Feature Stories Campus Events

W&L's Colón Quoted in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Firing of Wendy Bell

Aly Colón, the Knight Professor in Journalism Ethics at Washington and Lee, was quoted in a March 30 Pittsburgh News-Gazette article about the termination of award-winning television journalist Wendy Bell after controversial comments she made about a news story on her Facebook page. Colón noted that since viewers depend on reporters for fair and accurate information, Bell should not have stated opinion as fact regarding an ongoing news story.

You can read the full article online.

W&L’s Community Grants Committee Will Evaluate Proposals in May

Washington and Lee University’s Community Grants Committee would like to remind the community of its Spring 2016 proposal evaluation schedule. Community Grants Proposals may be submitted at any time but are reviewed semiannually: at the end of the calendar year and at the end of the fiscal year. The deadline for submitting a proposal for the Spring 2016 evaluation is 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 15, 2016.

Established in the spring of 2008, the purpose of the program is to support non-profit organizations in the Lexington/Rockbridge community. The program began its first full year on July 1, 2008, coinciding with the start of the University’s fiscal year. The University will award a total of $50,000 during the program’s 2015-16 cycle.

During the first round of the 2015-16 evaluations held in November, 2015, 23 organizations submitted proposals for a total of almost $81,000 in requests. The University made $25,243 in grants to 15 of those organizations. Those organizations were:

  • Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center
  • Buena Vista Arts Council
  • Coffeehouse of Rockbridge Inc.
  • Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society
  • Hoofbeats Therapeutic Riding Center
  • The Lexington Woman’s Club
  • Maury River Middle School Agriculture
  • Natural Bridge/Glasgow Food Pantry, Inc.
  • Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc.
  • Rockbridge Area Relief Association
  • Rockbridge Area Transportation System, Inc.
  • Rockbridge County SPCA
  • Roots & Shoots Intergenerational Garden
  • Rockbridge Area YMCA
  • Rockbridge Regional Library, Youth Literacy

Interested parties may access the Community Grants Committee website and download a copy of the proposal guidelines at the following address:


Please call 540-458-8417 with questions. Proposals should be submitted as electronic attachments (word or pdf) via email to kbrinkley@wlu.edu. 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.
Secretary of the University
Chair, Community Grants Committee
204 W. Washington Street
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, VA 24450

DePaul Law Professor Susan Bandes to Lecture on Empathy and the Rule of Law

Next week, Susan Bandes, Centennial Distinguished Professor of Law at DePaul, will deliver a lecture at W&L Law titled “Empathy, Compassion and the Rule of Law.” The talk is a companion lecture to the University’s year-long interdisciplinary seminar series “Questioning Passion.”

The lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 at 5:00 pm in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee University. The event is free and open to the public.

Bandes is widely known as a scholar in the areas of federal jurisdiction, criminal procedure and civil rights, and more recently, as a pioneer in the emerging study of the role of emotion in law. She edited the leading text on the topic, “The Passions of Law.” Her pro bono work has focused on criminal justice reform, with a particular focus on the death penalty.

Her legal career began in 1976 at the Illinois Office of the State Appellate Defender. In 1980, she became staff counsel for the Illinois A.C.L.U., where she litigated a broad spectrum of civil rights cases, and helped draft and secure passage of the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. She joined the DePaul faculty in 1984, and was named a distinguished research professor in 2003. She has received numerous awards from both the law school and the university for her teaching, scholarship and service.

Bandes presents her work frequently at academic symposia and workshops, as well as to non-academic legal groups such as the American Constitution Society. Her recent pro bono activities include acting as co-reporter for the Constitution Projects bipartisan Death Penalty Initiative, which produced the report Mandatory Justice: Eighteen Reforms to the Death Penalty, and serving on the advisory board to the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice study of the criminal justice system in Cook County, IL.

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Professor Susan James to Lecture on Freedom and Nature as Part of W&L’s Ethics of Citizenship Series

Susan James, professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College in London, will give a lecture at Washington and Lee University on April 7 at 5 p.m. in Huntley Hall 221.

She will speak on “Freedom and Nature: A Spinozist Invitation.” The talk is free and open to the public.

Her talk is part of the year-long series on The Ethics of Citizenship and is sponsored by W&L’s Roger Mudd Center for Ethics. For more information about this series, see: http://www.wlu.edu/mudd-center/programs-and-events/2015-2016-the-ethics-of-citizenship.

James’s overlapping areas of philosophical research are the history of 17th- and 18th-century philosophy, political and social philosophy, and feminist philosophy. Within the history of early modern philosophy, her work has focused on the passions and their ethical and political implications.

She is the author of “Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatise” (2012); “Margaret Cavendish: Political Writings” (2003); and “Passion and Action: The Emotions in Early Modern Philosophy” (1997); and a forthcoming collection of essays, “Spinoza on Learning to Live Together.”

Prior to teaching at Birbeck College, James worked at the University of Connecticut and the University of Cambridge. She has held visiting positions at Hebrew University, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Boston University and the University of Sydney. In 2013-14, she was a Laurance S. Rockefeller visiting faculty fellow at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University.

She is the president of the Aristotelian Society and was the previous president of the European Society for Early Modern Philosophy.

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Intellectual Historian Quentin Skinner to Speak at W&L on April 4 and April 6

Quentin Skinner, the Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary University of London and an intellectual historian, will give two lectures at Washington and Lee University on April 4 and April 6.  W&L’s Mudd Center is sponsoring both talks.

On April 4, he will speak on “How Should We Think About Freedom?” at 5:30 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library. This talk is part of the Mudd Center’s “Ethics of Citizenship” series. For more information about this series, see http://www.wlu.edu/mudd-center/programs-and-events/2015-2016-the-ethics-of-citizenship.

On April 6, Skinner will speak on “Why Shylock Loses his Case: Judicial Rhetoric in ‘The Merchant of Venice’” at 5 p.m. in the Hillel House Multipurpose Room (101). This lecture on Shakespeare is part of his weeklong residency at W&L under the auspices of the Mudd Center.

Skinner is the author of “Forensic Shakespeare” (2014), “Hobbes and Republican Liberty” (2008), and a three-volume collection of essays, “Visions of Politics” (2002). His two-volume study “The Foundations of Modern Political Thought” (1978) was listed by the New York Times Literary Supplement in 1996 as one of the 100 Most Influential Books published since World War II.

Previously the Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, he is a fellow of the British Academy and a foreign member of several other national academies including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society and Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.

Skinner has received the Wolfson History Prize, the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize of the British Political Studies Association and a Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Fraternity Among Peoples.

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Engineering Opportunity Angel Vela de la Garza Evia '18 and Walker Brand '18 built assistive technology to help the employees at Rockbridge Area Occupational Center do the jobs they love.

“RAOC offers not only an employment opportunity, but also a huge social, emotional and psychological role in the lives of not only these individuals but also their families.”

— Alessandra Del Conte Dickovick

RAOC-l Engineering OpportunityRAOC Executive Director Roy Funkhouser is flanked by W&L engineering students Angel Vela de la Garza Evia (left) and Walker Brand.

Most people are delighted to have a vacation day, but the employees at Rockbridge Area Occupational Center can think of nothing better than reporting for duty.

“This is the only place I’ve ever been where someone has wanted to come to work,” said RAOC Executive Director Roy Funkhouser. “If they have a day off, they are fussing about not being able to be here.”

The employees of RAOC are all adults with some kind of disability that precludes them from holding a traditional job. The occupational center was founded about 1970 by parents who wanted something for their adult children to do.

“I think the biggest thing they get out of it is the pride of being able to say they have a job,” the director said. “All sorts of things we take for granted in our daily lives, these folks may not have that type of exposure.”

Now, engineering students at Washington and Lee have made the RAOC jobs even more rewarding by creating a device to help them in their furniture workshop. Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ’18 and Walker Brand ’18, along with other students in Professor Kacie D’Alessandro’s winter 2015 Computer Aided Drafting and Design class, designed and built an apparatus that allows RAOC employees to make garden benches without having to measure the dimensions of the bench. These long wooden benches are one product in a line of outdoor furniture that is made-to-order and sold by RAOC.

At RAOC, a nonprofit that operates as a business, employees do a variety of jobs such as shredding documents, general lawn care, stuffing envelopes, sorting and assembling. They must be able to do the work by hand or with simple hand tools, Funkhouser said, because they don’t have the capability to use automated tools or power tools.

This type of work used to keep RAOC plenty busy, but as some of its clients have gone out of business and technology has been automated, the amount of work has slowly dropped. As a result, RAOC is struggling to stay relevant and has tried to diversify, adding outdoor furniture to the offerings. Other items made at the center include picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and cornhole boards.

Funkhouser said the center used to have an employee who was fairly skilled at woodworking, but he got a job in a local factory — a blessing for him, but a big loss for RAOC.

“The guy we have now doesn’t do math, he can’t do fractions, so it’s very difficult for him,” Funkhouser said. “He can put the pieces together, and if I go out there and make the measurements for him, he can cut the pieces and put them together, but he is not at a point where I can just say, ‘OK, go out there and build a bench.'”

Enter Alessandra Del Conte Dickovick with the Community-Academic Research Alliance (CARA), a community-based research initiative that is part of the university’s Shepherd Program. One day, she visited RAOC to talk to Funkhouser about how CARA could help them, and they came up with the idea to ask an engineering class for help.

“I didn’t even know that W&L had this program at all,” Funkhouser said. “Really, Alessandra led the charge on this one.”

When Dickovick visited the facility, it was clear to her how important the work is to the employees.

“RAOC offers not only an employment opportunity, but also a huge social, emotional and psychological role in the lives of not only these individuals but also their families,” she said.

Since the center already had jigs for making the Adirondack chairs and picnic tables, Funkhouser decided they could really use one for the garden benches. That way, all his workers would have to do is measure the wood using a template, saw the wood, place the pieces on the device and screw them together — and one person can do it alone.

D’Alessandro’s class toured the center, then Funkhouser loaned them a bench to use as a reference. D’Alessandro broke her class into teams and had each one design a device for RAOC. At the end of the year, they presented their designs, and Funkhouser pointed out what he liked about each one.

That was the end of the project for most students in the class, but Brand and Vela de la Garza Evia took it a step further. They wanted to combine the best parts of each design and create a final version so RAOC could use it. The hardest part was finding the time to do it — in addition to classwork, Brand plays football, and Vela de la Garza Evia is a resident advisor who serves in the Bonner Program.

Often, when they met at the Howe Annex to construct the piece, they figured their task that day would only take about 30 minutes. Two hours later, they would be still tinkering with it, but they enjoyed every minute.

“I think that one of the coolest parts of the project was all the trial and error,” Brand said.

The finished product allows RAOC workers to place the legs of the bench in holes that space them apart the correct distance and hold them upright. The slats for the seat and back of the bench are then placed on the device, which spaces them apart the accurate distance. Then, workers simply screw the pieces together and remove it from the jig.

On March 14, the students were ready to hand it off to RAOC. Funkhouser drove to campus, inspected the device, and loaded it into his pickup truck to take it back to the center.

“These two guys have taken it a little bit further, and I would hope they are getting some reward out of the fact that they are doing something that is going to help a group of people that might not otherwise get this kind of assistance,” Funkhouser said. “They’ll get to look at it and know that in some small part they are going to get to enhance someone’s life. And it helps the organization because we make these things to sell, and that supports our own overhead.”

The students said they did derive a great deal of satisfaction from the project, and it reinforced their decision to study engineering at W&L.

“I think [with] engineering you can really reach out to many areas of the community,” said Vela de la Garza Evia. “You can build stuff and know that the things you build are going to help a person or a whole community.”

To learn more about the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center, go to raoc.org.

Repertory Dance Company Celebrates 20 Years of Dance at W&L

The Washington and Lee Repertory Dance Company will present a concert celebrating the first 10 years of W&L’s academic dance program and 20 years of dance at W&L on April 1-3 in the Keller Theater of the Lenfest Center for the Arts.

Performances are April 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets are required. For information on tickets, call the Lenfest Center Box Office at 540-458-8000.

The performance is under the artistic direction of Jenefer Davies, associate professor of dance/theater. Works will be choreographed and performed by faculty, students and alumni.

W&L dance alumni have been rehearsing for the past year in preparation for this anniversary concert in cities around the country, such as Atlanta, Houston, New York City, Washington, New Orleans and Wilmington, North Carolina.

A broad range of dance styles will be performed at the concert including modern pop culture, contemporary ballet, modern dance, African culture and aerial/modern.

Twenty years ago, about 10 students formed a W&L dance club and student-led classes. Two years later they successfully requested dance classes, which were offered by the Physical Education Department and taught by a Lexington dance instructor.

In 2006, W&L officially created an academic program in dance, offering classes in history, composition, technique and performance. Five years later, the program became a dance minor.

Enrollment grew and the program now offers ballet, modern dance, theatre dance, world cultural dance and other classes. Its new studio houses permanent rigging for aerial silks, bungee, and rope and harness classes.

“In keeping with W&L’s deeply held values in the liberal arts, the university supported the dance program and allowed it to grow in new and exciting ways,” said Davies. “We became one of the first colleges in the country to offer aerial dance, which really set us apart in terms of excellence and innovation.”

In addition to concerts on the Lenfest stage, the W&L Repertory Dance Company has traveled to New York City every year to perform in various places. It has also presented work at the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Ailey Citibank Theatre in Manhattan; Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, New York; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington; and the International Festival Fringe in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Emily Wallace, W&L class of 2009, who will be performing in the concert said, “I started at W&L worried that it was not the perfect school for me. I realized that I was going to meet long-lasting friends and receive an unparalleled education in the most gorgeous campus in America, but W&L did not offer a dance program. Little did I know that, in 2006, Jenefer Davies would change that, and my almost-perfect college experience would become perfect and complete.”

Artistic Director Dave DeChristopher '75

Dave DeChristopher, a 1975 graduate of Washington and Lee University, has been named the new artistic director at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre in Toledo, Ohio.

Following graduation, Dave, a Toledo native, spent several years in his hometown teaching, performing and directing at a number of establishments, including the Children’s Theatre Workshop, Jim Rudes’ Commodore Perry Dinner Theatre and the Toledo Repertoire Theatre. He also was an original member of Friar Tuck’s cabaret company.

In 1980, he moved to New York City and began his career in professional theater. He was a member and artistic director of the Greenwood Theatre Company and an actor for the company of the Castillo Theatre, as well as a member of the Jewish Repertory Theatre for Young Audiences. He also starred in the acclaimed musical “Fiorello!”

After 24 years in New York, Dave returned to Toledo, where he was a director at the Toledo Repertoire Theatre and an instructor at the University of Toledo. He now teaches theatre and creative writing at Notre Dame Academy.

One of his main goals as the new artistic director is community outreach. He noted in an interview with The (Toledo) Blade, “I have a pretty strong background in theater education from all my years in New York; we want all the education programs to have a legitimate education component, to really give kids something, especially with all the arts cuts in schools.”

In addition to acting and directing, Dave has published nine plays and wrote “The Force,” a collection of spy novels.

–by Wesley Sigmon ’16

Davis Projects for Peace Grant Winner Sees Power of Music

Viet Linh “Chris” Tran ’17 has won a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant that will allow him to establish a music program for blind students in his home city of Hanoi, Vietnam.

The program, which he will implement over the summer, is called “Music Brings Light.” It was inspired by Tran’s own love of music and by a boy he met in 2012 at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu Special School for the Blind.

While volunteering at the Hanoi school, Tran observed that a student named Long, who could play five different instruments, stood out from the rest of his classmates. While the other blind students were quiet and reserved, Long was confident and gregarious.

Tran, who is majoring in music and business, realized that if the other students had an opportunity to learn music, it may help them blossom into more outgoing, self-assured people. After all, he’d witnessed the same metamorphosis in himself when he picked up a guitar in high school and started to study singing at Washington and Lee.

“The system is just about math, literature and science. I wasn’t really exposed to music,” he said. “It changed me a lot as a person.”

His research for the Davis application turned up no music schools for the blind in all of Vietnam.

Mark Rush, director of international education and Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law, said Tran’s project is “truly a humanistic endeavor.”

“First, it is a manifestation of the depth of the human spirit,” Rush said. “In seeking to bring music to the blind, Chris demonstrates the transcendence of the arts. Those without vision obviously have voice.  With music, Chris will give another voice to the students he will work with this summer.”

“Music Brings Light” is a multi-phase project that will start with the creation of a music lab at the school for the blind. Tran said he will use the grant money to furnish the lab with five digital organs, 10 guitars, speakers and microphones, a mini stage, music stands and Braille music sheets. He will then recruit 10 to 15 high school- or college-aged musicians willing to learn how to teach music to the blind. Several voice, piano and guitar teachers at Musicsoul Institute in Hanoi have already agreed to train the volunteers.

For the next eight weeks, 40 to 50 students from the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School will be chosen to learn an instrument, with lessons taking place three days per week for three hours at a time. Volunteers will also help the students to bond with one another and increase their confidence by exposing them to guest speakers, concerts and trips.

At the end of the summer, Tran wants to organize a recital. He also plans to fund additional training so the most successful students can continue to learn after his program has ended.

“I strongly believe that music education can help them overcome their diffidence and foster the belief/notion that anyone can contribute to the beauty of life,” Tran wrote in his grant application. “Moreover, our goal to raise public awareness will help … people understand and adopt a supportive attitude toward the blind. We hope to live in a society where blind people have a stable position.”

As a partner school of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, Washington and Lee is eligible to receive Davis Projects for Peace grants. The program is funded by the late Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who established it on her 100th birthday in 2007 as a way to challenge young people to plant seeds of peace throughout the world with innovative projects.

At least one Washington and Lee student has won a Davis grant each year since the award’s inception.

Rachel Adato, Past Member of the Knesset, to Speak at Washington and Lee

Rachel Adato, an Israeli doctor, lawyer, politician and former member of the Knesset, will give a lecture at Washington and Lee University on March 31 at 5:30 p.m. in the Hillel House Multipurpose Room (room 101).

She will speak on “Israeli Healthcare and Social Issues.” Her talk is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by W&L Hillel, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Shepherd Poverty Program and Hillel International.

Adato is a champion of healthy body image, having been vocal in Israel’s Photoshop Law which banned ads featuring underweight models. She also is an outspoken advocate of provisions to make healthy food cheaper and more accessible.

She has been instrumental in the administration of other health-related issues, including benefits for disabled veterans, health care for the elderly and emergency hospital services.

Adato was the first female gynecologist in Jerusalem and practiced medicine for 12 years before moving to administrative hospital positions within Jerusalem. During her tenure in the Knesset, between 2009 and 2013, she was chair of the Welfare and Health Committee, focusing mainly on public health care and women’s health.