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Class of 2015: What Will You Miss?


The W&L Class of 2015: A Celebration

On September 3, 2011, 498 young men and women began their journey at Washington and Lee. On Thursday, those students began the next chapter of their lives.


W&L’s Russ Miller Analyzes New Developments in German Spying Scandal

Edward Snowden’s 2013 disclosures of the National Security Agency’s spying and surveillance programs shocked the world. Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Germany were particularly strained when it was revealed that, for many years, the U.S. had been pursuing massive intelligence gathering operations in Germany, including the collection of Germans’ telecommunications data and content.

“Spying between friends, that’s just not done,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the time.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot as Germany is acknowledging its own surveillance practices and its intelligence agency’s deep cooperation with the NSA, including operations that involved spying on the French president and the aerospace company AirBus.

Washington and Lee law professor Russ Miller, an expert on the German legal system who is one of the only Americans to testify before the German parliament’s special committee investigating the NSA affair, was quoted extensively on these recent revelations in a report in the Christian Science Monitor. Miller discussed the weak oversight of the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND, Germany’s foreign services agency. Miller explained that the BND is overseen by the G10 Commission, a panel of former legislators who are often undertrained in the technological aspects of the BND’s work.

“They’re trained for the deployment of a complex legal standard but not necessarily for evaluating the high level technology that the BND uses,” Miller told the paper.

Miller is extensively involved in scholarly efforts to mediate the growing controversy. He presented at the German Center for Research and Innovation conference on cybersecurity and ethics in New York and will participate in June at an American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) program in Washington, D.C. on privacy and security. He also authored an essay that is available at the AICGS website in which he discusses the current debate in the U.S. Congress over the USA FREEDOM ACT, arguing that its passage could help repair the “tattered transatlantic relationship” between the U.S. and Germany.  Miller was also quoted in a recent article on the espionage scandal that was published by the German news agency DeutscheWelle.

Miller’s book-length treatment on the NSA affair, its impact on relations between the U.S. and Europe, and the subsequent reevaluation of intelligence practices across the globe is due to be published in 2016 by a major academic press.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel is facing calls from inside and outside the German government to reveal other BND spying targets and to implement major structural reforms within the agency.

“There’s no doubt that the mood has shifted from pretty profound dismay at the Americans and the NSA, to a focus on the BND,” Miller told the CSM. “If there’s a moment for reform, in the German context, this would have to be it.”

Miller serves as a DAAD/AICGS Research Fellow, a former Fellow at the Center for Security and Society at the University of Freiburg, and the Editor-in-Chief of the German Law Journal. He is the author/editor of a number of books, including “Privacy and Power: Transatlantic Relations in the Shadow of the NSA-Affair” (forthcoming 2016), “The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany” (Duke University Press 2012), and “U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy” (Routledge 2009).

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New Lectern at W&L Commencement Has Historic Significance

Few people attending Washington and Lee University’s 2015 commencement probably noticed the new lectern at the center of the podium or understood its historic significance.

The lectern is made from wood from the old “commencement tree” that graced W&L’s front campus since it was planted around 1866 and cut down in 1998. An ash tree with a canopy of between 40 and 50 feet, it used to be in full leaf during the many ceremonies for which it provided much needed shade to graduating seniors and their families.

The tree received its name because it was a pivotal point of the graduation stage when commencement was held on the lawn between the President’s House and R. E. Lee Episcopal Church. “The tree was the corner that anchored the stage, and it was the point from which we placed alignment markers in the ground and strung lines to get the stage square to the seating,” said Scott Beebe, projects engineer in facilities management.

Beebe was director of facilities at W&L when he made the decision to cut the tree down. A survey of all the trees on the front campus had identified the commencement tree as a liability since it was hollow. Realizing the historical significance, Beebe decided to mill a stack of boards for possible later use.

Decades later, the University’s existing lectern, made of dark brown plywood and used for all campus ceremonies, needed to be replaced. Randolph Hare, director of maintenance and operations in facilities management, remembered the planks from the commencement tree that had been drying in W&L’s barn for years and suggested that they be used to create a new lectern.

John Hoogakker, executive director of university facilities, took on the task of designing the new lectern, although he said it was hard to reach the planks and to mill wood of sufficient quality for a lectern.

Hoogakker, who has a significant background in architecture, researched the classical references around campus and studied detail and proportion in historic texts on classical architecture. As a result, the new lectern he designed has four columns that are very similar to the columns on Washington Hall.

One challenge that Hoogakker found was that he had never worked with wood from an ash tree before. “There was some quirkiness about the grain of the wood that surprised me, but it was a pleasant experience to learn to deal with this species of wood. I discovered things as I went along. For example, I had a very different finish in mind—something more like cherry or mahogany—but ash wood has a more rustic quality to it, and the dark part of the grain reached through the finish as a texture in a much different way than more traditional furniture woods. I think it gives the piece a character that I find pleasant and surprising.”

Patrick Harris, systems programmer and administrator in information technology services (ITS), built the lectern to Hoogakker’s design, and John Watkins, director of client services in ITS, created the four columns. Watkins’ greatest challenge was creating four identical columns by hand, instead of using a machine. “I think that, for the discerning eye, the design of the new lectern is really sophisticated, with the specifications for the different spaces and how the columns sit on the base,” observed Harris.

“Using the commencement tree gave the whole project a lot of meaning that it wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Hoogakker.


Positive Change Honors the Past, Doesn’t Reject It, W&L Graduates Told

A university is not a museum where change should be seen as a rejection of the past. Instead, advancing and improving are the ways universities like Washington and Lee honor their commitment to, and reverence for, the past.

That was the message Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee University, delivered to 453 students who received bachelor’s degrees from W&L on May 28. James C. Cobb, a leading scholar of Southern history and a professor at the University of Georgia, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree.

Ruscio asked the undergraduates to discern between character and artifice at their storied alma mater and in their lives. He told them — gathered on a campus that is a national historic landmark — “what truly matters here are the intangible attributes” of learning, friendship and integrity. “That is the character, the essence, the wavering nature of the place nourished by its source,” he explained.

Ruscio said that “as your life goes on, as you assume the duties of citizenship in this democracy, as you contribute to your communities and professions, I wish for you the quality of discernment — the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is artifice.”

Ruscio warned the graduates, “Celebrity is not leadership. The volume of an argument is not a measure of its quality. Repeating a false statement over and over does not eventually make it true. Sticking with an opinion in the face of contradictory evidence is not principled conviction, but is instead intellectual laziness.”

“Cultivate that quality of discernment in every corner of your lives, including your vigilant stewardship of your alma mater,” he asked, noting that when the Class of 2015 returns for its 50th reunion, it will notice some changes.

“If Washington and Lee is not a different place, and a better place, you should be ashamed of it; and if you have not played a role in advancing it, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Ruscio said.

“It is perfectly fine for those of us here today to benefit from the sacrifice of those who came before us, provided we sacrifice equally for those still to come,” he said. “Our inheritance from the past becomes our obligation for the future. No other university has a past like ours; no other university has a future like ours.”

During the honors and recognitions portions of the commencement exercises, Provost Daniel Wubah presented Cobb for the honorary degree, calling him “one of the foremost scholars of Southern history, a teacher who has had a profound impact on generations of students, and a writer who has interpreted the South for academic and lay audiences alike.” At the May 27 baccalaureate service, Anne Holton, Virginia secretary of education, received an honorary doctor of law degrees.

Three graduating seniors, tied with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages, were named valedictorians: Christopher Hu, of Ridgewood, New Jersey; Eric Schwen, of Cottage Grove, Minnesota; and Scott Sugden, of Circle Pines, Minnesota. Eighteen earned both a B.A. and B.S. degree. Three each completed three majors. Four ROTC cadets were to be commissioned as U.S. Army officers in a late afternoon ceremony.


Va. Education Secretary Holton Speaks, Receives Honorary Degree at W&L

Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton advised Washington and Lee University seniors at their May 27 baccalaureate service to “live life optimistically, be on the lookout for opportunities, jump in vigorously, and don’t worry about who gets the credit.”

Holton, the guest speaker and recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree, said she learned those lessons from her parents, former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton, a Washington and Lee alumnus, and Virginia “Jinks” Holton, a former W&L trustee.

Holton said her father often awoke the family’s children in the morning by shouting, “Opportunity time, kids!” She continued, “He chooses optimism. That’s the secret of his success.”

She said she learned from her father always to be on the lookout for opportunities and to seize them, no matter the circumstances of the day. She recalled the unexpected court decision seven months into her father’s term that ordered Virginia to desegregate its public schools. Instead of following the lead of other Southern governors in leading massive resistance, Gov. Holton enforced desegregation and even sent his children to previously all-black Richmond public schools.

“Most importantly, what others may have seen as a stumbling block or a problem or at best a challenge to address in due time, a chance for a speech or two, my dad saw as an opportunity — an opportunity to live his values,” she explained.

On the personal level, she described the opportunity she and her husband, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, discovered by visiting “a small, black Catholic church in Richmond shortly after moving there. Not many white people, after all, get the chance to experience what it means to live in the minority within a community. Over 30 years ago, we joined that church, and now it’s been our church home — we were married there, all our children were baptized there, we’ve heard a lifetime of great gospel music, we have fast friends from all walks of life.”

Holton told the W&L seniors to jump in vigorously like her mother, now 89, who in her early 80s was still swinging a hammer as a volunteer building Habitat for Humanity houses. And, she said, her mother never looks to take credit.

Holton said she could have adopted her father’s wake-up call, also the title of his memoir, “Opportunity Time,” to sum up her advice to the seniors. Instead, she paraphrased the lyrics of the popular song “I Hope You Dance,” by Mark Daniel Sanders and Tia Sillers.

“Graduates, I hope you dance. Welcome to your dance,” she concluded.

W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio presented Holton with the honorary degree for being an advocate for children and families, a champion of quality education for all of Virginia’s citizens and an esteemed member of Washington and Lee’s extended family. “Your commitment to justice and opportunity for every person serves as a model for us all,” he said.


Jim Head III ’64 To Receive the Penrose Medal for Work in Planetary Geology

James W. “Jim” Head III, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1964, will receive the Geological Society of America’s Penrose Medal in Baltimore this November. Head is the first planetary geologist to win the GSA’s highest honor.

Last fall we blogged about an award Jim received in 2013 — the Norman L. Bowen Award for his outstanding contributions to volcanology, geochemistry or petrology from the American Geophysical Union. As W&L professor emeritus Ed Spencer pointed out in that post, “This is one of the highest recognitions for scholarly achievements given among the geoscience societies.”

The Penrose Medal, awarded since 1927, is given “in recognition of eminent research in pure geology, for outstanding original contributions or achievements that mark a major advance in the science of geology.” Ed noted that Albert Nobel overlooked geology when establishing his international awards. Hence, the Penrose “is one of the highest honors a geologist can receive.”

Jim is the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of the Geological Sciences at Brown University. He received an honorary degree from W&L in 1995.

You can read more about the Penrose award and Jim’s distinguished career on the Brown website.

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Alumni in the News, May 2015

Here’s our roundup of law alumni in the news recently. Send alumni news tips to lawweb@wlu.edu.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has appointed Michael Scott Carlson ‘92L to the state’s Court Martial Review Panel. Carlson currently serves as a deputy chief assistant district attorney with the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office

More details at Middle Georgia CEO


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Evan Feinman ‘10L as the new executive director for the recently created Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, which changes the way the state distributes its money from the national tobacco settlement. Feinman previously served as deputy secretary of natural resources and as deputy policy director for the governor’s post-election transition team.

More details at the Lynchburg News Advance


Roanoke attorney John Fishwick ‘83L has been recommended as the region’s next U.S. attorney by a panel formed by Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. The senators made the recommendation to President Obama following an interview process conducted by the panel, which included attorneys from across the state.

More details at the Roanoke Times


Cabell Youell ‘98L was named the “Influential Woman of the Year” by Virginia Lawyers Weekly. Youell was honored for her work as head of Saint Francis Service Dogs, a non-profit that pairs disabled children and adults with professionally trained service dogs. Youell got her start with the organization as a volunteer in 2002 when she helped launch a program that enlists state inmates in service dog training.

More details at Virginia Lawyers Weekly

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W&L’s President Ruscio to Step Down in July 2016

Kenneth P. Ruscio will step down as Washington and Lee University’s president on June 30, 2016.

Ruscio, who announced his decision to the campus community today, will have completed a decade as president of his alma mater when he leaves the position. He intends to take a one-year sabbatical leave for the 2016-17 academic year and then return to the faculty.

In a letter to the university community, Ruscio said that while he had no timetable in mind when he became president in July 2006, “a decade now seems about right — enough to have achieved many of our goals and the right moment for the university to start anticipating the new ones.”

Ruscio’s decision comes as W&L is nearing the end of its historic, $500 million fundraising campaign. That campaign, which officially concludes on June 30, will have successfully funded most of the initiatives included in the university’s current strategic plan, which was formally adopted in May 2007.

“The board has accepted President Ruscio’s decision with reluctance, but with deep appreciation and admiration for his exceptional leadership,” said Donald Childress, rector of the W&L Board of Trustees. “Washington and Lee is a stronger institution today by virtually every measure because of the way President Ruscio has combined his vision with his devotion to Washington and Lee.”

Among the numerous achievements of Ruscio’s presidency:

  • The $50 million renovation and restoration of the historic Colonnade, which comprises the signature campus buildings. Work on four of the five buildings has been completed, with construction on the fifth, Tucker Hall, scheduled to begin in the summer of 2016.
  • The development of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, created through a $100 million gift that has created a major scholarship program, two professorships, and an array of summer internship and research opportunities for students.
  • The creation of such new academic initiatives as the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics, the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship, a reinvigorated, four-week Spring Term, and the innovative, nationally regarded third-year curriculum in the School of Law.
  • A major expansion of the University’s financial aid program that has made W&L’s distinctive education available to qualified students regardless of their family’s financial circumstances. It has also resulted in the removal of student loans from all financial aid packages. The W&L Promise, created in 2013, guarantees free tuition to any admitted undergraduate student with family income below $75,000.
  • The $66 million Lenfest Challenge that created 15 of the 20 new endowed chairs and 10 term professorships and improved faculty compensation. The University has also introduced major work-life initiatives for faculty and staff.
  • A strong commitment to sustainability initiatives featuring a successful, cost-saving energy-education program, as well as the state’s largest solar-panel array at the time of its 2011 installation.
  • The construction of new facilities: the Center for Global Learning, Hillel House, upper-division housing neighborhood and natatorium. In addition, the University has made extensive renovations to first-year housing, Leyburn Library and Lewis Hall, and has developed the Duchossois Athletic Complex, featuring Wilson Field.
  • The support for the communities of Lexington and Rockbridge County through the creation of the Community Grants Program, the relocation of the national Omicron Delta Kappa headquarters to Lexington, and the partnership that has resulted in the restoration of the historic former courthouse and jail into University-leased buildings.

In his letter to the community, Ruscio praised the quality of the people who compose Washington and Lee: “The strength of this community has always been its people — the thousands of alumni who remain dedicated to their alma mater, the creative teacher-scholars on the faculty, the devoted and highly competent staff, the parents and families of the students, and most important, our students. I certainly knew that before assuming the presidency. That is affirmed every day I go to the office.”

A distinguished scholar of democratic theory and public policy, Ruscio earned his B.A. in politics from Washington and Lee in 1976, and a master of public administration (1978) and a Ph.D. in public affairs and public administration (1983), both from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

He was a postdoctoral research scholar at UCLA and taught at both Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Kansas before returning to his alma mater in 1987. Between 1987 and 2002, he held staff and faculty positions as professor of politics, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, and dean of freshmen.

From 2002 to 2006, Ruscio served as dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond before he rejoined W&L as the University’s 26th president.

Active in national higher education circles, Ruscio serves on the boards of the Council of Independent Colleges and the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U). He is currently the immediate past chair of the AAC&U. He has also served as national president of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society founded at Washington and Lee in 1914.

Ruscio is the author of “The Leadership Dilemma in Modern Democracy” (2004) as well as numerous papers and articles. In recognition of his scholarly and professional accomplishments, Washington and Lee’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa inducted Ruscio as an alumni member in 2008. He has also received the Jepson School’s James MacGregor Burns Award for contributions to leadership studies.

Ruscio is married to Kimberley O’Donnell Ruscio. Their son, Matthew, is a 2012 graduate of St. Lawrence University.

More About President Ruscio:

Washington and Lee University to Celebrate 228th Commencement, Baccalaureate

Washington and Lee University celebrates its 228th undergraduate commencement May 28 when it will award bachelor’s degrees to 452 students.

University President Kenneth P. Ruscio will address the graduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony. Lucy Wade Shapiro, president of the Executive Committee of the student body and a graduating senior from Memphis, Tennessee, will speak on behalf of the Class of 2015.

Commencement festivities begin May 27 at 10 a.m. on the Front Lawn with the traditional baccalaureate service, featuring guest speaker Anne Holton, Virginia Secretary of Education. Holton will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the service.

A graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Harvard Law School, Holton has compiled a decades-long record of service to Virginia’s families and children. She first worked as a legal aid lawyer serving low-income families, then became a juvenile and domestic relations district court judge. As Virginia’s First Lady from 2006-10, she spearheaded a reform of the Commonwealth’s foster care system to connect greater numbers of children with permanent families. She later consulted on foster care reform nationally for the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

In 2013, Holton served as program director of Great Expectations, an initiative of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education that helps youth in the foster care system gain access to higher education. Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed her education secretary in January 2014.

Holton is the wife of U.S. senator and former governor Tim Kaine and the daughter of former governor Linwood Holton, of the W&L Class of 1944.

During the commencement ceremony on Thursday, W&L will recognize seven retiring members of the faculty: Bob Culpepper, visiting professor of business administration; Tim Jost, Willett Family Professor of Law; Bill King, professor of accounting; Craig McCaughrin, professor of politics; Brian Richardson, professor of journalism and mass communications; Ken Ujie, associate professor of East Asian languages and literatures; and Lyn Wheeler, professor of accounting.

The University will also award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Dr. James C. Cobb, Spalding Professor of History at the University of Georgia.

The Class of 2015 hails from 40 states, the District of Columbia and 11 other countries. Two seniors have received scholarships for postgraduate international work. Naphtali Rivkin of Teaneck, New Jersey, been awarded a Fulbright research grant for research in Latvia the country’s resistance to postwar domination by the Soviet Union. Sommer Ireland of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, has been awarded a U.S. Teaching Assistantship from the Austrian government to teach English in the country’s rural Western Tirol.

In the event of rain, events will be held at Virginia Military Institute’s Cameron Hall, and the University community will be notified by broadcast e-mail, a notice on the University’s website and other means. Full details on all commencement activities at W&L can be found at www.wlu.edu/commencement. The commencement ceremony will be streamed live online at http://livestream.com/wlu/ugrad-2015.