Feature Stories Campus Events

Maya Angelou Remembered

Marc Conner, Jo M. and James Ballengee Professor of English and associate provost, discusses the work of the late poet Maya Angelou, her place in American literary history, and her 1999 visit to Washington and Lee.

W&L's Massie Discusses Separation of Church and State on WMRA's “Virginia Insight” Show

Ann Massie, professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, has long been fascinated by the phrase “the separation of church and state”—both by the history of the concept and its practice in American law.  Since a recent Supreme Court decision has added new urgency to the issue, she shared her scholarly findings on NPR affiliate WMRA’s “Virginia Insight” show on Thursday, May 29.

“Virginia Insight” hosted by Tom Graham, is a live call-in show, and can be found at 89.9 in Lexington, 90.7 in Harrisonburg and 103.5 in Charlottesville. The program is archived on the WMRA website.

Wheeler Wins Switchback Editors' Prize for Poem

Lesley Wheeler, the Henry S. Fox Professor of English, added another feather to her cap: the Editors’ Prize for “the most inspiring, jarring, outstanding, or just downright brilliant” submission from the journal Switchback, for her poem “Epistolary Art.”

Appropriately enough, Lesley sets the poem in a classroom: “Keats thought letters could manifest / the wilful and dramatic exercise / of our minds toward each other. / The professor delivering him to us / is inside her paper, gray-gold head / bent down. Scratch of nib on / stationery, ghost of a thin cold hand.”

Read all of “Epistolary Art,” which appears in the Spring 2014 issue, on the Switchback website.

You can find Switchback, a biannual publication of the M.F.A. in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco, online and as an e-book.

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W&L to Launch Construction of $13.5 Million Center for Global Learning

Construction of a new $13.5 million Center for Global Learning at Washington and Lee University has received final approval from the university’s board of trustees and is scheduled to begin the last week of May. Completion of the final phase of the center depends on completing the remaining $1.5 million of the fundraising goal.

The facility, connecting 8,600 renovated square feet of existing duPont Hall with 17,700 square-feet in a new building, will house classrooms, seminar rooms and instructional labs. It will feature an atrium, garden, courtyard and international tea shop to encourage student and faculty interaction and provide a venue for special events and exhibits.

In addition to learning and public spaces, the center will contain several language departments, offices for visiting international scholars and the Office of International Education.

Groundbreaking technologies planned for the center will connect Washington and Lee with other students and faculty around the world and at its university partners abroad.

The center will be the physical manifestation of the university’s strategic plan for international education, which reaches beyond the traditional study-abroad, internship and faculty research opportunities that already exist. Currently, almost half of the student body studies abroad or performs an international internship, research takes professors and students overseas, and students from 18 countries attend W&L.

Faculty development resources, funded by the continuing $500 million Honor Our Past, Build Our Future capital campaign, will encourage interdisciplinary approaches to global learning, foster cross-cultural knowledge, bring international scholars to campus to teach and conduct research, and integrate global learning into the education of all students.

W&L's Abah Wins Scripps Howard Foundation/AEJMC Grant

Adedayo (Dayo) Abah is one of six recipients of the 2014/15 social media externship grants awarded by the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

Abah is associate professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee University and teaches courses in media law, media and society, crisis communication and global communication. The grant will enable her to visit the advertising agency Zero Dot in Chicago for two weeks this summer to experience first-hand how media outlets are using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and Spotify to deliver and enhance their communications.

The grant will also fund the visit of a representative from Zero Dot to W&L’s campus.

According to a press release from the AEJMC, the selection process was very competitive this year with a panel of judges evaluating 43 applications from AEJMC members.  The panel scored applicants based on the value and need of the program to the applicant, the impact of the visit on the applicant’s campus and the strength of the ideas behind the application.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Professor Abah to keep her skills current in the rapidly changing communication fields,” said Pamela Luecke,  the Donald W. Reynolds professor of business journalism at W&L. “We are delighted that she was selected and know the experience will help ensure that our students are prepared to use the latest technology responsibly and effectively.”

“I didn’t think I would be selected, but I applied because I was intrigued by the opportunity and how it might impact the students in our new strategic communication degree program. I am excited at the prospect of having the executive of Zero Dot on campus to work with our students next year,” said Abah.

The Scripps Howard Foundation is the corporate philanthropy arm of the E.W. Scripps Company which operates newspaper and television stations throughout the United States. AEJMC is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals.

Two 2014 Graduates Commissioned as U.S. Army Officers

Two Washington and Lee University graduates capped their Commencement day by being commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

John Bruch of Baltimore, Md., and Christina Lowry of Lexington, Va., received their commissions and first salutes in a late afternoon ceremony at Lee Chapel on the university’s campus.

Bruch will be serve in aviation, while Lowry will be assigned to the Chemical Corps.

Tallman Claims National Title in 400m at NCAA Championship

Washington and Lee senior Zander Tallman came from behind in the final stretch to win the national title in the 400m on the final day of the NCAA Division III Track and Field National Championship hosted by Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday, May 24.

Running in lane five, Tallman trailed sophomore Joe Carr of SUNY Oneonta after making the final turn. In the last 100m, Tallman closed the gap, and overtook Carr in the final 10 meters to win the national championship with a new W&L record time of 47.19. His previous school record was 47.35 set on May 8 at the Dr. Keeler Invitational.

With the victory, Tallman secured the first individual national championship in Washington and Lee men’s track and field history, and became the first national champion in any sport for the Generals since Alex Sweet ’08 won the 50 meter title for the men’s swimming program in 2008.

Along with the individual title, Tallman received All-America honors for the second time this season. He placed third in the 400m at the NCAA Division III Indoor National Championship to earn the honor earlier this year.

Senior Kevin Sullivan (Sandwich, Mass./Tabor) also competed at the championship on Saturday in the javelin. He finished 13th overall with a toss of 57.73m (189’05.00″). First-year Mitchell Obenrader of Penn State-Behrend won the event with a mark of 67.01m (219’10.00″).

The Generals were tied for 25th place with 10 points after 19 scored events.

A Moderate's Manifesto

The following opinion piece by Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee, appeared in the May 22, 2014, edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and is reprinted here by permission.

A Moderate’s Manifesto
Robert A. Strong
William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics
Washington and Lee University

I confess. I am a political moderate. There are lots of us, but you wouldn’t know it from most of the political commentary you encounter.

We moderates don’t get much media attention. Of course, we usually don’t mind; we’re moderate.

I know that I am a moderate because I can’t stand to watch Fox News or MSNBC for more than a few minutes at a time. I can say “bipartisan” without gagging. I try not to let consistency get in the way of a good idea. I am willing to pay taxes to support necessary government activities, and I neither love, nor loathe, the president. Most of the time politicians and political parties ignore me. When election season rolls around, I get robocalls and funding requests from everyone.

I came by my moderation honestly. I grew up admiring politicians and presidents from both political parties. I joined neither. I enlisted in the military thinking that I was serving my country, not a portion of it. In the voting booth, I often split my ballot and, afterward, I don’t worry if the executive branch belongs to one party and the legislature to the other.

When I briefly worked on Capitol Hill as part of a program to give college teachers a little real-world congressional experience, I had temporary duties with a distinguished Democrat in the House of Representatives and a respected Republican senator.

Neither of my bosses was the least bit suspicious of my association with the other. They used my limited knowledge of American government and foreign affairs to help them make their own decisions and craft their own rhetoric. They never objected to hearing an odd or opposing point of view. They crossed aisles because getting something done was more important than having something to say. They were honest, hard-working and admirable legislators who no longer serve in the Congress. One retired; the other got tea-partied.

As a university teacher and observer of American foreign policy, I care deeply about our nation’s security and success overseas. I actually believe the old motto that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” But Washington, D.C., was built on a swamp, and no one in that city seems to know where the edge of the water is located.

I have written a book about a moderate Democratic president and am finishing one about a moderate Republican. Both tackled hard public policy problems, made compromises and were subjected to intense criticism from members of their own party. Both faced serious primary challenges when seeking re-election and failed to win a second term.

Being a moderate is hard.

You have more potential enemies than other politicians. If you stand firm to your moderate positions, you don’t get much credit for your courage. Writing and delivering an inspirational speech about moderation is a huge challenge. No one puts bumper stickers about compromises on their cars.

So what is a committed moderate to do?

Clearly, I want more people to give moderation a chance, or half a chance, which is usually enough for moderates. We may lack memorable slogans, but we generally cause less trouble than other people in the political arena, and we like to find ways to get things done. But before we can play a bigger role in the body politic, particularly in an age that has grown accustomed to hyper levels of partisanship, we will have to admit that our current lack of influence is partly our own fault. We need some reforms.

First, we have to have a more newsworthy name. Metaphors about the middle of the road, and all the jokes that accompany them, will no longer do. For many years, I called myself a “flaming moderate” in an effort to emphasize how extreme my moderation had become. More recently, I have come to call myself a “neo-moderate.” A neo-moderate has no strong ideological views but desperately wants to be fashionable.

Others should join the name game and find some catchy phrase for political sentiments that are neither conservative nor liberal, or a bit of both.

After we get a better name, we will need some institutional support. We should get together, rent space near DuPont Circle and open a moderate think tank. Suggestions about an institutional name are welcome.

Here are some possibilities:

  • The Center for Muddling Through
  • The Foundation for Old and Reliable Ideas
  • Heck, That’s About the Best We Can Do Center for Public Policy
  • The Committee for Things That Work

I have a long list of people who say they will support the new think tank and promise to make a contribution. To date, they have not given very much. They’re moderate.

Robert Strong is the William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University and currently serves as a Fulbright Scholar at University College Dublin. He was an APSA Congressional Fellow in the offices of Rep. Lee Hamilton and Sen. Richard Lugar and is currently writing a book about George H.W. Bush. Contact Strong at strongr@wlu.edu.

W&L Awards Two Global Learning Leadership Prizes

Washington and Lee University has awarded Global Learning Leadership Prizes to two seniors for 2014. The recipients are Johan (Manuel) Garcia Padilla, a native of Mexico from Mount Vermont, Wash., and a Spanish major with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean studies, and Johnson scholar Haley Smith, a double major in biology and environmental science, from Asheville, N.C.

“Both students won for their efforts to bring internationalism to campus:  participation in SAIL, heading up this year’s P4T (Planning for Tomorrow) seminar on global health issues and integrating their experiences abroad into their overall education over the four years,” said   Laurent Boetsch, professor of romance languages and director of the Center for International Education.

The Global Learning Leadership Prize is awarded annually by the Center for International Education to a student in the undergraduate senior class who has contributed the most to the cultivation of global learning on the W&L campus and who best exemplifies the University’s commitment that “(W&L) graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.”

The awards were presented at a reception in the Reeves Center on May 20, which also honored those seniors who have earned Certificates of International Immersion.

Washington and Lee Graduates 421 Students at 227th Commencement

Graduating seniors at Washington and Lee University today were asked to remember and practice the ability college life gave them to step back and see the world from a different perspective.

“I am not talking about idle contemplation, or clearing your mind, or escaping from the world around you,” university President Kenneth P. Ruscio said in his commencement address. “I’m talking about engaging the issues even more deeply, but with the widened or adjusted angles that come from stepping away from it.”

Ruscio told 421 members of the Class of 2014 that on many occasions, a work of literature helped him see the world differently.

“I remember how a work of fiction depicting another time, another place, helped me understand the world in which I lived,” he said. He recalled how reading Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” as a boy gave him insight into the moral debates, personal losses and divided nation of the Vietnam War era. “All the King’s Men” and “The Foreign Student” later produced similarly new perspectives.

Ruscio urged the graduates not to fall victim to the costs of “our hyper-connected, brave new Twitter-based, Instagram-fixated, cell phone-obsessed, Linked-In world.” He warned, “The ability to persuade through reason and evidence diminishes in direct proportion to the convenience of reading and seeing only what we want to.”

Read the full address >

Nathan Kelly, a politics and economics major from Edinboro, Pa., spoke on behalf of the student body as its president. He reminded fellow graduates that they have been “entrusted with tomorrow,” having learned honor, integrity and the knowledge that the generosity of others — donors, parents, family and friends — made their college educations possible.

Among Washington and Lee’s graduates were 20 who earned both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree. Altogether, the Class of 2014 earned degrees in 37 majors. A third of the class completed more than one major, and almost 30 percent of the class completed at least one minor. For the first time, two students each completed three majors and one minor. Thirty-four completed minors in poverty and human capability studies.

Jordan Taylor Kearns of Nicholasville, Ky., was named valedictorian. Kearns compiled a perfect 4.0 grade-point average while earning both a B.A. in politics and a B.S. in physics and engineering. He recently received a Fulbright fellowship to Estonia to pursue a research project entitled, “Improving Oil Shale Technology to Provide Energy Security to Estonia and The United States.” After a year abroad, Kearns will attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The university awarded honorary degrees to its retired provost, June R. Aprille, and literary scholar Christopher Pelling of University College, Oxford. In presenting the degrees, Provost Daniel Wubah cited Aprille as “one of the pivotal leaders of the university and architects of its current standing,” instrumental in moving W&L forward with its strategic plan, capital campaign, curricular reforms and faculty development. Wubah praised Pelling for opening modern minds to the glories of Greek and Roman civilizations, friendship to Washington and Lee University across the years, extraordinary scholarship, and service as a tutor and teacher at Oxford.

The late Kelsey Durkin, a senior from New Canaan, Conn., who died in an automobile accident last December, was awarded Washington and Lee’s Presidential Degree.