Feature Stories Campus Events

Tom Wolfe Cleans House

Writer Tom Wolfe will have a lot more room in his home library, now that 1951 graduate of Washington and Lee is moving 190 boxes of his papers to the New York Public Library.

The library’s acquisition of “drafts, outlines and research materials for his four novels and 12 other books as well as his uncollected journalism” will enrich the work of scholars when the collection is ready for their explorations next year.

As one of the library officials told the New York Times in the article about the acquisition, the collection “will allow research not just into Wolfe as an innovator in style and methodology, but also into the things he did research into. He had access that people will never have again.”

The boxes making their way from home to library contain over 10,000 letters to correspondents such as William F. Buckley and Hunter S. Thompson.

“The archive also contains something that future writers will be producing less of,” says the article, “book drafts composed on a typewriter or by hand.”


Tailgates? There’s an App for That

Sharp-eyed readers of the New York Times may have recognized some familiar W&L names in a Nov. 8 story about websites and apps that help people plan tailgate parties. Caroline Hundley, mother of Hal Hundley, a football player and a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2014, is a satisfied customer of one of the websites—ourtailgate.com—which is the brainchild of Harry St. John, a member of the W&L Class of 2009.

It’s all in the name of efficiency, Harry told the paper and explains on the site (along with his brother, Kevin): “As former college athletes who participated in pre and post game tailgates, we watched parents agonize over these events week after week. We created a platform to allow organizers to easily set up events, invite participants and let them enter what and how much they are bringing. Everyone has exposure to what is needed and what is already accounted for by others.”

Caroline, who rounded up the whole W&L team for Harry’s website, is relieved that the handy tool slashed the number of e-mails she formerly received while organizing tailgates for the families of the team members. The Times reports that 100,000 users had signed up for the site; no doubt Harry, who is a business development manager at Dstillery, an advertising and marketing firm in New York City, has been busy adding more since the story ran.


Alumni Juggle Tech Companies

Two W&L alumni and their burgeoning business are the subject of a nice profile in the Nov. 25 edition of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat. Stephanie Leffler and husband Ryan Noble, both of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2000, co-founded Juggle.com, which serves as an umbrella for companies CrowdSource, RIOmedia and ClickableNames.com.

The piece describes how the couple first joined forces while they were students at W&L, forming an Internet services provider. They started Monster Commerce in 2002, sold it three years later, and founded Juggle.com in 2009. Ryan is the president of Juggle.com, while Stephanie is the CEO of CrowdSource.

And they are not the only W&L alumni on board: their classmate Dave Levinson is the CFO of Juggle.com.

Their headquarters in Swansea, Ill., must be a fun place to work. The reporter describes how visitors “walk past models of characters from Star Wars and into an office where the Simpsons sit and Spiderman hangs from the wall. Parked inside CrowdSource’s office is a bright purple and yellow race car with Juggle.com’s logo on it that the company sponsored in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Race in 2009.” The company also provides snacks, an exercise room, a pool table and a flat-screen TV for its employees’ enjoyment.

As Stephanie explained in the article, “If you build a space like this, it will just inspire people to come in and be more productive. . . . You could have the greatest software in the world, but if you don’t have a team of people who are not committed to helping you win, it’s very difficult to get what you need to be done.”


Internationally-Known Scholar James Moore to Speak on Darwin at W&L

Internationally noted scholar James Moore, professor of the History of Science at The Open University, will give a lecture on “Darwin’s ‘Sacred Cause’ ” at Washington and Lee University on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 4:30 p.m. in Leyburn Library’s Northen Auditorium.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

In a radical reassessment of Darwin’s achievement, Moore argues that “underpinning the Darwinian theory of human evolution was a belief in radial brotherhood rooted in the greatest moral movement of Darwin’s age, the abolition of slavery.”

Moore goes on to say that “for abolitionists, the human races were members of one family, with a common ancestry. Darwin extended the common descent image to the rest of life, making not just the races, but all races kin.”

Moore is the co-author of the best-selling biography “Darwin” (1991), and “Darwin’s Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins” (2009), hailed by the London Review of Books as the 2009 Darwin anniversary year’s “most substantial historical contribution.” Moore’s other books include “The Darwin Legend” (1994) and “The Post-Darwinian Controversies” (1979).

With degrees in science, divinity and history, and a Ph.D. from Manchester University, Moore has taught history of science at Cambridge University and the Open University in England. He has held visiting professorships at Harvard, Notre Dame and McMaster University in Canada and visiting fellowships at England’s Durham University and the Australian National University in Canberra.

Moore is a frequent contributor to the mass media, with numerous BBC television and radio documentaries and many interviews to his credit.

He has appeared in specials for The Learning Channel, the Arts and Entertainment Network, the All Japan Network, the U.S. Public Broadcasting System and Home Box Office.

In 2009, Moore participated in several international television documentaries about Darwin, including China Central Television’s seven-part series “Charles Darwin, Nature’s Son,” the first full-scale documentary treatment of a Western scientist by state television in the People’s Republic of China.

Moore is currently researching Darwin’s colleague, Alfred Russel Wallace.


W&L’s Sprenkle Selected to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Washington and Lee’s Sara Sprenkle, associate professor of computer science, is one of 60 people profiled to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Directorates from across the National Science Foundation were asked to nominate former GRFP recipients who best reflect the diversity and rich history of the program. Nominations ranged from junior high school teachers to Nobel laureates. The final 60 profiles were selected based on a range of criteria, including gender, race/ethnicity, field of study, geographic location of graduate institutions and current place of employment.

Sprenkle focuses her research on improving automated techniques to verify the correctness of Web applications. “While I enjoy my research and advancements I have made in the field,” said Sprenkle, “the most important broader impact is how undergraduate students can be involved in my research.”

Read Sprenkle’s profile on the the GRFP website.

W&L Anthropology Students Explore Thanksgiving Myths

One week before Americans sit down for their Thanksgiving dinner, anthropology and history students at Washington and Lee University tasted recipes from the original Thanksgiving dinner—well, except for the eels and hard cider.

The class had learned from Alison Bell, associate professor of archaeology at W&L, about how the myths of the first Thanksgiving evolved and how the 1621 celebration involved neither pumpkin pie nor stuffing nor perhaps even turkey. So this was their opportunity to literally taste what the Pilgrims ate, or at least the best approximation that J. Young, executive chef at W&L, could create.

Young made the dishes as historically accurate as possible. The final menu consisted of duck, game hen, venison, mussels, beans, peas, and parsnips.

“I chose the items I knew I could get easily,” said Young. “Also, I thought some people might cringe at the thought of eating eels or oysters, whereas it’s much easier to switch from turkey to duck. The meal presented no challenge from a culinary standpoint, because in those days they simply roasted or boiled their food. So I prepared it in a traditional manner, exactly as the Pilgrims would have done.”

When Bell first approached Young to collaborate on re-creating the original Thanksgiving dinner, Young was surprised and assumed that the menu would be more like today’s meal. “As we began talking, I became more interested as she told me why she wanted to do this and enlightened me on the myths surrounding the Pilgrims and that first celebration,” he said.

“I think it’s terrific that W&L’s executive chef was so willing and able to participate in this educational venture,” said Bell.

Bell designed the class, The Anthropology of American History, to use alternative and creative ways of hands-on learning about the past. Her goal was for students to gain a different perspective on history, and she saw Thanksgiving as the perfect opportunity to question what they thought they knew, to see the primary documents and then to taste the recipes.

Studying the records and letters from the time of the original Thanksgiving, the students learned that there was little correlation between what Americans ate in the 20th and 21st centuries and what the Plymouth settlers ate in 1621 with the local Wampanoag Indians.

For example, Pilgrim Edward Winslow’s letter about the Thanksgiving celebration mentions Governor William Bradford’s sending men “fowling,” which could have meant turkey, but was more likely to have been duck or goose because of their migration patterns and the Pilgrims’ location along the coast. “In the late 19th century, wild duck and geese were harder to come by than in the early 17th century, so domesticated turkey became the standard fare,” Bell explained. Other foods common in the Plymouth colony included eels, lobsters and oysters, as well as beer and cider.

According to Bell, the Victorians in the late 19th century romanticized the original Thanksgiving and created the myths surrounding it, even inventing decorative items for the Pilgrims’ headgear. “There’s no evidence in the 25 or 30 years of copious research that they had buckles on their hats, although some probably did have buckles on their shoes,” said Bell.

Another aspect of the myth was the Pilgrims’ supposedly drab, brown and white clothing; in truth, they often wore bright colors. Bell explained that the “grim pills,” as some in the 20th century called them, were pious, but they were not buttoned up, and a lot of their rule breaking and gaiety hasn’t made their way into our consciousness.

The stereotypes are persistent, including the log cabins and the tablecloth and chairs laid out for the feast. “Log cabins came much later,” said Bell. “Plymouth colonists would have lived in wooden houses made with vertical posts and wattle and daub rather than horizontal logs. They had few chairs, meaning that most people stood or sat on logs, chests or other make-shift seats. Also, because forks had not come into general use, they used spoons, knives and probably hands at the meal.

Another persistent image in popular pictures of the first Thanksgiving is that of just a few token Native Americans at the feast, whereas they outnumbered the Pilgrims by a ratio of approximately two to one.

Law Student Wins Writing Award for Paper on Wellness Programs and Healthcare Reform

Washington and Lee third-year law student David Knoespel placed second in the 2012-13 writing competition for law students sponsored by the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Law.

His paper is titled “Biometric Testing in Employer Wellness Programs and the Unanticipated Consequences of Healthcare Reform: Why Challenges Under the ADA Medical Examination Provision Reach the Merits After Seff v. Broward County.” Knoespel’s paper was one of 33 submissions evaluated by a distinguished panel of attorneys.

In the paper, Knoespel examines the rise of employer wellness initiatives, programs that seek to encourage healthy habits and identify chronic illness in order to help the employer control health care costs. Employees are often offered incentives to participate in these programs, and those programs and incentives are now regulated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The programs are also bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), especially its medical examination provision.

Knoespel argues that is likely such incentive programs, regardless of whether they are voluntary or include a financial reward, are in violation of the ADA. But thus far the courts have extended to wellness programs the same kind of “safe harbor” protections that allows insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The ACA includes several provisions that make the “health status underwriting” of this kind unlawful. Knoespel says this regulatory conflict will inevitably lead to discrimination claims by employees against employers who operate wellness programs, especially those that include biometric testing.

Knoespel’s paper is available online at the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers website. At W&L Law, Knoespel serves as the editor in chief of the Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice and works as a student attorney in the Black Lung Legal Clinic.

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Remembering the Kennedy Assassination

As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy, we thought we would rerun a blog from three years ago. It concerned James S. Legg Jr., of W&L’s Class of 1965, who wrote a letter to Jacqueline Kennedy three days after her husband’s death. In 2010, Jim’s letter was published in a book, “Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation.”

Read that blog for more about the book and about Jim’s heartfelt impulse to pen the letter.

And for current reflections on the event from two W&L historians, see our home page feature, “50 Years Later: Remembering the Kennedy Assassination.”


W&L Politics Professor on Change to Senate Filibuster Rule (video)

Professor Mark Rush comments on the change to the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate, why it was considered necessary and the political ramifications for the Senate. Rush is the Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University’s Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.

50 Years Later: Remembering the Kennedy Assassination

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, two W&L historians talk about the event from their very different perspectives. Ted DeLaney, associate professor of history, recalls his personal memories and feelings about the event. Andrew McGee, historian of the 20th century and a visiting instructor of history at W&L, talks about Kennedy’s legacy for subsequent generations.

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