverty isn’t something we can solve by throwing money at it from afar. Poverty is best addressed with human interaction, compassion and consideration,’ ” she said. “That is not how most policy debates play out. We forget that we are talking about other human beings just like us.”

Lodal told the interns, “I think you all can be in the vanguard on the next wave of this movement. I am optimistic about the change that we could create, and I am totally optimistic about what you can do by rethinking the ways we can expand opportunities in this country.”

Kathryn Edin, professor of public policy and management of the Harvard Kennedy School, told the audience that social policy can work, pointing to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as proof. EITC is a federal tax credit for low- and moderate-income working people.

“There is a lot of evidence that welfare reform has been a smashing success,” she said, “but it’s also been a colossal failure.”

EITC, Edin said, is why welfare reform works and has succeeded “beyond our wildest dreams.” The most profound change, she added, hasn’t been how much money individuals get, but how they feel about themselves, and how it reinforces the value of work.

EITC is not a safety net, however. Edin said, “At the same time EITC was lifting about 3.5 million children out of poverty in any given year, nearly an equal number are experiencing extreme poverty  — families with children living on less than $2 per person per day.”

Edin’s most recent book, “Doing the Best I Can: Fathering in the Inner Center,” co-written with Timothy Nelson, is based on in-depth interviews with more than 100 fathers. In thinking about how to combat poverty, Edin said that “we have to pay attention to the fathers.”

Based on her study, Edin said that fathers are not “hit-and-run men who want to impregnate women and selfishly flee. Fathers wanted to be engaged.” By ignoring fathers, she said, we are courting disaster. “If we don’t connect men to families, they’re not connected to any institution. And we know that people without any institutional ties get into trouble.”

Both Edin and Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Institution Center on Children and Families, emphasized the importance of education as a way to effect meaningful change.

Said Edin: “Evidence is coalescing around the hypothesis that by doing better what we’re already supposed to do — by creating excellent educational environments for children, the kind that every American child deserves — we can make headway. Imagine if we had great schools and decent jobs.”

Haskins expanded on that issue in his remarks, offering data that show the value of education.

“If we were smart, we would really be focused like a laser on education,” he said. “And so would town councils and school boards and mayors.”

Haskins was pessimistic when it comes to the interaction between education and the economy — a “chicken-and-egg” relationship, as he described it. “The American education system is not producing people who are well educated,” he said. “If we did, then they would be more likely to get a job, and then the economy would grow.”

The problem, he said, is kids who come to school unprepared to take advantage of the education, combined with poor teaching and bad facilities.

“What really concerns me is that this is not going to change, except that it’s going to get worse,” said Haskins, author of “Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law.” “A higher and higher percentage of middle-class jobs are going to require education. And the kids are no better prepared, the schools are no more capable. If those things don’t change, we’re going to go on this way.”

Haskins focused on personal responsibility, especially among young people, as a critical factor, noting that individual decisions have a major impact on opportunity, equality and poverty rates.

“Kids are making bad decisions,” he said. “They don’t study. They drop out of school. They don’t work enough. They have babies outside marriage. When you add those things up, it has a huge impact on society and a huge impact on government spending. If we can learn to help people be more responsible, especially young people, and at the same time improve our government programs, we can do even more than we’re doing now to reduce poverty and increase equality.”

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

Washington Post Sale “Intriguing,” Says W&L Journalism Professor (Audio)

Pamela Luecke, head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Washington and Lee University, says that the sale of The Washington Post would warrant enormous headlines under any circumstances.  Its purchase by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, however, makes the news all the more intriguing.

In an announcement that shocked the industry on Monday, Bezos purchased the Post for $250 million.

“I don’t think anyone knows just what it will mean to the newspaper industry,” she said. “I guess I’m optimistic. He’s proven himself to be a creative thinker, a visionary. Having someone with his vision and his business acumen involved in the newspaper industry is potentially exciting.”

But, she adds, other potentially exciting people have purchased newspapers, and that hasn’t always ended well.

Luecke, who is the Donald W. Reynolds Professor of Business Journalism at W&L and former editor of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald, does not see this latest series of newspaper sales, which include the Boston Globe, as having a major impact on students’ decisions to pursue careers in journalism.

“It’s really the newspaper industry that has been especially buffeted in the last couple of years. For every newspaper job that is eliminated or under threat, there are several online news jobs that are popping up,” she said. “I think journalism is way more exciting today than it was when I graduated from college. The students who go into journalism today are going to have a much different career than the one I had. There is still an intense appetite for high-quality, verified journalism. I think it’s a great time to start a career in journalism.”

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

W&L Alumnus Nominated as Ambassador to Lesotho

Washington and Lee alumnus Matthew T. Harrington, of the Class of 1988, was nominated by President Obama this month to become Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The nomination went to the U.S. Senate on Aug. 1.

Matt, a history major at W&L, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania following his graduation. He then worked as a program associate with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities before entering the foreign service in 1992, as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.

He has served in various capacities around the world, including Brazil, Zimbabwe, Togo, Portugal and Namibia, and was most recently director of the Office of Analysis for Africa in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

From 2010 to 2012, he served as foreign policy advisor to the commander of the U.S. Army South, providing the commander with information on the development of foreign policies as well as implications of issues that relate to decisions the commander has to make.

Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and ranks as the highest country on the planet, since the lowest point is more than 1,000 meters above sea level.

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Exploring Poetry's Possible Worlds

As Robert E. Lee Research Scholar Annie Persons learned this summer at Washington and Lee University, you don’t have to leave campus for an academically meaningful adventure. In fact, sometimes even a simple trip to the library can turn into a character-building experience.

‘I’d text a friend, ‘I’m heading into the stacks!’ ” said Persons, a junior, from Atlanta, who ventured into the darkest recesses of Leyburn Library on fact-finding missions for Lesley Wheeler, W&L’s Henry S. Fox Professor of English. Wheeler is writing a book that explores the relationship between contemporary poetry and speculative fiction, an umbrella term for a literary genre encompassing fantasy, horror and science fiction.

Wheeler’s book “Heterotopia” won the 2010 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Library of Virginia’s Literary Award for Poetry. Her 2012 novella in verse, “The Receptionist and Other Tales,” falls into the speculative-fiction camp and has won strong reviews. With her book-in-progress, tentatively called “Poetry’s Possible Worlds,” Wheeler hopes to attract readers who may be interested in modern poetry but are unsure where to start.

“They’re very intimidated by the world of 21st-century poetry because there’s so much out there, and it’s hard to find your way into it,” she explained. “I just wanted to write a book that could be readable by anybody who is interested in poetry.”

To do this, Wheeler will open each chapter with a poem. These works, from a cross-section of international poets, will introduce different literary concepts. As she noted in her blog (http://lesleywheeler.org), “Permissions will be tricky, but it’s really important to me that readers have their own encounter before I start messing around with it. My premises are that it’s pleasurable to get lost in a poem’s pocket universe, that we should take poetry personally, and that we have a right to our own responses.”

The book will also consider the idea of  “immersive reading,” the cognitive process of being fully engaged, or entrained, with the text. Speculative fiction encourages an immersive experience because readers become absorbed in the parameters and details of an unknown world. Poetry, Wheeler argues, can provide a similarly immersive experience.

“Even though the world-building you do when you read a lyric poem is much more fragmentary – it’s much shorter duration, it has fewer characters and objects in it than the imaginative world of novel reading – you’re still engaging in that process,” said Wheeler.  “And to some extent, the success of a poem is its ability to engage you that way.” The rhythms and metrical patterns of verse may also encourage immersion.

Wheeler is mixing memoir, criticism and theoretical speculations. “The chapters interweave critical and theoretical writing with personal writing, so there’s a fair amount of narrative and storytelling in these chapters too, because narrative and storytelling are absorptive, and I want to write an immersive book,” explained Wheeler.

One chapter opens with the poem “Garden Gate,” by New Zealand poet Bill Manhire. “It’s a poem about standing at the threshold of the garden gate, and it has this vague sense of being on the edge of fairy lore, but that’s a very loaded space,” said Wheeler. “We all have associations of in between the house and world, right?” The chapter itself will discuss thresholds in literature while also exploring thresholds in Wheeler’s life.

The project included immersive — if not always poetic — research missions for Persons, the summer scholar. “I discovered that there’s this traditional English song called ‘The Garden Gate,’ and I needed to be able to cite that Manhire might be making an allusion to it,” said Wheeler. She also wanted to know if the song, performed by folk singer June Tabor, was English or Welsh. “Finding out the origins of a traditional song is actually kind of difficult.”

These questions sent Persons on a hunt through the stacks. “I ended up looking into the genealogy book of names that’s on the middle of the main floor, that I think people lounge on,” she recalled. “If it had been my own writing, maybe I would just say, ‘Oh, well, I’m not going to mention June Tabor, then.’ It made my own research better because I wasn’t asking it for myself.”

In addition to numerous treks through the library, Persons prepared a 30-or-so-page annotated bibliography. She also honed her research skills by gathering and reviewing articles on JSTOR and the MLA online journal archive. “It’s really satisfying when you find the answer,” said Persons, “and it’s just kind of fun because it’s like detective work.”

— by Amy Balfour, ’89, ’93L

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

Confronting Mental Illness

Hilary Chaney’s new book, “Through the Open Door: A Bipolar Attorney Talks Mania, Recovery, and Heaven on Earth,” recounts her personal struggle with and victory over bipolar disorder, including the challenges she faced during her studies at Washington and Lee’s School of Law.

A member of the undergraduate Class of 1998 and the law Class of 2004, Hilary is currently handling Social Security disability claims at Chaney Law Firm in Arkadelphia, Ark., after spending four years as a civil litigator in Fayetteville.

In a recent post on the blog PsychCentral, Hilary writes about her experiences, including her first manic break, which came after she had graduated from W&L and was working at Capital One in Richmond:

“But then things started to speed up. I found I couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep. My mind raced and I began having delusions that I was God and could save the world. I walked in Heaven on Earth and believed I saw the way to take us all there. I felt an enormous empathy for those around me. It felt like a knife to the heart anytime anyone else hurt, and the converse was true, too. Others’ joy was multiplied a hundredfold in my heart. This overwhelming love can be unbearable in its power.”

Hilary describes the ups and downs, and she notes that the stresses of both law school and then practicing law have exacerbated the problems. In 2009, she and her husband (and law school classmate), Nathan Chaney, and their son moved to Nathan’s hometown of Arkadelphia. Now that she has begun working with the family law firm, she has discovered “a groundswell of support.” The firm, she writes, “gave me the outlet to practice in a way that accommodates my illness and lets my talent shine.” She practices part-time and volunteers as a mental health advocate for Arkansas Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

Writes Hilary: “I am proof that with proper treatment, and accommodation from an employer, an attorney with mental illness can shine brightly.”

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W&L Provost Featured in Chronicle of Higher Education

Daniel Wubah, who became Washington and Lee’s provost on July 1, 2013, was featured in a recent edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Titled “New Provost Looks to Lessons From Guiding a Village in Ghana,” the article used  Wubah’s own words to describe his background and how the leadership skills he learned growing up in Ghana will help him in his new position.

WVTF Reports on W&L's Robinson Hall Dig

WVTF radio reported on the recent Robinson Hall dig at Washington and Lee. Sandy Hausman of WVTF interviewed Alison Bell, associate professor of archaeology along with students and volunteers who have worked on the treasure trove of material found behind Robinson Hall when work began on renovating that building earlier this summer.

Listen to the report here: http://myw.lu/16hGen0

W&L Alumna Training for Top Equestrian Competitions

Lynn Symansky is spending her summer training under the auspices of the United States Equestrian Federation. The 2005 Washington and Lee graduate and her horse, Donner, are world-class competitors in their equestrian sport: three-day eventing.

Lynn, who rides and trains other horse-and-rider teams at Handlen Farm, in Middleburg, Va., received a Land Rover Training Grant. The USEF website says she and her fellow grantees, both horse and rider, are “combinations that currently possess the ability to be competitive anywhere in the world.”

From the United States Equestrian Team Foundation, she also received a Jacqueline B. Mars Competition and Training Grant for European competition this fall. She and Donner will gallop through the Les Estoiles De Pau CCI****. (The four stars indicate the difficulty of the competition, with four stars being the highest.)

You can think of the sport as an equestrian triathlon, with the teams performing dressage, cross-country jumping, and show jumping. It is one of the only Olympic sports where women and men compete together.

We last blogged about Lynn and Donner two years ago, when they competed in the XVI Pan American Games, in Guadalajara, Mexico, on the U.S. team that took the gold medal. Donner is 10 years old, a Thoroughbred and a former racehorse. Lynn writes that he “loves stale horse cookies, napping, having his ears rubbed, and snorting.”

You can follow the careers of Lynn and Donner at the website for Lynn Symansky Equestrian and on Facebook.