Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L Biology Professor Receives VFIC Grant

Natalia Toporikova, assistant professor of biology at Washington and Lee, has received a $2,000 grant from the Mednick Fellowship Committee of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) for her project “Role of Time-of-Day Signals in Hormonal Surges of Female Rats.”

“Shift work has a significant effect on reproductive health,” said Toporikova of her research. “Women working both day and night shifts have a 33 percent higher risk of menstrual problems and 80 percent higher risk of fertility problems. In this study, we manipulate the light-dark schedule in female rats to understand how the light affects ovulation and pregnancy initiation.”

Toporikova uses methods of computational modeling to study a wide range of biological systems. Other recent projects include neural control of breathing and signal detection by electric fish. See this recent article about work she and a W&L class did on the effect of biological clocks and rhythms on college students.

“Among the Washington and Lee assistant professors conducting summer research in 2014, her project stood out for its relevance to priorities in contemporary science, including understanding infertility,” said Suzanne Keen, dean of the College “We are proud of Natalia’s contributions to her home department of biology as well as to offerings in mathematics. Her interdisciplinary teaching and research exemplifies Washington and Lee’s teacher-scholar model.”

Toporikova holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University and at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The Maurice L. Mednick Memorial was created in 1967 in honor of a young Norfolk industrialist who died from accidental causes. His family and business associates wished to perpetuate his name by establishing a memorial that would emphasize his and the donors’ strong interest in higher education.

The Mednick Memorial Fund is administered by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC). It exists to encourage the professional development of college teachers and improve their academic competence through fellowships for research and advanced study. A committee of VFIC business trustees and college presidents oversees the selection of research proposals for funding.

The VFIC advances the distinctive values and strengths of its 15 member colleges by securing financial support from the private sector, increasing visibility, facilitating innovative and collaborative initiatives between the colleges, and supporting initiatives that ensure that this personalized educational experience remains an affordable choice for tomorrow’s citizen-leaders.

Washington and Lee Announces June Community Grants

Washington and Lee University’s Community Grants Committee has made 8 grants totaling $25,500 to non-profit organizations in Lexington and Rockbridge County. They are the second part of its two rounds of grants for 2013-14.

The committee chose the grants from 19 proposals requesting more than $96,000.

W&L awarded grants to the following organizations:

  • CASA for Children – for the training, supervision and support of CASA volunteers specifically serving child victims in Lexington, Buena Vista and Rockbridge County;
  • Concerned Citizens of Glasgow, Inc. – to assist with the purchase of a new water heater and upgraded plumbing;
  • Lexington Police Department Foundation – to assist with the funding of the Brushy Hill firearms training facility;
  • Main Street Lexington – towards funding of the downtown Lexington bike racks;
  • Parry McCluer High School Girls’ Basketball Program – to assist with the purchase of new warm up tops or equipment;
  • Rockbridge Area Health Center – towards the dental care program for underserved children in the Rockbridge area;
  • Rockbridge Area Hospice – to support the RAH Connections program;
  • Rockbridge County Public Schools Foundation – to assist with the funding for the purchase of iPads for the Maury River Middle School English Department.

Established in 2008, W&L’s Community Grants Committee evaluates requests for financial donations and support from Lexington and Rockbridge County. While the University has long provided financial and other assistance to worthwhile projects and organizations in the community on a case-by-case basis, the Community Grants Program formalizes W&L’s role in supporting regional organizations and activities through accessible grant-making.

During its 2013-14 cycle, the Community Grants Committee awarded $50,000. Proposals may be submitted at any time, but they are reviewed only semiannually, at the end of the calendar year and at the end of the fiscal year. The submission deadline for the two rounds of evaluations for 2014-15 will be: by the end of the work day (4:30 p.m.) on Friday, November 7, 2014, and Friday, April 17, 2015. Interested parties may download the proposal guidelines at http://go.wlu.edu/communitygrants.

Proposals should be submitted as electronic attachments (Word or PDF) via e-mail to kbrinkley@wlu.edu. Please call (540) 458-8417 with questions. If an electronic submission is not possible, materials may be faxed to (540) 458-8745 or mailed to Washington and Lee University Community Grants Committee, Attn: James D. Farrar, Jr., Office of the Secretary, 204 W. Washington St., Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-2116.


W&L Law Building Renovation to Commence Summer 2014

Sydney Lewis Hall, the home of Washington and Lee University School of Law since 1976, will undergo a dramatic renovation beginning this summer.

The project will result in more flexible space for student collaboration and study, new homes for four of the School’s legal clinics, and an improved entry sequence and navigation for the building. Associate Dean Sam Calhoun, chair of the School’s building committee, said that the goals of the renovation became clear during the most recent year-long space study.

“We’ve known for a long time that Lewis Hall can be confusing to enter and navigate for visitors,” said Calhoun. “What became clear during the space study is that students really wanted more flexible space for study and group work consistent with the demands of our curriculum and their changing work habits.”

The current plans call for the creation of more spaces for public and private group work, including group study rooms, small seminar rooms, and an additional reading room in the library. The addition of numerous exterior windows will allow more natural light into the building, especially on the lower floors. Some of the law school’s student organizations, including the Student Bar Association and The Law News will move to new spaces.

The renovation also includes a new and more obvious entry to the building on the ground floor near the visitor parking spaces and a new stairwell accessible from the main lobby that directly connects the second, third, and fourth floors. Together, these modifications will dramatically change the entry sequence to and circulation within the building.

The space required for the renovation will come from moving nearly 10,000 linear feet of library books to compact shelving. In addition, nearly half of the law student carrels will be removed. All first-year law students will still be assigned a dedicated carrel, and about half of the third-year class will have dedicated space through participation in a clinic or on a journal. The remainder of the students will have access to over 200 spaces of various sorts for study on an as-needed basis, along with a locker for storing personal items.

Originally slated to cost $10 million, Law School officials and University administration decided to scale back the renovation to a projected $8 million to meet the most critical needs. Phase 1 of the project will be completed this summer at a cost of $2.4 million. The cost and specific components of Phase 2, scheduled for next summer, are subject to final approval from the Board of Trustees. The project is not funded through tuition and fees. Instead, a combination of donations from alumni and friends and matching funds from the University will cover the renovation cost.

“Our alumni know that these renovations are long overdue,” said Dean Nora Demleitner. “We want to be fiscally responsible, however, to allow for enhanced scholarship support.”

Alumni wishing to purchase a carrel displaced by the renovation should contact Elizabeth Outland Branner, Director of Law Advancement, at brannere@wlu.edu or 540-458-8191.

W&L Professors Lead Ellison Seminar at the Library of Congress

The historic Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, in Washington, contains three named rooms: one for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, one for President Woodrow Wilson and one for Ralph Ellison, author of the 1952 novel “Invisible Man” and the first African-American writer to win the National Book Award. In the Ellison Reading Room on May 22, W&L professors Marc Conner and Lucas Morel led the library’s second Ralph Ellison Seminar for an international cohort of Ellison experts talking about the importance of his writing to 21st-century America.

“The Ellison Reading Room is such a special place,” explained Conner, the Jo M. and James Ballengee Professor of English and associate provost. “Ellison’s own books line the shelves—his copies of all the classics that he read and learned from. To talk about Ellison’s work in that setting is so powerful.”

“Ellison’s commentary on American society and politics, whether in fiction or critical essays, remains a gold mine of insight into the possibilities and pitfalls of American democracy,” said Morel, professor of politics and the Class of 1960 Professor of Ethics. “Gathering scholars from various academic fields to discuss Ellison in the nation’s capital couldn’t be more fitting.”

In recent years, Washington and Lee has emerged as a leader in the study of Ellison, who spoke on campus in Lee Chapel in 1963. In 2002, Conner and Morel hosted a national symposium marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Invisible Man.” Morel, who is also a nationally recognized Lincoln scholar, edited the essays from that event into his book “Raft of Hope: A Political Companion to ‘Invisible Man’.” In 2012, they organized another symposium, “The New Territory: Ralph Ellison and the 21st Century.” That gathering comprised the first Ellison Seminar at the Library of Congress and a two-day event at W&L, including presentations by six W&L students who had studied Ellison’s work in Conner’s African-American literature course. Conner and Morel also have co-edited a book of essays that emerged from the 2012 symposium; the manuscript is under consideration at the University Press of Mississippi.

Although working in different disciplines, Morel and Conner have found significant overlap in their studies of Ellison. “Lucas and I complement each other’s work so well,” said Conner. “He brings this great political perspective to Ellison’s work. I approach his work from a more literary point of view. But Ellison was as much an essayist as a novelist, as insightful a commentator about American politics and culture as anyone in our tradition. So between the two of us, we bring a great range of approaches to Ellison’s work.”

In 2007, Conner and Morel helped found the African-American Studies Program at W&L (now the Africana Studies Program), and each has taught courses on Ellison’s work over the years. In 2011, Conner helped found the Ralph Ellison Society, an international group of scholars working on Ellison’s writing. He organized and chaired two panels about Ellison at the 2014 American Literature Association Conference, which followed the Ellison Seminar in May. He also is co-editing Ellison’s selected letters, along with John Callahan, Ellison’s literary executor.

Callahan, who helped Ellison’s widow, Fanny, establish the Ellison Reading Room after her husband died in 1994, is enthusiastic about the work going on there. “Conner and Morel have made one of Ellison’s wildest dreams come true,” he said. “The work they’re leading is literally fulfilling Ellison’s dream of democratic equality and American fraternity. They have my gratitude and that of the Ellison Trust.”

Washington and Lee Recognizes Retirees

Washington and Lee University recognized three retiring members of the University’s faculty during commencement exercises. Eight retiring members of W&L’s staff were recognized during the Employee Recognition Banquet in April.

The 11 faculty and staff are Dymph Alexander, administrative assistant, music, 1989-2014; Bill Becker, co-director, University Store, 2003-2013; Maureen Becker, co-director, University Store, 2003-2013; Harlan Beckley, Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion, founding director of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability; Diane Cochran, administrative assistant, law school faculty services, 1996-2014; Wayne Conner, lead custodian, Leyburn Library, 1969-2014; Virginia Cropper, administrative assistant, Career Development, 2004-2014; Ann Massie, professor of law, 1984-2014; Greta McCaughrin, instructor of Russian, 1984-2014; Chris Miller, assistant director, Financial Aid, 2003-2013; and Tony Stinnett (deceased), sergeant, shift supervisor, Public Safety, 1993-2013.


Williams School Announces Three Term Professorships

Washington and Lee University’s Williams School announces the appointment of three term professorships. Each professorship extends for three years and goes into effect July 1, 2014. Term professorships are given to mid-career faculty members who are exceptional teacher-scholars.

Grigsby Term Professorship

Associate Professor of Politics Tyler Dickovick has worked at Washington and Lee since 2004. He conducts research on African and Latin American politics, with a focus on decentralization, federalism and local governance. He is the author of Decentralization and Recentralization in the Developing World: Comparative Studies from Africa and Latin America and is the co-author of a textbook, Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods and Cases, with Washington and Lee sociology professor Jonathan Eastwood. He frequently serves as an advisor to government organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

Dickovick teaches classes on international development, global politics, international political economy, Latin American politics, comparative political analysis and African politics. He has also led spring term courses to Senegal and Ghana. Dickovick earned his Ph.D. in public affairs from Princeton University.

Cannan Term Professorship

Associate Professor of Politics Rebecca Harris joined the University in 2005 and quickly established herself as a leading scholar working at the intersection of public policy and science. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has a book, Black Robes, White Coats: The Puzzle of Judicial Policymaking and Scientific Evidence. Her article, “Gatekeeping,” appeared in the book, Leadership in Science and Technology.

Harris teaches applied American politics courses, which include American national government, public policy, law and judicial process and environmental policy. Spring term courses include offerings in biopolicy, food policy and disaster policy. She also advises the Washington and Lee Political Review.

Lawrence Term Professorship

Associate Professor of Accounting Stephan Fafatas came to work at Washington and Lee in 2006. He earned his Ph.D. in accounting at the University of Colorado after working as a CPA at a large public accounting firm in Houston, Texas. Fafatas has spent his research career studying issues primarily related to earnings quality and auditor reputation. In recent work, he has looked at the relationship between measures of ethical citizenship and corporate financial reporting quality, as well as the determinants of voluntary environmental disclosures. His scholarship targets a variety of stakeholders as businesses struggle to develop and maintain transparent and accurate financial reporting systems.

Fafatas currently teaches introductory financial accounting, financial statement analysis, and a newly developed spring term class on accounting history. His prior teaching experience also includes auditing and a study abroad course in Nicaragua.

Water Filtration Systems Built for Two Elementary Schools in Guatemala by W&L’s Chapter of Engineers Without Borders

Members of W&L’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) recently traveled to Guatemala to build much needed water filters for elementary schools.

Working through a non-government organization (NGO) Pueblo a Pueblo, they built two bio-sand water filtration systems for nearby pueblo elementary schools in Panabaj and La Cumbre.

Two individuals from W&L’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) club and two professional engineers from Wiley-Wilson in Lynchburg, Va., supported the group with translation and engineering services.

After combining with Pueblo a Pueblo (PaP), the EWB spent several months preparing for their on-site work by making prototypes in the Howe Annex workshop. The main design objective was to develop a more sustainable method for building the form into which the concrete would be poured, using primarily lumber.

The bio-sand filter system consists of a concrete basin to hold a sand column which removes bacteria by various physical and organic processes. This more sustainable solution is easier to transport, less expensive, easier to construct and reusable multiple times.

The region around the schools is made of steep mountains and volcanoes, thus highly prone to devastating mud slides. A massive slide triggered by Hurricane Stan in 2005 killed about 2,000 area residents, burying them alive. Poverty is rampant and visible as well.

By partnering with PaP, the EWB team lived like the area residents for the most part. The accommodations consisted of a small house with two floors connected by very steep steps. Rooms are small, cramped and overcrowded and bathroom facilities conjoin toilet water and shower water in the drain. Beds are scattered on the floor haphazardly and 6-8 students shared a single room.

When in Guatemala, the club procured materials it needed for the project from local sources recommended by the NGO liaison.

Untreated water filters through several layers of rock, fine sand and coarse aggregate. Sand and aggregate must first be washed repeatedly until runoff is clear. The large aggregate must be bleached.

“Our days were pretty long with breakfast at about 6 a.m. and getting everyone ready for the day. We worked until sundown at about 7 p.m. So, we didn’t do much for entertainment but relax, make plans for the next day and rehash comical moments from the past 24 hours…and play Jenga,” said Professor Jon Erickson, the faculty liaison of EWB.

The project was turned over to an NGO in-country liaison, whose task was to monitor the system over the next 30 days while the filter built up a bio-layer that keeps out harmful bacteria but allows harmless bacteria to run through.

If all works out as planned, the 250 students at each of the two schools will be able to regularly drink clean water.

W&L Welcomes ODK's Convention, Centennial Celebration June 11-15

Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society founded at Washington and Lee in 1914, returns home to Lexington June 11-15 for its 48th Biennial Convention and Centennial Celebration.

A highlight of the four days of leadership training, guest speakers, business sessions and fun activities will be the official dedication of ODK’s national headquarters building in Lexington’s former train station, on June 14 at 11 a.m.

W&L was instrumental in persuading the national organization to establish a headquarters at the building; it sold it to ODK and held the mortgage. Five years later, Washington and Lee donors to ODK have been joined by other supporters in raising the funds to pay off the debt. The last payment will be made at the dedication.

ODK had no permanent headquarters before settling in Lexington.

“As the founding university of ODK, Washington and Lee is proud to have the national leadership honor society make its headquarters back home in Lexington,” said W&L President Ken Ruscio, a former national president of ODK.

For the complete schedule of the ODK National Convention, visit www.odk100.org/schedule-of-events.html.


Four W&L Players Named to Division III All-America Teams

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) released its Division III men’s and women’s tennis All-America teams recently and Washington and Lee placed two athletes on both the men’s and women’s lists.

Juniors Sonja Meighan and Patricia Kirkland were both represented on the women’s All-America team, while junior Taylor Shamshiri and sophomore Michael Holt both received All-America honors for the men.

Meighan and Kirkland’s selections give W&L at least one women’s All-America honoree each year since 1993.  A total of 23 players have earned 73 All-America citations over the years. The W&L men have seen 18 players honored a total of 51 times since 1977.


W&L Law's Russ Miller Testifies on NSA Affair for German Parliament

Washington and Lee law professor Russell Miller testified this month before a German Parliamentary committee investigating the so-called “NSA Affair.”

The Special Committee of Inquiry was convened in the wake of revelations by NSA contractor Edward Snowden showing that for many years the U.S. has been pursuing massive intelligence gathering operations in Germany, including the collection of Germans’ telecommunications data and content. It was also revealed that the U.S. had been monitoring the German Chancellor’s personal cell-phone.

Miller is an expert in U.S. and German Constitutional Law. In 2009 he published the book “U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy,” which explores the U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Committee investigation of American intelligence activities in the war on terror.

Miller notes that many Germans are outraged by the recent revelations.

“Germans place a high priority on privacy, and the NSA intelligence gathering is viewed as a betrayal by the U.S., who Germans see as an ally and partner,” says Miller.

Miller was called as an expert to provide the Committee with an understanding of the relevant American law and also to draw on his expertise in German law to offer comparative insight into how – and why – the two countries differ so dramatically on the question of how to balance security and liberty.

Aided by rising second year law student Steve Chovanec, Miller submitted a fifty page report in advance of his appearance. The report sought to answer a sweeping range of formal questions from the committee, including what provisions of law exist in the U.S. authorizing the collection, retention and distribution of telecommunications data and content.

During his testimony, Miller underscored that the issue of national security has typically been a political rather than a judicial matter in the U.S. and that any calls for legally or judicially enforced responses to these issues will sound foreign to Americans. He answered numerous detailed and often provocative questions from the Committee, including how the U.S. would respond to the discovery that the German intelligence services had been collecting and distributing communications data collected from American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I was honored to be able to make a modest contribution to the work of the Committee,” Miller says, “I value and still believe in the German-American partnership, and I’ll be pleased if my testimony gave the committee members a slightly better understanding of the legal, as well as social and cultural, differences that frame these issues in our two countries.”

The Special Committee is planning to take fact testimony from Edward Snowden in Moscow. Miller and Snowden are likely to be the only Americans to appear before the committee.

Related Links

Der Spiegel International Online Coverage (in English)

Video of Special Committee Hearing (in German)

Washington and Lee University Recognized for Fundraising Performance

Washington and Lee University has earned the CASE Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Performance for 2014, the highest and most prestigious recognition offered to a fundraising program by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). It is the fifth time in the last decade that W&L has received the award, which recognizes exemplary development programs at CASE member institutions. This year, W&L was one of 37 institutions to receive the recognition among research/doctoral institutions, comprehensive universities and liberal arts colleges.

The recognition is based on the judges’ analysis of data submitted each year to the Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey. The CASE Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Performance is based on data for the past three fiscal years. For 2014, 1,010 higher education institutions participated in the survey. The selection of the 37 winners for Overall Performance is based on several factors, including the pattern of growth in total support; evaluation of contributing factors to the total growth; overall breadth in program areas; pattern of growth in each program area; pattern of donor growth among alumni and other individual donors; impact of the 12 largest gifts on total support; total support in relation to the alumni base; and the type of institution.

W&L joins just five other institutions—Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Claremont McKenna College, Davidson College and Hillsdale College—as a winner in the category of Liberal Arts Colleges with Endowments Over $100 Million.

“I was delighted to hear that Washington and Lee had received such recognition for 2014,” said Dennis Cross, vice president for University advancement at W&L. “We are fortunate to work with hundreds of volunteers, administrative leaders, trustees and thousands of alumni, parents, friends and foundations who make the philanthropy program at W&L successful and who support the University’s educational mission so generously.”


Administrative Conference of the United States Adopts Recommendations Based on FOIA Study by W&L Law’s Mark Grunewald

At its Plenary Session in Washington, D.C., on June 5, 2014, the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) adopted a set of recommendations concerning Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dispute resolution based upon a study conducted for ACUS by Washington and Lee law professor Mark H. Grunewald.

In 2013, over 700,000 FOIA requests were filed with Executive Branch agencies by individuals and organizations seeking government information. These requests cost the government more than $400 million in processing costs and an additional $27 million in litigation costs related to the requests. Grunewald’s study was commissioned by the ACUS to determine how dispute resolution might be better implemented to help reduce these costs and improve the FOIA request process.

Grunewald’s study analyzes a wide range of data related to federal agency processing of FOIA requests and federal court review of agency FOIA decisions. It also synthesizes the results of numerous interviews with FOIA experts and examines comparative approaches to FOIA dispute resolution. His study and the ACUS recommendations address particularly the role of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) and the role of agency Chief FOIA Officers and Public Liaisons created by the OPEN Government Act of 2007 to assist in the resolution of disputes arising under FOIA.

Grunewald’s recommendations suggest ways that OGIS can maximize the effectiveness of its resources to help requesters and agencies resolve FOIA disputes through the use of mediation and other alternatives to litigation. The recommendations also suggest steps that agencies can take to prevent or resolve FOIA disputes, including making FOIA staff and requesters aware of OGIS services and engaging with OGIS and requesters to aid in the resolution of requests.

ACUS is an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures. The Act which created ACUS emphasizes collaboration among a wide array of federal agencies as well as experts in administrative law and government from the private sector and academia, reflecting a wide diversity of views – all of whom serve without any additional compensation. This collaborative effort is designed to identify consensus recommendations for improvement in the administrative process that affects every sector of the National economy and the lives of American citizens.

Grunewald, who holds the James P. Morefield chair at W&L Law, is an expert in administrative and labor and employment law. He has served three times previously as a research consultant for the ACUS, in 1987 for Statement 12, “Statement on Resolution of Freedom of Information Act Disputes,” in 1991 for Recommendation 91-5, “Facilitating the Use of Rulemaking by the National Labor Relations Board,” and in 1995 for Recommendation 95-6, “ADR Confidentiality and the Freedom of Information Act.”

W&L Students and Alumni to Perform Aerial Dances in New York City June 12

On June 12, in New York City, student members of Washington and Lee University’s Repertory Dance Company will join W&L dance alumni to perform two aerial dances at the Ailey Citigroup Theatre, a state-of-the-art performance space. The show is at 7:30 p.m., and a reception will follow.

“This is an amazing opportunity for a collaborative experience,” said Jenefer Davies, associate professor of dance, director of the dance program and artistic director of the company. “It is an opportunity to pass down choreography across six class years and introduce our newest dance students to our seasoned dance alums. It’s every dancer’s dream to perform on the Ailey Theater stage and we are honored by the invitation.”

In addition to two aerial dances choreographed by Dana Fredericks, W&L Class of 2012, the performance will feature three modern dance works choreographed by Davies and two dances choreographed by guest artists.

The performance will feature rising senior Lisa Stoiser, rising sophomore Elliot Emadian and rising senior Jillian Katterhagen, plus alumni Stephanie Brown (Class of 2011), David Doobin (2011), Dana Fredericks (2012), Tory Dickerson (2012), Jennifer Ritter (2013), Erin Sullivan (2013), Kelsey Witherspoon (2014) and Southern Virginia University alumnus Chanson Hardy.

Rehearsals for the concert took place in Lexington and in Manhattan throughout the winter and spring terms. Tom Lovell, associate director of alumni affairs at W&L, organized the event with New York City Alumni Chair Daniel Grattan (Class of 2000) and Josh Bareno (2013). Owen Collins, associate professor of theater at W&L, designed the lighting and sound, and Jessica Miller, costumer at W&L’s Lenfest Center for the Arts, created the costumes.

Tickets are available online. Alumni from the Classes of 2009 to 2014 may purchase discounted tickets.

New Book by W&L's Keen Reveals Thomas Hardy’s Knowledge and Use of Psychology

Suzanne Keen, the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English and dean of the College at Washington and Lee University, has published a new scholarly book: “Thomas Hardy’s Brains: Psychology, Neurology, and Hardy’s Imagination,” part of the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative series (Ohio State University Press, 2014). It is available as both a hardcover book and on a disc.

In the book, Keen examines Thomas Hardy’s knowledge of the psychology and neurology of his own time and observes the changing imagery of brain and nerves he employed in more than half a century of writing. “For readers who are familiar with Hardy, I recover a sense of what 19thcentury psychology before Freud was actually like,” said Keen. “I show that Thomas Hardy’s representations of brains were conceived in light of Victorian brain science and his imagery of nerves depicted in keeping with Victorian medical neurology. So it’s about the psychology that was there for Hardy himself as opposed to the psychology that 20th and 21st century critics see when they look back through the lens of what we now know about human behavior and anatomy.”

Describing Keen’s work as “brilliant and original,” one reviewer notes that “as far as I know no other book approaches Hardy from just this angle and with just this degree of authoritative knowledge of the topic. It is certain to have wide influence and to change the way readers, teachers and scholars read Hardy’s work.”

While Hardy and Freud co-existed in the world, according to Keen there is no evidence that they ever met and Hardy would not have been familiar with Freud’s work. “Sometimes Hardy’s psychology feels Freudian, as if he’s anticipating things about Freud’s work, but it really is drawing on what was a lively field of psychology and philosophy during the period he was writing,” Keen said. “It was very much in the popular magazines and would have been the subject of discussion at the men’s clubs Hardy belonged to. It was certainly represented in reference works like the Encyclopedia Britannica and was very much a part of learned culture. Hardy was a serious student of the psychology of human behavior, which he started reading in his early 20s.”

Although there are many books that examine Hardy’s Darwinism, his interest in astronomy, archeology, philosophy and science in general, his knowledge and use of psychology in his fiction has not been treated in depth. Keen’s book is completely different and looks at the lines of influence from what Hardy read and how it affected the way he imagined his characters and chose narrative techniques.

She also had access to Hardy’s elaborate reading notes that showed what he knew about psychology and, to some degree, philosophy of science when he was thinking about and writing his fiction. Those notebooks survived because his second wife did not burn them after his death as Hardy had requested and, along with his published works, show he was a psychologically-informed writer.

When Hardy was a young man psychology hadn’t really developed. For example, early in his career the idea of reading bumps on people’s head (phrenology) to interpret their personality and character was popular.

In “Under the Greenwood Tree,” Hardy makes fun of phrenology as a pseudo-science by having his characters look at lasts—shapes used to make a shoe—to read the characters of people they already know, and implies that these characters are really reading other kinds of social cues. Keen pointed out that Hardy had his skull read as a young man by a quack phrenologist who dismissed him and said he would come to nothing, probably reacting to Hardy not having a high-class accent and being a little shabby.

Hardy also rarely used the common19th century technique of “free and direct discourse,” to represent the thoughts and feelings of characters, which separated him from most of his fellow Victorian novelists. While he used a lot of dialog, he was very fond of telling the reader what his character was not thinking and what he or she was not aware of. “I think that’s very much influenced by his reading of psychology, because he felt that people were driven much more by unconscious impulses. It’s not a Freudian unconscious, it’s just humans not being conscious of why they do things and always acting on impulses they couldn’t possibly explain because they don’t understand them,” said Keen.

Keen said that sometimes the tragedy in Hardy’s novels is hooked to that impulsive action and “when I read ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ I want to say ‘Don’t do it!’ to Tess’ character when she feels compelled to tell Angel Clare that she is not a virgin and bore a child as the result of a seduction. He has a terrible double standard response and dumps her, although he realizes the error of his ways at the end.”

According to Keen, there are a lot of clues scattered throughout Hardy’s work that he was alert to psychology.

In “The Woodlanders,” for example, Dr. Fitzpiers is a psychologist who is always lusting after people’s heads because he wants to put them under a microscope to do brain anatomy. “What’s funny is that Hardy represents this character as an absolutely untrustworthy man on the make,” said Keen. “He’s a terrible person and there’s nothing admirable about the psychology he is practicing in the story.”

From the 1870s to the turn of the 20th century, the tools and techniques for studying the structures and function of the nervous system developed rapidly and Hardy moved steadily toward realizing a more physiologically-accurate rendering of brains and nerves.

This is illustrated in his epic poem “The Dynasts” about the Napoleonic Wars, which he wrote at the end of his career in the early 20th century. It is full of passages where the universe and the cosmic will that fills it are represented by flashing electrical impulses of neurons. “It’s clear that Hardy was taking what was then a quite up-to-date sense of synapses and neurons and imaging the universe as this giant cosmic brain pulsing with energy that pushes people around as unconscious agents who don’t understand why they do certain things,” said Keen.

“I’ve been reading Hardy’s work since I was about 16 years old and I’ve not gotten tired of him yet,” she continued. “I really love both his poetry and his fiction and, while I am a Hardy scholar, what I’ve done most with Hardy is to teach undergraduates about his work.”

Keen is a narrative theorist and an internationally-recognized authority on literary empathy. She holds an A.B. in English literature and studio art, an A.M. in creative writing from Brown University and an A.M. and Ph.D. in English language and literature from Harvard University.

Her books include “Empathy and the Novel” (Oxford, 2007), “Narrative Form” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), “Romances of the Archive in Contemporary British Fiction” (Toronto, 2001), “Victorian Renovations of the Novel” (Cambridge, 1998) and a volume of poetry, “Milk Glass Mermaid” (Lewis-Clark, 2007).

She is U.S. co-editor of Contemporary Women’s Writing (an Oxford University Press journal) and teaches the novel in English, postcolonial Anglophone literature and contemporary British fiction.

W&L 2014 Graduate Jordan Kearns Receives Fulbright Research Grant to Estonia

Washington and Lee University 2014 graduate Jordan Kearns of Nicholasville, Ky., has received a Fulbright research grant to Estonia. His project is “Improving Oil Shale Technology to Provide Energy Security to Estonia and the United States.”

“My project is to work in a research lab devoted to the study of a fringe energy resource used in Estonia, oil shale. It is entirely different from the shale oil most of us in the United States are familiar with,” Kearns said. “Outside of the lab, I will be researching the wider implications of the use of oil shale in terms of energy security for the country.

“My hope is to better understand this culture while working to advance the technology that will preserve this country’s pristine environment and help to keep the nation secure.

“The path to America’s next energy boom is through Estonia which has paved the path for other countries possessing oil shale reserves. The United States, the country with the densest and most expansive reserves of oil shale, is in an exceptional position to learn from and to follow the Estonian example.”

Kearns will conduct his research with Dr. Tõnu Pihu, the lead research scientist for the oil shale laboratory of Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), and Estonian graduate students. His research there will focus on combustion of oil shale for electricity generation, specifically the combustion of oil shale in mixtures with other fuels and in oxygen-enriched environments to reduce the output of harmful byproducts and improve the efficiency in which organic matter is converted into electricity.

Kearns added that as well as his lab work and classes in thermodynamics, “I will examine the current political climate surrounding the use of oil shale in Estonia. Through independent research and interviews with experts and laypeople, I plan to examine how oil shale is affected by European Union regulation, what people in Estonia think about oil shale and how future technological advances could affect energy security in the region.”

“Jordan’s Fulbright research brings together his sincere interests in energy engineering, public policy and the Russian language,” said Joel Kuehner, associate professor of physics and engineering. “While many who are interested in energy security are looking into the distant future to truly renewable resources, Jordan has identified a crucial need to bridge the gap between traditional and renewable resources. He will be immersed in the world’s leading research group investigating clean oil shale technology and in an area of the world where energy security has recently become the focus of front page news.

“I have worked with few students with such clear promise who hold such clarity for their life’s work. Though Jordan always thinks I am joking, I believe we have a future Secretary of Energy in our midst. His combination of vision and pragmatism will have a notable impact on energy policy in the future, and his work in Estonia is the first step along that path.”

Kearns is a graduate of West Jessamine High School in Nicholasville. At W&L, he was the valedictorian of his graduating class, a Johnson Scholar, head resident advisor of upper division students, editor of the Washington and Lee Political Review, an honor advocate and was awarded the John Warner Public Service Award, James D. Davidson Memorial Fund Scholarship and James McDowell Scholarship.

Kearns belonged to Phi Beta Kappa, the Outing Club, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Generals’ Christian Fellowship and acted in Russian language plays. He was a campaign volunteer for Sen. Richard Lugar’s primary campaign, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the office of Sen. Rand Paul during the Spring Term and summer of 2012.

After completing his Fulbright, Kearns will pursue his graduate studies at MIT.

“It seems altogether fitting that Jordan Kearns has topped off his remarkably successful four year career at W&L by winning a Fulbright research grant to Estonia,” said Professor Bill Connelly, John K. Boardman Professor of Politics. “As a double major in politics and engineering, Jordan neatly combined his two interests into a stellar academic career and now he has a chance to continue combining his interests in engineering and politics in Estonia. Jordan has a very bright future. Perhaps, if we are fortunate enough, Jordan will combine those interests again someday by running for public office.”

W&L Trustees Authorize Preliminary Architectural Design of New Apartment-Style Residences on Campus for Upper-Division Students

Washington and Lee University’s board of trustees has authorized preliminary architectural design of new apartment-style residences that would house approximately 320 upper-division students, enabling the university to implement a requirement that all students live on campus during their first three years of college.

The board, at its spring meeting, directed the university’s facilities staff to develop plans to construct the buildings on and around field space currently used for athletic practice in the west end of the campus, formally known as Alumni Field and Fuge Field. The area is above and west of Wilson Field and will be adjacent to the new natatorium.

The designs are to be presented for the board’s consideration at its fall meeting in October, when it could authorize construction to begin. The university anticipates financing the project through the use of long-term debt.

“The board heard from planning and design consultants, and it chose a site that best meets the program’s goals to build a community for upper-level students,” said university President Kenneth P. Ruscio.


Worrying for the Class of 2014

Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio cites the benefit of seeing the world from a wider perspective in a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed.

Read the article


Todd Smith '83 Remembered in Reid Hall

Among the many celebrations that marked the third week of May for the graduating seniors, one remembered an alumnus: the late Todd Smith ’83. On May 21, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications unveiled a display that celebrates Todd, who died in Peru in 1989, murdered by the Shining Path guerrillas and cocaine traffickers. A reporter for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune, Todd had already covered the Nicaraguan civil war; he had planned to investigate civil unrest in Peru while traveling there.

The display in Reid Hall features a framed selection of Todd’s stories from the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times; a cartoon that he drew during his student days, when he worked at the Ring-Tum Phi; and a striking photo of Todd alongside a brief biography.

W&L also remembers Todd with a fellowship in his name; it supports a W&L student holding an internship at El Nuevo Herald, a newspaper in Miami, Fla.

Read more about Todd in this blog post from 2009.