Feature Stories Campus Events

Class of 2016: What Will You Miss?


Commencement: Congratulations, Graduates!

On September 1, 2012, 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 Law Offers DC-based Cyber Law and Privacy Seminar with Future of Privacy Forum

Washington and Lee University School of Law has launched a new summer program in Washington, DC for students interested in studying cyber and privacy law.

The program is part of W&L’s exclusive academic partnership launched last year with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a DC-based think tank that promotes responsible data privacy policies. The FPF was founded by W&L alumnus Christopher Wolf ‘80L, senior partner and former director of the Information Privacy Practice Group of Hogan Lovells.

The course, titled “Cyber Policy and Privacy Law,” will be co-taught by Professor Margaret Hu and Jules Polonetsky, CEO at FPF. The course will examine how the expanding role of the internet, big data, e-commerce, social media, and wearable technology has strained the preexisting regulatory and constitutional frameworks that have guided privacy protections under the law. The seminar will delve into these topics in both corporate and government contexts.

The first class will be held in the U.S. House of Representatives. W&L Law alumnus Bart Forsyth will be the host and guest speaker. Forsyth is currently Chief of Staff of Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc), who helped to lead the effort on surveillance reform legislation and the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act following the Snowden disclosures.

Wolf also will serve as a guest speaker during the seminar. He will address the rise of privacy law and information privacy practices in the corporate sector and discuss several early cases involving data privacy in which he served as lead counsel. In addition, students will visit Google’s DC corporate office to meet with Google’s legal team for a discussion of privacy-related practice issues, including recent cases on privacy law both in the U.S. and in Europe.

According to Prof. Hu, the course also will incorporate a hands-on curriculum for students in order to position them for practical success in the profession.

“Students will select a summer research project that has a practical component, such as drafting a comment to federal rulemaking or proposing draft language for regulatory proposals for consumer protection in data privacy or cybersecurity,” said Hu.

The program has an additional career development component. FPF worked closely with W&L to help students without a summer position secure summer internships with some of the FPF’s 120 plus corporate and nonprofit affiliates. Internships that were facilitated by the summer program include: AT&T, Mozilla/Firefox, Software and Information Industries Association, Network Advertising Initiative, and the Future of Privacy Forum.

14 rising second- and third-year students are currently enrolled in the summer program. The 8-week session will begin June 9 and conclude in late July, with most classes being held at the FPF’s downtown office in Washington, D.C.

Washington and Lee Graduates 444 Students at 229th Commencement

Graduating seniors at Washington and Lee University today were asked to remember and live by the high ideals and standards that have guided them over the past four years, as they are leaving “a community that cares a great deal about these matters and entering a world that increasingly does not.”

Having the university president give the commencement address is a custom that dates back to the 1930s. This will be current President Kenneth P. Ruscio’s 10th such address, and his last before he steps down from the presidency at the end of 2016.

“Civility matters,” Ruscio said in his address. “It makes possible conversations and debates where the purpose is to understand, not to prevail. Civility is the mark of those who have something to say, but can respect others who also have something to say.”

Ruscio asked the 444 members of the Class of 2016 to brace themselves, to constantly and consciously call upon their experiences at W&L, and to remember the habits of the heart and mind they have developed as students.

“You acquired a sensibility that leads you, from instinct and habit, to behave in certain ways toward others, to pursue your own passions and interests while helping others pursue theirs,” he said. “A finely tuned moral compass guides you.”

“Don’t succumb to the cynicism and meanness of the age in which we find ourselves,” he said. “Don’t seek refuge from a complex world in the safe harbors of simplicity and slogans. Act with dignity, decency, and civility. Become known as the Washington and Lee woman or man who offers reasonable and reasoned positions in the midst of chaos. And most of all, be someone who cares about others more than yourself.”

Watch the ceremony online >

Lauren R. Howard, an economics major from South Glastonbury, Connecticut, spoke on behalf of the Class of 2016 as its representative to the Executive Committee of the Student Body. She reminded fellow graduates that their graduation day is an opportunity to consider how they might be able to change the world. Howard encouraged her classmates to pause, reflect and thank those who have guided them.

“Today, when we receive our diplomas,” Howard said, “We must take them for what they are: physical manifestations of our potential to do something, with and for others — something that matters.”

Among Washington and Lee’s graduates were 14 who earned both a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree. Altogether, the Class of 2016 earned degrees in 34 majors. Nearly a third of the class completed more than one major, with two students completing three majors, and 35 percent of the class completing at least one minor.

Michael Watkins Holt of Henrico, Virginia, was named valedictorian. Holt achieved a perfect 4.0 grade-point average while earning a B.S. in mathematics and computer science. Holt is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society, Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honor Society and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society.

Holt was a recipient of Washington and Lee’s Johnson Scholarship, the J. Brown Goehring Sophomore Award, the Luther Seevers Birely Scholarship, and W&L’s Taylor Mathematics Scholarship. He was a two-time recipient of the James McDowell Scholarship and a three-time recipient of the James D. Davidson Memorial Fund Scholarship.

A notable student athlete, Holt received the William D. McHenry Male Scholar-Athlete Award after earning four letters with the men’s tennis program. He is a three-time All-ODAC honoree and a two-time All-American in doubles. Holt has received the ODAC/Farm Bureau Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award three times and he is a two-time Third Team CoSIDA Academic All-American. Holt finished his career ranked fifth all-time at W&L with 76 doubles wins (76-26). He also went 54-25 in singles in leading W&L to four ODAC titles.

The university awarded an honorary degree to Robert C. Vaughan III, president and founding director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and a 1966 Washington and Lee graduate. In presenting the degree, Provost Marc Conner recognized Vaughan as an “intellectual, distinguished leader in the field of education, peerless advocate for the humanities in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” and praised Vaughan for his “stirring career of dedicated service to the humanities.”


On Campus: A Village Rises As construction wraps up on W&L's new upper-division housing, the university names new streets after two beloved employees: Lewis John and Larry Stuart.

It has been 267 years since a small classical school called Augusta Academy was founded near present-day Lexington, and 240 years since its successor, Liberty Hall, educated students in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. In August 2016, the spirit of those institutions that became Washington and Lee will be resurrected in a new residential area on the university campus, completing a project that has drawn heavily from W&L’s recent history and remarkable sense of community.

The Village, which consists of two adjacent residential groupings called Augusta Square and Liberty Hall Common, is the largest construction project at W&L in decades, with a price tag of approximately $42 million. It is the result of a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees in 2014 that required all students to live on campus through the junior year.

“The guiding principle in developing this project has been our desire to preserve the distinctive character of the Washington and Lee community,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “The new residential neighborhoods add in significant ways to the university’s strong sense of place.”

As plans for the Village took shape, the project became about much more than a place to study and sleep. A restaurant, coffeehouse/pub, fitness center and green spaces in the new residential area were designed to encourage socializing and physical activity. University planners also seized the opportunity to improve safety campus-wide by establishing a detailed 911 addressing system that will improve emergency response times to W&L.

In addition, leaders decided to christen new streets on campus with the names of two men who left a lasting impression on the university: the late Larry Stuart, a public safety officer, and Lewis “Lew” John, a retired dean of students and professor of politics emeritus.

“At the end of the day, we want to have an infrastructure that supports the development of community because that’s what’s important here,” said Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “And those two people, for two different generations of students, contributed so much to that.”

Building boom

The two “neighborhoods” that make up the Village will house about 340 students in the 2016-2017 academic year. They encompass a total of nine apartment houses and eight townhouse buildings clustered around park-like greens. Construction of a new natatorium has taken place concurrently with the housing project.

Augusta Square, which is located on the lower end of the development, just above the natatorium, consists of four apartment buildings and three townhouse buildings. Liberty Hall Common, located above the Artificial Turf Field, holds five apartment buildings and five townhouse buildings.

Each unit in the three-story apartments offers four single bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a balcony. Most of the three-story townhouses are made up of six-bedroom units with two full baths and three half-baths. Two units each have seven bedrooms, three full baths and three half-baths. All townhouses have a kitchen, living room and balcony.

Every apartment and townhouse boasts handsome, modern decorative touches such as granite countertops and chocolate-colored wood laminate floors. Perhaps most exciting are the views from the upper-floor units.

“We knew the views up there were going to be great,” said Evans, “but especially from some of the higher units, they’re just phenomenal in both directions — towards House Mountain and then back towards VMI. It’s just beautiful.”

The two apartment buildings that overlook Wilson Field are a bit different from the others. One will house a restaurant and community room on the bottom floor, while the other will have a fitness center, a multi-purpose room and study rooms. The upper floors are student housing.

These two structures will be connected by a small, curved colonnade; the area between the buildings will be filled with tables for outdoor dining, socializing and studying. Planners hope the common spaces inside and outside these buildings will lure those who want a prime view of athletic events on Wilson Field.

To build the Village, the college used modular construction, a technology that neither the architect, the university nor the contractor had ever employed. John Hoogakker, executive director of university facilities, said modules were fabricated in a factory in Rocky Mount, Virginia, then brought to Lexington and assembled on site. Each townhouse structure comprises 19 modules.

Unlike the conventional method, modular construction prevents work from being impacted by foul weather or low light. Hoogakker said it was the highest quality, least expensive, and fastest method they could have used for the project.

“I was a little skeptical going in,” he said, “but I am a real convert for this method of construction.”

That doesn’t mean the whole undertaking has been a breeze. As in other construction projects on campus, while working on the natatorium, workers ran into a lot of hard local limestone that had to be excavated. They expected to encounter the “astoundingly challenging” rock, Hoogakker said, but they did not expect to have to plug holes.

One day, while doing some explorative drilling, the drill came back up with a 16-foot section of drill bit missing. It had fallen off in an underground cavern. “That took both time and money to address,” Hoogakker said. “It required hundreds of cubic yards of extra concrete.”

For the natatorium, more than 90 exterior wall panels were manufactured in Petersburg, Virginia, then transported to Lexington to be assembled. On a recent afternoon, dozens of construction workers crawled over the natatorium like an army of busy ants.

“It’s really great to see so many people out here making a decent living,” Hoogakker remarked. “This is a huge boost in the local economy.”

Avenues to remembrance

Construction of the Village, along with a push to assign new addresses campus-wide, created a need to develop new street names on both sides of campus. And that provided an opportunity for university leaders to honor two individuals whose contributions to the school are unparalleled.

Lewis John Avenue, which will connect West Denny Circle to the Village, was named for a 1958 W&L graduate who spent nearly his entire career at his alma mater. John started in Admissions and Financial Aid in 1963, left to obtain a master’s degree, and returned in 1968 to become dean of students, a position he held for 21 years. After earning a Ph.D. from Syracuse, John became a full-time politics professor in 1991.

He received the Pusey Award for University Service in 1986, and served as coordinator of the Public Policy Program, on the faculty for the Summer Scholars Program, as a pre-law advisor, and as a member of the Shepherd Program Advisory Committee. He was also chair of the University Athletic Committee, the ODK faculty secretary, and the faculty advisor to the Owings Fellowship Program.

As an alum, John volunteered for his 50th and 55th class committees, and generously supported Washington and Lee’s Annual Fund, the Friends of Leyburn Library, the Class of 1958 Farris and Judy Hotchkiss Alumni House Endowment, and the Class of ’58 Uncas and Anne McThenia Term Professorship. For these contributions and more, John received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013.

“When I mention his name to alums who are probably more than 15 years out, the face says it all,” Evans said. “It’s clear he made an impact on students, an impact on their development.”

John said that when he received a call from President Ruscio about the street name, he was pleasantly surprised and honored. W&L has been “the major part of my life,” he said.

“I’m very pleased to have my name associated with an area of student housing, since I spent most of my career with students,” he added.

The street that cuts straight through the heart of Liberty Hall Common will be named Larry Stuart Avenue, after the caring, gregarious public safety officer whose death, in 2014 at age 54, came as a shock to the entire W&L campus. Stuart, who worked at the university for 29 years, was especially renowned for his rapport with students.

Ethan Kipnes, director of public safety, said Stuart understood that law enforcement in higher education is not always black-and-white.

“I think one of the things that’s great on a college campus is that even in a public safety area, we can live a lot more in that gray area and still hold students to certain expectations. We can still have rules and regulations, but at the same time take advantage of the opportunity that we are part of the educational process of the institution. Larry had a good feel for exactly that — what are the times when we have to say ‘OK, we have a job to do and here’s the line and you’ve crossed it,’ or is this student going to be better served by taking a little bit of a different approach?”

Stuart’s sister, Peggy McNeil, said both she and her mother cried when they found out the university wanted to use her brother’s name.

“Larry worked so hard to keep the students safe and to keep them close where he could be at arm’s reach to them,” McNeil said. “To have them closer on campus, that’s something that he would have wanted. He is smiling down now to see that this is finally happening.”

Larry Stuart likely would have also wanted local police officers and firefighters to be able to respond to emergencies on the Washington and Lee campus as quickly as possible, a goal that will be easier to meet with a more sophisticated addressing system.

Taking steps for safety

For at least a year, Assistant University Planner Truman Payne has been working to assign exact physical addresses to every location on campus. “This is going to be a really super thing, safety-wise,” he said.

Kipnes said more professional firefighters are being hired from outside the Lexington/Rockbridge County area, so one can no longer assume that all responders are familiar with the W&L campus. Even those who know it well use a variety of terminology for certain buildings and outdoor areas.

The sophisticated navigation technology that is being used increasingly by emergency responders was often defaulting to the W&L mailing address, 204 W. Washington St., when a call came in from campus. “It could have been a fire alarm in Lewis Hall — the Law School — and the fire trucks are rolling up to West Washington Street,” Kipnes said, “which is a half-mile away from where they needed to be.

“Anything that delays emergency response is not good, and certainly if we have the ability to do some work to remedy any of those issues or take out any of those possible delays, then that certainly is important for us to work on.”

Payne coordinated with local agencies to use the standard formula for assigning road names and numbers. Not all of the new road names are in locations that would typically be considered roads, but they do serve as access points for vehicles like fire engines and ambulances. In addition to Larry Stuart Avenue and Lewis John Avenue, other new names include Generals Lane, which cuts behind the Center for Global Learning between W&L and the VMI campus; Stemmons Plaza, the space behind the Colonnade; Early-Fielding Way, which runs behind Early-Fielding University Center and Evans Dining Hall from Lee Avenue to West Washington Street; Warner Drive (between Doremus Gym and the parking garage); and Augusta Square (off West Denny Circle, around Watt Field and the Artificial Turf Field).

Payne and Kipnes said the next step will be educating local responders and W&L students and employees about the new addresses. For reasons of safety and privacy, the mailing address for all locations on campus will remain 204 W. Washington St. Payne said the new addresses make for better communication between the university and local public safety officials, although he hopes the detailed addresses are never needed for a serious emergency.

“We hope that any calls will just be burned popcorn and stuff like that,” he said.

Other safety updates of note at the Village include electronic/swipe-card access on buildings, lots of additional lighting, and new freestanding pedestals that will feature a blue light, security camera and phone line to the Public Safety Office. “We wanted to be able to install these in some of those areas over there that will feel more remote, like the parking lot areas and some of the walkways,” Kipnes said.

Speaking of parking, he said, students living in the Village will be issued a permit that allows them to park in lots on the back side of campus, and does not allow parking on the main part of campus during academic hours. Kipnes said it is impossible to say for sure until everything is open, but he anticipates that the parking garage will be less utilized than it is now.

“The crunch that we’ve felt for the past year or year and a half will hopefully be alleviated by the fact that we’ll be able to distribute vehicles in a different way, and have added just enough new parking to manage to spread everybody out,” he said.

Life at the Village

The Village truly was designed with students in mind, Evans said, which is why they asked student focus groups for input. Those groups helped to inform decisions such as building six-person townhouses instead of smaller units, because W&L students seem to like living in larger groups. The focus groups also expressed a desire to make the Village inviting to all students, which is one reason planners included attractions like a restaurant and spaces for outdoor gatherings.

Evans said the housing lottery went exceptionally well, with any junior who wanted to live in the Village getting a spot there. “This class is pretty decent-sized, and we were hoping the numbers worked, but you never know until you try, and they did.”

The new dining facility at the Village, which is being called Fieldside, will be split into two halves; the larger half will be a restaurant, while the smaller half, Fireside, will be a coffeehouse and pub.

Michael Zanie, director of dining services at W&L, said the restaurant will have a rotating dinner concept to make the most of its smaller food-storage space and to keep the menu interesting. About every two months, the theme will change. No matter the dinner concept, he said, the ordering method will always be similar to a Chipotle, with customers able to build their own plates by pointing out whatever fresh hot and cold ingredients they desire.

The working plan for the rotating theme: Mexican cantina in September and October (“Mexican typically is identified as the most popular thing that we don’t have an identified spot for yet,” Zanie said); a firehouse grill in November and December; Asian stir-fry in January and February; a pasta bar in March and April, and lighter, more summery fare such as wraps and bowls in May.

Zanie said Dining Services will monitor the popularity of the themes and make changes, if necessary. “If something underperforms, we’ll introduce something else.”

The larger restaurant side will initially be closed for breakfast and lunch, but Fireside will be open during those mealtimes, serving quick items such as breakfast sandwiches, pastries, paninis and salads. The coffee shop will serve Lexington Coffee Roasters coffee, and at night the pub will serve beer, wine and hard cider with a locally sourced focus. There will even be a late-night pub grub menu featuring items such as quesadillas, pizzas and loaded nachos. The hours of the two venues may be adjusted to meet student demand.

Overall, university leaders see the Village as a residential hub that complements what the campus already has to offer. They picture students watching lacrosse or football games at Wilson Field from the comfort of their balconies, playing corn hole or Frisbee on the lawn in the center of Liberty Hall Common, sipping coffee while studying at a table outside Fieldside, and getting a little exercise while walking to class instead of driving.

“I’m anxious to see these apartments and townhouses come online,” Payne said. “We’ve got a lot of land back here, and I think it’s going to be awesome to see some new life on campus.”

– Lindsey Nair | lnair@wlu.edu


W&L Senior Charles Zachariades Awarded R&A Ransome Scholarship

Charlie Zachariades, of Chatham, N.J., a senior at Washington and Lee University, was awarded a 2016 R&A Ransome Scholarship for a one-year master’s program in global health implementation at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Zachariades, a neuroscience major, was one of three scholars selected for the Ransome Scholarship. The scholarship provides support for full tuition, residential university costs or private residential costs, a book allowance and a travel allowance.

“I studied at St. Andrews my junior year, and I really fell in love with the school, the country and the people so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to go back,” said Zachariades. “I found out about the master’s program in global health implementation through its medical school website—it should help me decide whether I want to attend medical school or physician’s assistant school. To say I was pleasantly surprised when awarded the scholarship would be an understatement.”

“Charlie was a great addition to my research team,” said Sarah Blythe, associate professor of biology. “He has strong leadership skills, and he invested time in trying to make projects work better. I have known Charlie since his first year at W&L when he was a student in a class of mind. It’s been so rewarding to watch him grow as both a student and a researcher. He truly loved his time at St. Andrews, so I am truly pleased that he gets to return and work towards his master’s degree. “

Zachariades is a member of W&L’s varsity track and field team, serving as team captain his junior and senior years. He was All-Conference 4×400, Academic All-Conference team and is a W&L scholar-athlete. He is a member of the University-Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra, a member of Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and is a staff photographer and contributing writer for The Stone, an interdisciplinary academic journal.

He served as an emergency medicine research intern at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and as a medical intern with Richmond Term Shadowing. Since 2014, he has also done neurobiological research in Blythe’s research lab.

The Dr. Ernest L. Ransome III Scholarship was initially established in 1994 as a way for the friends and associates of Ernest Ransome to recognize his commitment to philanthropy, education and athletics. The scholarship’s mission is to enrich the experience of deserving postgraduate students by affording them the opportunity to attend the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. In 2015, the scholarship was renamed The R&A Ransome Scholarship.

Study Abroad in Japan: Working With Nature Around the World, Jane Kim '17, Kanazawa, Japan

Imagine a typical farmers’ market back in the U.S. What do you see? Maybe several cases of various organic fruits? Some home-grown leafy vegetables? Maybe there are some fresh meat or eggs or dairy products, too? Maybe people are walking through the aisles, browsing through different foodstuffs, chatting, and enjoying the fragrant aromas from fresh produce.

Omicho Market is similar, except that the items are 70-80 percent seafood The market is open every day from early morning until the late afternoon, and its vendors proudly display their wares. There are squid, fish, octopus and crabs that are bigger than the size of my head. The air is tinged with salt and the smell of roasted squid-on-a-stick. Other than seafood, there are also mini-bakeries that sell curry croquettes, bread with red bean paste, and melonpan — bread with melon flavor! — which are quite different from the common American fare. There were also fruits, but they were much, much more expensive than fruit in America: there was a small watermelon for ¥2300 (about $21). This is because Japan is only about the size of California, and it simply does not have the agricultural space for cheap produce to be a viable option. And from what little agricultural land they have, they sell only the best fruits from the harvest.

Of course that is a very simplified explanation, but nevertheless, it is undeniably a significant factor in the lives of the people here. After having taken a good look around Omicho Market and having observed my host family’s regular meals, I found that the residents of Kanazawa are very attuned to the natural world around them. They are aware of where their food comes from, and the food that is brought to the table is directly affected by the condition of the Japanese agricultural economy. For example, one day, I came home to find my Okaa-san (my host mother; okaa-san means mother) struggling to bring a large plastic bag through the door. I helped her carry it in, and after we set it down, she proudly opened the bag to reveal some enormous, cone-like roots. Takenoko, they were called: bamboo shoots. She had dug them up herself, she told me, from a mountain bamboo farm nearby. And after that day, we had takenoko for every meal: takenoko soup, pickled takenoko, steamed takenoko, takenoko tempura (deep-fried bamboo shoots) and even takenoko cooked into our rice. I told her that I had seen row upon row of takenoko at Omicho Market that were as big as the length from my elbow to my wrist and as thick as my neck that were sold for as cheap as ¥500 (equivalent to a little less than $5). She explained that they were so cheap because the harvest was good this season. Last season, the takenoko were small and very expensive, and so they did not eat as much of it. This was an inconvenience for them because it took away one of their staple foods for the season.

But Japanese people, Okaa-san informed me, always persevere to work with nature, and not against it.


Spain in Context: The Rocks Here are Cooler Around the World, Abigail Beasley '17, Cádiz, Spain

Hola from Cádiz, located on the beautiful southern coast of Spain — not the beautiful eastern coast of Ohio. While the distinct culture of Middle America rocks, the rocks here are cooler. Disclaimer: we went to Gibraltar yesterday just for fun!! I just skipped an entire week of class and two weeks’ worth of café, so let me start from the beginning of our trip.

Here we go: All 15 of us made it safely to this land of siestas and sol on Saturday, which we celebrated with tapas. (The only thing we’ve done wrong yet is not indulging in a paella pan bigger than my face.) Sunday morning, we got the grand tour of this ancient port city before being introduced to the beautiful families that signed up to host us for the following four weeks. Monday was just like any other first day of class back in Lexington, right? We started at 9:30 a.m., we were out at 1 p.m., and spent the following seven hours on the beach.

Some highlights from Week 1

Thursday: Today we hit some hotspots in Cádiz. The Torre Tavira was too cool for school, although it was for school. The camera obscura is like original Google maps live feed without search history. I spent the following four or so hours of my evening flirting with my favorite bakery café in town and the study-abroad 16. After enough of that, I enjoyed our evening dose of culture at a Flamenco show, which is an anagram for both flame and men, but definitely not lame.

Friday: We started our mornings like most — with baguettes, cheese and cured ham. The combination seems to be the holy trinity of modern Spain. Then we traveled to Zahara, Spain, a beautiful pueblo blanco situated beneath a 13th-century Moorish castle. The hike to the castle was absolutely worth the view of the lake (which I selectively unheard was artificial). After a quick café, we made our way to Ronda for lunch with a view. Ronda is beautiful (my mother’s name is Ronda). The origins of Andalusian bull fighting are rooted here. Unfortunately, this original 18th-century bullring only hosts a festival in September; fortunately, no animals were harmed during the making of our experience.

Saturday: We celebrated a classmate’s 20th birthday on a world’s top-20 beach in Bolonia, no boloney. Our history lesson of the day was at Baelo Claudio, an ancient Roman town now claimed as ruins, but I’m confident meets Airbnb standards. Today was totally cool, but also nearly 100°. Upon completion of our tourist activities of the day, we set out for some sand dunes in Tarifa. From the top we saw Tangiers, and at the bottom we mud bathed. When in Rome….

Now that I’ve updated you with a bit of this incredible place in which we are living and learning, I promise to provide more about my personal feelings on this experience in my next blog.


France Through Film: Bonjour in the Morning, Bonsoir at Night Around the World, Ava Lindsay '17, Toulouse, France

I have been in France for 10 days and can finally say that I have found my footing in Toulouse. The bus route is memorized, the metro schedule is constantly on hand and my legs have finally stopped hurting from hours of walking and exploring.

I met my host mom, Indiana, the first Saturday of the trip and soon found out that making small talk for 15 minutes in a car with a native speaker is an entirely different experience than being in a French class. I met the house rabbit, Nougat, who greeted me when I first arrived and has since provided me with laughs and company at breakfast.

I must admit that getting used to the habits and customs of a new family took longer than I had expected, but the past week of activities and French classes have kept me busy and have reminded me why I chose to take this course in the first place. I came here to become fluent in French, and I already feel like I am much more comfortable speaking in another language than when I arrived. I guess having five host siblings under the age of 17 who constantly engage in discussion might have something to do with it.

My most awkward moment so far was learning that bonjour is only acceptable in the morning, while bonsoir is used at night. I learned this the hard way when a bus driver couldn’t help but laugh after I confidently stepped on the bus and said hello with a “Bonjour!” For the record, this is the equivalent of saying good morning at 7 p.m. But, hey, I guess that is how you learn.

Every morning we take a French course where many of us are brushing up our grammar skills. Since this course is also focused on French film, we participate in activities involving things such as our favorite films and actors.

In addition, we watch films related to the themes we have studied each week in our afternoon class and connect them to our own experiences with our host families in class discussions. An extra perk this week was speaking with the director of a film we were viewing for class. We heard about his life story and inspiration for the film, as well as his plans for the future. All in French, of course.

We also studied French history in class on Tuesday in preparation for our day trip to Carcassonne on Friday. This trip was my favorite part of the week because we got to explore a medieval fortress, as well as see the plaque where Simon de Montfort was buried. This was especially cool because I had studied him in my French class this past term.

I am looking forward to my next three weeks in the laid-back Toulouse environment. I am missing Lexington and my friends, but the excitement of being here has made things easier. Hopefully, there won’t be too many more bonjour moments!


W&L Announces 2016 Athletic Department Awards

The Washington and Lee Department of Athletics held its annual Athletics Awards Ceremony at Lee Chapel on May 17.  The event, made possible by the generosity of the Brookby Family, honors student-athletes and administrators who have made the 2015-16 school year a tremendous success.

Headlining the awardees were seniors Ron Tassoni and Stephanie Foster, who were selected as the “Pres” Brown Outstanding Senior Male and Female Athletes of the Year as voted on by members of the department.

Senior tennis player Michael Holt and senior basketball and soccer player Shelbi Hendricks received the William D. McHenry Male and Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards, while lacrosse player A.J. Witherell and field hockey and lacrosse player Haley Tucker were presented the Outstanding First-Year Male and Female Athlete Awards.  Senior football player Dillon Stanfield was selected as the winner of the Wink Glasgow Spirit & Sportsmanship Award.

Tassoni was a four-year letterwinner and two-year captain for the wrestling team.  He spent his first two seasons wrestling at 174 pounds and then bumped to 184 pounds for his final two campaigns.  He finished as the program’s all-time wins leader with a 97-43 record and also set new school marks for team points (343.5) and takedowns (268).  A two-time National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-American, he claimed the 174-pound title at the Centennial Conference Championship as a sophomore and finished as the conference runner-up at 184 pounds in his senior season.  He also finished third at the NCAA East Regional, becoming W&L’s first NCAA National Championship qualifier since 2001.  Tassoni twice earned All-Centennial Conference and VaSID All-State laurels.

Foster earned four letters as a member of the swimming team.  She twice won the ODAC Championship in the 100 backstroke and was a part of six ODAC Champion relay teams, including the 200 freestyle relay (1:35.81) and the 200 medley relay (1:45.46) that set school, conference and championship meet records this season.  She was an All-ODAC honoree all four seasons and garnered the ODAC/Farm Bureau Scholar-Athlete of the Year following each of her final three years.  Additionally, she is a three-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and she has twice received Scholar All-America honors from the College Swimming Coaches Association of America.

Holt received the McHenry Male Scholar-Athlete Award after earning four letters with the men’s tennis program.  The mathematics major is a three-time All-ODAC honoree and a two-time All-American in doubles.  He has received the ODAC/Farm Bureau Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award three times and he is a two-time Third Team CoSIDA Academic All-American.  A member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa, he finished his career ranked fifth all-time at W&L with 76 doubles wins (76-26).  He also went 54-25 in singles in leading W&L to four ODAC titles.

Hendricks was the female recipient of the McHenry Scholar-Athlete Award as a four-year letterwinner in basketball.  She also joined the soccer program as a junior to help add depth at goalkeeper.  In basketball, the forward played in 99 career games, starting 72 contests.  She averaged 8.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.9 steals across her four seasons.  In soccer, she played in seven career games, saving all six shots she faced in going 3-0 with three shutouts.  She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa and a 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree.

Witherell was named the outstanding first-year male after lettering as an attackman for the lacrosse team.  He played in all 20 of the team’s games and led the team and tied for seventh in the ODAC in scoring with 55 points on 33 goals and 22 assists.  He also had 38 ground balls in helping lead the Generals to their first ODAC title since 2009.  He was named Second Team All-ODAC and ODAC Rookie of the Year.

Tucker received the outstanding first-year female award after lettering in field hockey and lacrosse.  As a forward in field hockey, she was a Third Team All-ODAC selection after finishing as the team’s second-leading scorer with 18 points on eight goals and two assists.  On the lacrosse field, she helped the Generals to the ODAC Championship by finishing tied for third on the team in scoring with 31 points on 25 goals and six assists.  The midfielder also led the team with 48 draw controls and collected 23 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers.  Tucker earned First Team All-ODAC honors and was named the ODAC Rookie of the Year.  She also became the first-ever W&L rookie named to the All-Region team, garnering second team laurels.

Stanfield was named the winner of the Wink Glasgow Spirit & Sportsmanship Award after a four-year career with the football team.  He played in 20 games over his career, totaling 518 all-purpose yards as a running back.

Other awards that were presented on Tuesday included the J.L. Lefty Newell Award for the top student manager/worker and the R.E. Chub Yeakel Award, which is given to a member of the University community who has made outstanding contributions to the Department of Athletics.  Senior Christina Kamis was the recipient of the Lefty Newell Award, while former coach and administrator Chuck O’Connell was presented the Chub Yeakel Award.  Junior Diana Banks was voted to receive the Dick Miller Physical Education Scholarship.

Kamis was voted the Lefty Newell Award winner after serving as a volunteer assistant coach for the volleyball team after her playing career was cut short due to injury.  O’Connell received the Chub Yeakel Award for remaining a volunteer assistant coach with the men’s and women’s lacrosse programs following his retirement.  Banks received a scholarship for having completed the University’s physical education requirements as a model student.

For a complete listing of the major department awards and all the team awards that have been presented throughout the year, view it here.


Washington and Lee University to Celebrate 229th Commencement, Baccalaureate

Washington and Lee University celebrates its 229th undergraduate commencement Thursday, May 26, when it will award bachelor’s degrees to more than 440 students.

University President Kenneth P. Ruscio will address the graduates at the 10 a.m. ceremony on the Front Lawn of the main campus. Lauren R. Howard, Class of 2016 representative to the Executive Committee of the Student Body and a graduating senior from South Glastonbury, Connecticut, will speak on behalf of the Class of 2016.

Commencement festivities begin Wednesday, May 25, at 10 a.m. on the Front Lawn with the traditional baccalaureate service, featuring speaker Elizabeth P. Knapp. Knapp is Washington and Lee’s associate provost, the director of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity, and a professor of geology. She chairs the Special Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L, the University Sustainability Committee, and the Community Engagement and Service Learning Advisory Committee, and is co-chair of the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate.

Knapp previously served as the senior assistant to the president and as the associate dean of the College. She has been on the faculty at W&L since 1997, teaching geochemistry and hydrogeology. Knapp received her bachelor of science in geology from Washington and Lee and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia, and was recently inducted as an honorary member of Omicron Delta Kappa.

Also speaking at the baccalaureate service are this year’s recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Paqui Toscano of Kettering, Ohio, and Tierney Wolgemuth of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Toscano and Wolgemuth were selected by the faculty as individuals who best demonstrate high ideals of living, spiritual qualities and generous service to others.

During the commencement ceremony on Thursday, W&L will recognize 28 retiring members of the faculty and staff, who represent a total of 670 years of service. The University will also award an honorary doctor of humane letters degree to Dr. Robert C. Vaughan III, president and founding director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and a 1966 Washington and Lee graduate.

Three graduating seniors have been awarded Fulbright Grants for postgraduate international work.

  • Anna Paden Carson of Roanoke, Virginia, will teach English at a public college or university in Colombia, followed by an internship or volunteer position in her field of interest, human rights and immigration.
  • Ijezie Ikwuezunma of Richmond, Texas, will conduct research while pursuing an MRes (masters of research) in biomedical sciences and transnational medicine at the University of Liverpool.
  • Meera Kumar of Portland, Oregon, will travel to India to pursue her project titled “Artistic Depiction and Womanhood in Village Bengal.”

Four other seniors also received scholarships for postgraduate international work.

  • Blaise Buma of Cameroon was named a Schwarzman Scholar for graduate study at Tsinghua University in China.
  • Charlie Zachariades of Chatham, New Jersey, received a Ransome Scholarship for a program in global health implementation at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
  • Hannah Wilson of Charlotte, North Carolina, has been awarded a Princeton in Asia Fellowship, providing support of transformative, service-oriented experiences in Asia.
  • Patrick Wright of Tampa, Florida, has been awarded a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals Fellowship for study and internship experience in Germany.

The Class of 2016 hails from 43 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and 12 other countries.

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-2016.


From Art to Finish A new Spring Term class has an English professor and an art professor teaming up to guide students through writing and illustrating a comic book.

“Drawings are communications. Anybody who can make a mark on paper is evincing some kind of communication.”

— Leigh Ann Beavers

lindsey-drawing.jpg-1024x363 From Art to Finish

On a college campus nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, two professors devised an ambitious plan: They would blend their powers of writing and drawing to teach students how to create a 14-page comic book from start to finish — in only four weeks.

Perhaps they would need superpowers.

Making Comics, a course taught jointly by Chris Gavaler, assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee, and art instructor Leigh Ann Beavers, had no prerequisites in writing or art. Some students who signed up for the class were apprehensive about their strength in one or both areas.

“It’s been really hard,” said Anthonia Adams ’16, a couple of weeks into the course. “I have the worst drawing in the class.”

Beavers has an opinion about this so-called inability to draw, but we’ll get back to that later. Meanwhile, in the English Department …

It’s no secret on the W&L campus that Gavaler is a fan of comics. He read them as a child, fell away from them, and became obsessed again when his daughter expressed an interest in the form. Since 2009, he has taught a class about superheroes and comics that has examined the superhero character type and the elements of comics as an art. He has written a book on the topic, “On the Origin of Superheroes: From the Big Bang to Action Comics No. 1,” and has a personal blog, “The Patron Saint of Superheroes.”

One day, it occurred to him that the art of creating comic books would make for a dynamite Spring Term class. He pitched the idea to Beavers, who immediately got on board. It is unusual for two professors to co-teach a class at the university, but Gavaler and Beavers enjoyed the collaboration.

“Leigh Ann and I are really learning as we go,” Gavaler said. “We’re trying to merge two completely different disciplines.”

On the first day of class, students absorbed some of the fundamentals of creating comic books. Gavaler said the average comic book has at least four creators, including a script writer, an artist who makes pencil sketches, someone who inks in the drawings, and one who colors the images. For Making Comics, the students would do it all.

When Gavaler asked the class to talk about comic book clichés, they mentioned tropes such as caped crusaders with dead parents, and half-naked women who must be saved by men. That’s when the professor dropped a surprising opinion about the content of the comics they would make in class: “I strongly recommend no superheroes,” he said. “There are so many clichés attached to the superhero genre.”

Gavaler said writing a script for a comic book is unlike any other writing form he knows. It’s similar to a screenplay, but one must consider that much of the action will occur in the gutters, or the spaces between panels. That action is inferred by the images and text that precede and follow it. For example, if the first panel shows a glass of water teetering on the edge of a table, and the second panel shows a puddle studded with broken glass on the floor, the reader can infer that the glass fell off the table and broke.

To demonstrate the many ways a story can be illustrated, Gavaler and Beavers asked students on the first day to draw a strip that showed a man walking, finding a key on the ground, picking it up and using it to open a door, revealing a hungry lion. Sixteen different versions of the story emerged on the sketch pads.

Their test drawings illustrated some other comics concepts, including:

  • Perspective — is the reader looking up, down or parallel at the images?
  • Planes — Is the action in the foreground, middle ground or background? Is it flat (like a “Peanuts” strip) or multi-dimensional?
  • Framing — What are the sizes and shapes of panels used to sketch the story? Are they all square or are some tall and skinny, rectangular, or even round? Are some panels broken, meaning that a figure protrudes from the frame?

By the second week of the class, students were working simultaneously on script development and sketches. Some worried that they could not draw well enough to do justice to their ideas, but Beavers reassured them. As she explains it, “Drawings are communications. Anybody who can make a mark on paper is evincing some kind of communication.”

She offered some basics to help students brush up on their drawing, and said she has been pleased with their work, no matter how much artistic experience they have. “All of the drawings are really viable,” she said. “There aren’t any weak drawers.”

The pupils are conjuring some fascinating tales in their books. Abby Pannell ‘16 is making a comic that follows a woman as she is diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Anthonia Adams’ book revolves around a young Christian girl who is being tormented by Satan and has to put on “the full armor of God” to drive the devil away. Lindsay George ’16, who is majoring in art history and English, was inspired by the film “Fargo” and photographs by Stephen Short to create a story about a young woman who works at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s a lot of work,” George said, “but this is the perfect synthesis of my two interests.”

As Spring Term draws to a close, the story of the Making Comics class has become something of a nail-biter itself. Halfway through the third week, most students had only finished a few pages. During class, they hunched over their work in one of the design studios in Wilson Hall, drawing and coloring and critiquing each other’s projects.

Some have set finished pages aside and started all over. Many students are spending hours working on their comics outside of class, but not a one said they were frustrated or bored.

They may have wished for that clichéd superhero to swoop in and help them wrap it up. In a way, they did get saved when the professors gave them an extra weekend to finish their books. When they’re finished, the students will print five color copies each.

“We’re asking a lot of them,” Gavaler said, “but I think they’re all having a really good time, frankly.”

W&L Senior Athena Cao Wins First Place for Feature Writing in National Contest

Athena (Yue) Cao, a senior from Beijing, China, has won first place for feature writing (small school division) in the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) 2015 national Mark of Excellence for college journalists.

Cao won for a story entitled “Hotdogs — a ‘Life Changer’ for Chili Man,” written while she was an intern at The Charlotte Observer during the summer of 2015.

Cao, a business journalism major, is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honorary Society, a glider pilot in training with the Shenandoah Valley Soaring Club and a peer tutor for financial accounting. She was awarded a 2015 journalism summer fellowship from the Virginia Society of Professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi Educational Foundation. She is a W&L Executive Committee hearing advisor and a phonathon caller.

She has also been a business news intern at the Richmond Times-Dispatch; an editorial intern at The Hill, a political newspaper in Washington; and a cultural channel editorial intern at Phoenix Media in China. This summer she will work as a business news intern at USA Today.

Carolyn Holtzman, a senior from New Orleans, was a national finalist in the general news category (small school division) for her story “High-Tech and High-Touch: FIU Introduces ‘Virtual’ Dissection,” published while she was an intern at the Miami Herald.

Holtzman is a double major in journalism and Spanish from New Orleans. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, English Speakers of Other Languages and events chairman for Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She writes for InGeneral Magazine and was a copywriter for the 2016 Mock Convention, worked on The Rockbridge Report and won the Clark R. Mollenhoff Award which recognizes a journalism major.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

SPJ’s Mark of Excellence Awards each year recognize the best work of student journalists across the country. National winners will be acknowledged during the SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans this September.

Three Washington and Lee Students Named Kemper Scholars

Yo Han (John) Ahn, of St. Louis, Missouri; Josie Anker, of Sparta, New Jersey; and Skyler Zunk, of Moseley, Virginia, all first-year students at Washington and Lee University, have been selected as Kemper Scholars.

Recipients are selected from a national applicant pool of first-year college students and receive scholarship assistance for three years based on financial need. Each also receives summer project stipends for two years, attends the annual Kemper Scholars Conference and performs a summer internship at a Chicago-area major non-profit organization after their sophomore year.

Following the junior year, scholars are placed in paid summer internships throughout the U.S. with the Kemper Corp., to gain experience and skills in the insurance industry.

Ahn, a Gates Millennium Scholar, anticipates majoring in business administration and European history. He is a member of the First Year Leadership Council, the Youth Literacy Project and Campus Kitchen leadership team. He is on the leadership team for SPEAK and on the videos committee for the First Year Orientation Committee.

Anker is a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, the First Year Leadership Council, SPEAK, Chi Omega Sorority, Lifestyle Information for Everyone, Relay for Life and the Red Cross Club. She was in the musical production of “Legally Blonde,” is a volunteer for Nabors Service Day and on the Dean’s List and Honor Roll.

Zunk is a long-distance runner on the varsity cross country and track team and a member of Contact Committee, the First Year Leadership Council and was a member of the 2016 Mock Convention Platform Committee. In 2016-2017, Zunk will be a community assistant in the upper division residence halls.

The James S. Kemper Foundation, which funds the program, supports undergraduate study of the liberal arts as the best preparation for life and career, while providing opportunities for career exploration, practical experience and professional growth. It fosters potential leaders who pursue a broad undergraduate education, while participating in community service, campus activities and vocational exploration outside the classroom.

“Kemper Scholars represent a select group of undergraduates from a group of exemplary liberal arts colleges around the country,” said Dr. Ryan LaHurd, president of the James S. Kemper Foundation. “They are selected because they are committed to their studies and service in their communities and because they have exhibited leadership and well-rounded, ethical character. Throughout the over six decades of the program, scholars have gone on to make outstanding contributions as leaders in organizations around the country.”

Shenandoah Announces Winner of 2016 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets

Jess Quinlan of Staunton, Virginia, is the winner of the annual Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets offered by Shenandoah: The Washington and Lee University Review for the best poem entered by a Virginia poet.

She will receive a cash award of $500, and her poem “Wahunsenacawh” will appear on the Shenandoah website  as part of the fall 2016 issue.

Quinlan’s poem looks back at a moment in early Virginia history when Native American chieftain Powhatan prepares to leave his accustomed homeland and travel westward towards his death.

She is an M.F.A. graduate of Hollins University and works as a technical writer. She is also an advisory editor for The James Dickey Review.

Mary Crockett Hill was selected as runner-up for her poem “Memento Mori,” which addresses various methods of preserving the memory of loved ones who have died. Hill is the author of two books, including “A Theory of Everything” (Autumn House).

The contest was judged by Mark Sanders who is the professor and chair of the English Department at Stephen F. Austin State University. He is the author of seven books including “Conditions of Grace: New and Selected Poems” (2012) and “Landscapes, with Horses” (poetry, 2013).

Previous winners of the prize include Elizabeth Murawski, Judith McCombs, Nancy Schoenberger and Juliana Daugherty. The judge for the next prize will be revealed after the results have been announced. No members of the Washington and Lee Community or their immediate families are eligible.

The Graybeal-Gowen Prize is dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Priscilla Gowen Graybeal’s father, Howerton Gowen, W&L ’30, a lifelong lover of poetry.  The prize is donated by Mrs. Graybeal and her husband James (W&L ’49).

Submissions to the annual Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets are welcomed from all writers born in Virginia, as well as those with current legal residency of a year or more. No entry fee is required. Poets may enter as many as three poems of no more than 50 lines each and should send submissions between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, 2016, through the submissions link on Shenandoah’s website to the submittable page and a platform with specific instructions for downloading Graybeal-Gowen entries. For more information, contact R. T. Smith at (540) 458-8908 or rodsmith@wlu.edu.

A Q&A With Patsy Doerr '90 on Corporate Social Responsibility

Is there a connection between corporate social responsibility and a company’s return on investment? According to Patsy Doerr, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1990, the answer is very much a yes.

Patsy is global head of corporate responsibility and inclusion for Thomson Reuters, and she offered her perspectives in a Q&A with CR Magazine.

She comments on the importance of diversity: “Diversity is no longer an HR or Corporate Responsibility initiative. Studies increasingly show that strong financial performance and a healthy outlook for long-term growth are intrinsically linked to diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion lead to more innovation, better access to talent, and ultimately better business performance.

“To put it simply, the more diverse your workforce is (not just of gender, race and sexual orientation, but of style, thought, dress etc.), the more likely you are to innovate, problem solve, attract and retain top talent and succeed in the new global economy. Companies that don’t embrace this will ultimately lag behind because they are missing out on new ideas and opportunities.”

Patsy noted that the younger generation now expects social responsibility to be an integral part of any company. “Millennials are one of the largest generations in history. They are tomorrow’s leaders, and will become our main customer base. They are the first generation to grow up with the idea of corporate social responsibility and expect that corporations will work as partners with government, regulatory agencies and not-for-profits to make the world a better place.

“It’s nothing new to note that people want to work for and work with companies that they trust as partners. As you know, we are the ‘Answer Company’ and trust is a core value of everything we do since we are trusted for the information, technology and expertise we provide. A large part of that trust for millennials is conducting business in a socially responsible way for the betterment of the world. Millennials want to work for a company they respect and they want to do business with companies they trust.”

As well as overseeing Thomson Reuters’ corporate social responsibility, Patsy is responsible for diversity and inclusion and sustainability functions. She has held a number of global leadership roles at JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, in New York, London and, most recently, Hong Kong.

Patsy sits on the board of trustees for Marymount School for Girls, where she is also the president of the Alumni Association. She belongs to the YMCA Leadership Committee, the 30% Club Steering Committee, the Business Advisory Board for PFLAG and the steering committee for All in Together. She graduated from W&L with a B.S. in biology (pre-medicine) and has a M.S. (summa cum laude) in adult learning and organizational development from Fordham University.

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International Endeavors: Njoya and Biegel Amirah Ndam Njoya and Jenna Biegel taught at a summer camp for rural children and researched drinking-water quality in Cameroon.

“By introducing Jenna to Cameroon, I was able to discover my own country and get out of my comfort zone.”

— Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17
Yaounde, Cameroon

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Amirah: I was really excited to introduce Jenna to Cameroon and to share with her all the aspects that I love so much about my country. As her arrival day grew closer, I became a little anxious and nervous. I wondered if she was going to be able to get adjusted to the extremely different life that it is living in Cameroon. Would the language barrier be a problem? (Even though Cameroon is bilingual — the national languages are French and English — we were mostly going to be in places where people were francophone). What about the food? As I went through my worrisome phase, I realized that I was looking at my country with a different set of eyes. And I was truly amazed at how quickly, easily and simply Jenna was able to adapt herself to all the change. I also discovered aspects of my hometown that I had not been previously aware. We walked to neighborhoods that I had never been before, interviewed people, and did things like riding moto-taxis that I would have never done on my own. By introducing Jenna to Cameroon, I was able to discover my own country and get out of my comfort zone.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Amirah: Our project consisted of two phases. The first phase of our project was to design and teach at a one-week summer camp for children in the rural village of Mandekene, in the Noun subdivision of the Western region of Cameroon. We taught the 60-plus elementary children that ranged from 3 to 15 about climate change, gave them mini English lessons, made origami, had reading time, and we were even able to have a cooking session where we made with them banana bread. One of the final achievements at the school was the creation of a mural that the children painted. With the funds of the grant, we were able to rehabilitate some buildings of the school, buy science posters for the classroom, playground toys, bookshelves and fruit trees.

The second phase of our project consisted of researching drinking-water quality in three areas of Cameroon: agricultural Koutaba, urban Foumban and rural Mandekene. We would walk to different neighborhoods in these places and test the drinking water, whether it was from streams, springs, hand-crank pumps, wells, etc., for pH, conductivity, turbidity and presence of e-coli bacteria. Jenna was also able to bring back water samples to test for the presence of minerals in the water. As we tested the water samples, we interviewed the inhabitants and also town officials about the difficulties of attaining drinking water in the areas.

We chose this project because it encompassed both of our concentrations, Jenna’s being in geology and environmental studies, and mine being in global politics and studio art.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Amirah: The most important takeaway is that no matter how different our respective concentrations were, we were able to work together to make a small difference in the communities. We were also able to grow as individuals and learn from our experience. I believe that it shows the strengths and the importance of a liberal arts education. The liberal arts education allows for the symbiosis of knowledge. This truly impacted my way of perceiving the environment in which I lived. This is why we plan to share our experience with students on campus and persuade them to apply for the grant. It was truly a unique and amazing experience.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Amirah: This project has allowed me to understand what I am really passionate about— doing everything in my power to make my country a better place for people to live in. The project allowed me to gain an interest in the planning and design of towns and cities. I am really grateful for all the individuals that were able to make this project happen, for my exceptional project partner, for the help of the town hall of Foumban, and for the Center of International Education and the Endeavor Grant.

Read about more Endeavor collaborations:

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16

Alejandro Paniagua ’16 and Kevin Ortiz ’16

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16

William Toles ’92, ‘95L Named Top Lawyer in Dallas

William Toles, a 1992 graduate of the College and a 1995 graduate of the School of Law, was named a “Best Lawyer in Dallas” by D Magazine. Toles received the best lawyer designation in the practice area of product and medical liability litigation.

A trial lawyer with extensive experience in high-exposure litigation, Toles has shepherded more than 40 civil trials to a successful conclusion and jury verdict. He has trial experience throughout the state of Texas in tort litigation ranging from simple negligence cases to more complex premises liability, DTPA, and commercial and contractual dispute matters. Toles is a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated attorney.

Toles belongs to the steward board of Christian Chapel CME Church. He has served as a member and chair of a United Way grant panel, as a member of the Leadership Dallas Class of 2012, as a class advisor for the Leadership Dallas Class of 2013, as a cluster facilitator for Leadershape at a national session, and as co-lead facilitator at the University of Texas (Austin) and the Ohio State University. He has served as a Big Brother through the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.

For his alma mater, Toles has served on the W&L Alumni Board, as president of the Dallas Alumni Chapter, as president of the Law Council and chair of the Law Annual Fund. He serves as a law class agent and as a member of the Dallas Chapter AAP Committee. While a student at W&L, Toles was an honor advocate, the secretary of the Executive Committee and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Toles was appointed this May to serve as a member of the W&L Board of Trustees.

W&L Board of Trustees Adds Three Members

The Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees welcomed three new members on May 13, during its spring meeting on campus in Lexington: John P. Case III, William M. Toles and Andrea K. Wahlquist.

John P. Case III, of Rancho Santa Fe, California, is the CEO of Realty Income Corp., a NYSE-listed commercial real estate company based in San Diego. He graduated from Washington and Lee in 1986 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in 1992 with an M.B.A.

Case began his career at Bank of America’s real estate finance group. He then entered investment banking with Merrill Lynch, and was named a managing director in 2000. He became co-head of real estate investment banking at UBS. Most recently, he served as the co-head of real estate investment banking for RBC, where he also served on the firm’s global investment banking management committee. He then became president and CIO of Realty Income.

Case is extensively involved in the broader real estate industry, serving on the board of governors of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts and the president’s council of the Real Estate Roundtable. He was also on the executive committee of the board of the National Multi-Housing Council. He serves on the board of Organizations in Training, a nonprofit supporting disadvantaged families in San Diego.

While a student at W&L, Case belonged to the Student Recruitment Committee and to Phi Delta Theta fraternity, serving as its treasurer. As an alumnus, he serves as a guest lecturer at the Williams School, on the host committee for the Real Estate Forum, and on the Parents Leadership Council, and has been an interviewer for the Alumni Admissions Program. Case and his wife, Anne, reside in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and have two children, Elizabeth (a member of W&L’s Class of 2018) and Jack (W&L’s Class of 2020).

William M. Toles, of Dallas, is a partner with the law firm Fee, Smith, Sharp & Vitullo LLP. He graduated from Washington and Lee in 1992 with bachelor’s degrees in history and broadcast journalism, and from the W&L School of Law in 1995.

A trial lawyer with extensive experience in high-exposure litigation, Toles has shepherded more than 40 civil trials to a successful conclusion and jury verdict. He has trial experience throughout the state of Texas in tort litigation ranging from simple negligence cases to more complex premises liability, DTPA, and commercial and contractual dispute matters. Toles is a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent-rated attorney.

Toles belongs to the steward board of Christian Chapel CME Church. He has served as a member and chair of a United Way grant panel, as a member of the Leadership Dallas Class of 2012, as a class advisor for the Leadership Dallas Class of 2013, as a cluster facilitator for Leadershape at a national session, and as co-lead facilitator at the University of Texas (Austin) and the Ohio State University. He has served as a Big Brother through the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.

For his alma mater, Toles has served on the W&L Alumni Board, as president of the Dallas Alumni Chapter, as president of the Law Council and chair of the Law Annual Fund. He serves as a law class agent and as a member of the Dallas Chapter AAP Committee. While a student at W&L, Toles was an honor advocate, the secretary of the Executive Committee and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Andrea K. Wahlquist, of New York City, is a partner at the law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. She holds a B.A. in English language and literature from the University of Virginia (1992) and a J.D. from the Washington and Lee School of Law (1995).

Wahlquist began her legal career as a law clerk to Judge Stephen J. Swift of the United States Tax Court. She then became an executive compensation and employee benefits lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. In her current post, she specializes in executive compensation and benefits, representing target companies in strategic mergers and with a background in representing some of the largest private equity sponsors in the acquisition, management and disposition of their portfolio companies.

She is included in The Best Lawyers in America — Employee Benefits Law, is recognized as a leading lawyer in both The Legal 500 and Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, and was named in The American Lawyer’s 2007 Dealmakers of the Year issue.

As a law student at W&L, Wahlquist served as editor in chief of the Environmental Law Digest, a publication of the Virginia State Bar Association, and of W&L’s Law News. She serves her alma mater as a member of Washington and Lee’s Law Council.

Wahlquist is a member of the Kate Stoneman Project’s subcommittee for pro bono activities and philanthropy in New York City, and serves on the board of the Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center For the Arts.


International Endeavors: Ortiz and Paniagua Alejandro Paniagua and Kevin Ortiz participated in an internship with an organization called Fundación Quiróss Tanzi, which works to improve the public education system in Costa Rica.

“These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are invaluable as students seek to gain an appreciation for the globalized world in which we reside.”

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

Alejandro Paniagua ’17 and Kevin Ortiz ’16
Studying Public Education
San Jose, Costa Rica

Paniagua and Ortiz journeyed to Paniagua’s home in Costa Rica, where they participated in an unpaid internship with an organization called Fundación Quiróss Tanzi. The organization works to improve the public education system in Costa Rica.

Paniagua is a double major in business administration and environmental studies. Ortiz is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and is double majoring in politics and sociology-anthropology with a minor in education.

What memories about the area you visited will stick with you the most, and why?

Kevin: The thing I will remember the most will be my experiences at Pan-American School (PAS), located near San Jose. Alejandro’s mother, Sra. Dora, teaches biology to middle school students there, and she was able to arrange for me to observe several different classes to compare my experiences in U.S. education with a Costa Rican variant. Pan-American School places a heavy emphasis on student service learning, and I was lucky enough to witness the middle school students plan and execute a service trip to a nearby elementary school that serves poor students. The PAS students spent the day doing a variety of activities with the elementary students, including stations for face painting and a friendly game of red-light-green-light. The enrichment experience taught the PAS students the skills of planning and fundraising in addition to the value of community service and helping others. It was so fulfilling to watch these PAS students in action and interact with the world around them.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Alejandro: Introducing Costa Rica to Kevin was an amazing opportunity, as it allowed me to have a better understanding of why Costa Rica is the way it is. At first I was somewhat nervous, because I wanted Kevin to have a good experience and like his time in Costa Rica. His eagerness to embrace my culture and his curiosity to know the why of things made everything easier. It became a learning opportunity for both of us, and, in a sense, learning about Costa Rica became a path we both traveled. I feel like by understanding Costa Rican culture, Kevin got to know me better and understand why I am and think a certain way. It opened our eyes to start questioning the reason behind certain beliefs and expectations.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Both: Our project was multifaceted. We wanted to do something that combined all of our major interests, so we spent a month traveling around Costa Rica learning about as much as we could. We focused mainly on three areas: politics, education and culture, and business and the environment.

  • Politics: We met with Dr. Jorge Saeñz, a lead instructor at Costa Rica’s foreign ministry. We talked about the Costa Rican system of government and its similarities/differences with the U.S. government. We also took a tour of the Casa Amarilla, Costa Rica’s equivalent of the U.S. State Department. Finally, we had a discussion regarding the Costa Rican political system with Óscar Aries Sánches, Costa Rica’s former president.
  • Education and culture: We compared private vs. public education in Costa Rica by visiting PAS and by learning about public school institutional needs through an internship with Fundación Quirós Tanzi, a nonprofit that seeks to improve public school education. We also spent a lot of time at Pan-American School observing different styles and approaches to teaching. From a cultural perspective, we were able to visit important national landmarks like La Paz Waterfalls and Manuel Antonio National Park to understand their importance to Costa Rican identity.
  • Business and the environment: Costa Rica is leading the way as a pioneer in utilizing eco-tourism as a sustainable model for economic growth, and so Alejandro in particular was very interested in learning more about this incredible resource for national development. We spent the first week at Veragua Rainforest in Limón at an eco-tourist vacation business. While there, we saw much of the incredible biodiversity that Costa Rica offers and worked at a mariposario (butterfly house). In addition, this opportunity gave us insights into how best to teach others about nature and conservation, two very important societal values in Costa Rica.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Both: Our most important takeaway is that in order to understand a new culture, you must recognize your preconceived notions and strive to be as open-minded as possible. Yes, we are all different in some ways. But different doesn’t mean bad. Comparing different cultures or countries should serve to remind us that beneath our differences we are similar, and we need to learn from our differences to truly embrace one another.

We plan to convey this message by reminding others of the benefits that come with immersing oneself in a new culture. As seniors at Washington and Lee, we will strive to share our experience with others by encouraging others to embrace the study abroad experience. These once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are invaluable as students seek to gain an appreciation for the globalized world in which we reside.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Kevin: My trip to Costa Rica was the first time I left the United States and integrated myself with the local population. It was incredibly refreshing to learn about varying perspectives on current political issues, political philosophy, education, the environment, etc. Meeting the people of Costa Rica has helped me have a greater appreciation for the truly global society in which we live, and it allowed me to return to my studies with new ways in which to approach learning.

Alejandro: Education is very important, but unless you live and apply what you learned, it could be fruitless. This project allowed us to apply and live many things we learned at W&L, which made this project even more significant and with more dimensions. It trespassed the boundary between academia and the real world as we saw the opportunity to keep learning and growing in a different setting, but with the same frame of mind.

Read about the other 2016 Endeavor pairs:

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16

International Endeavors: Wei and Howell Spending a summer in Wuhan, China, with fellow junior Wan Wei gave Olivia Howell a taste of Chinese culture — literally.

“A truly liberal arts education should push you to expand your horizons beyond your area of study. As a biology and Spanish double major, [I found] traveling to China and filming a documentary definitely did just that.”
— Olivia Howell ’17

wei_howell-400x600 International Endeavors: Wei and HowellWan Wei and Olivia Howell

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17
Documentary Filmmaking
Wuhan, China

Spending a summer in Wuhan, China, with her host gave Howell a taste of Chinese culture — literally. Wei and Howell chose to make a documentary comparing the breakfast fare of Wuhan with that of the United States.

Their research in Wuhan was actually the second phase of their project, as they had already taken a Spring Term 2015 class, “Cross-cultural Filmmaking.” During that course, they studied American breakfast traditions and shot footage for the documentary they would finish in China.

What memories about the area you visited will stick with you the most, and why?

Olivia: While I experienced so many wonderful moments and could write a novel overflowing with tales, my favorite memory is of the day that Wan and I went to visit her dad’s hometown. The visit was in honor of a festival that celebrates ancestors. As Wan and I were sitting with her aunts and cousins, lo and behold the snack passed around was boiled peanuts, my favorite food. Growing up in the South, I had been taught that true Southern food included dishes such as grits, fried chicken, biscuits and boiled peanuts. Yet there I was, halfway around the world with a bag of boiled peanuts in my lap. Throughout my trip, I experienced many ways in which the two cultures were different but also similar; however, nothing made me feel closer to this family and their way of life than when I sat and ate boiled peanuts in their ancestral home, just like I had growing up with my family at my ancestral home.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Wan: I was really excited of introducing my hometown and my homeland’s culture to Olivia. However, when I actually get to introduce Chinese culture to Olivia, I found it really difficult. I realize how ignorant I am about my own culture and how much more I need to study in the future.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Olivia: Wan and I filmed a documentary about breakfast culture/dishes and the impact of Western breakfast chains in the city of Wuhan, China. As the mass communications major, Wan choose the project, and I readily agreed as it covered two areas I enjoy: film and food.

Wan: With my foreign experiences in the United States and Japan, I have gradually realized that I want to become an envoy of friendship in Asian cultural exchange with foreign countries through media. As I’m passionate with both food and film, I decided to do a documentary on the topic of Chinese food, specifically the breakfast dishes in my hometown, Wuhan. In order to learn the skills to make a documentary, Olivia and I took a Spring Term course, “Cross-cultural Documentary,” together with Professor Kevin Finch in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Olivia: The important takeaway is an appreciation for Chinese culture and the unique dishes of Wuhan, as well as a realization of the large impact Western culture is having on this society. Wan and I hope to show our documentary on campus during Spring Term and next year’s Science, Society, and the Arts (SSA).

Wan: The most important takeaway from this project for me is my realization of how much I don’t know about my own culture. I have always thought I knew Chinese culture well. I was born and raised in China, so I should have known China well enough. However, I found that I definitely took it for granted. As Olivia said, we hope to show our documentary on campus during Spring Term and next year’s SSA.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Olivia: A truly liberal arts education should push you to expand your horizons beyond your area of study. As a biology and Spanish double major, [I found] traveling to China and filming a documentary definitely did just that. The documentary experience has caused me to think out how I could combine biology research/education with film, and the interaction with Chinese culture has instilled a desire to return and spend time working in the area.

Wan: I’m very thankful for the opportunity of introducing Chinese culture to W&L campus. Having studied in America for quite a while, I appreciate the fact that this project gave me the chance to observe and look into my own culture again.

Read about the other 2016 Endeavor pairs:

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16

Alejandro Paniagua ’17 and Kevin Ortiz ’16

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16

International Endeavors: Mayol and Sheppard Spending a summer in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Juan Cruz Mayol and Sam Sheppard worked with two engineers on product development and testing efforts for an eco-friendly snowboard.

“It was an unbelievable experience to be able to live within a different culture. I was able to look through a completely different lens, and bring what I have learned back to our Washington and Lee community.”
— Sam Sheppard ’16

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16
Developing Eco-Friendly Snowboards
Mar del Plata, Argentina

In Argentina, Mayol and Sheppard conducted a service project funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Student Initiative grant. They worked with two engineers who had already been developing and testing a new kind of snowboard that is made from recycled materials and is recyclable itself.

The students joined in product development and testing efforts, and helped to create a small business plan for the product. They even took it out on the slopes!

What memories about the area you visited will stick with you the most, and why?

Sam: The most important memories of my time in Argentina are visiting Buenos Aires and Patagonia. The city of Buenos Aires’ vast size was unexpected and beautiful. I was fortunate enough to be able to walk around the city and observe the different types of architecture that compose different districts. Additionally, the view from the top of the mountains of Bariloche was breathtaking, to say the least.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Juan: When I came to the U.S. I quickly had to get used to everything, which made me believe that it was not too different from my country. When Sam came, his questions about certain things made me realize how different our countries are. [Such as] differences in meals (amount and times), the emphasis we put on desserts.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Juan: I chose this topic because I had been talking to the people who are in charge of the start-up before knowing about this opportunity. I was interested in helping them out. As an engineering and economics major, I could bring useful advice on both product development and launching. When I read about the opportunity, I thought it was the perfect way to be able to join their product development team covering my own costs (for material experimentation) and testing in Patagonia.

Sam: Our project was to help design, build and construct marketing strategies for a small company focused on building eco-friendly snowboards. We chose this project because we believed this idea to be both academically engaging and socially exciting.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Juan: Their team is fully composed of engineers without any business or economics background. Apart from being able to help them by bringing new ideas to the table, this experience also benefited me by helping me to acquire real-life experience about what it takes to come up with a new product from scratch and all the struggles a start-up with no funding faces — something you don’t learn in a classroom.

Sam: My most important takeaway from the research that we conducted is the lack of knowledge about the detrimental effect that both traditional skis and snowboards have on the environment due to their inability to recycle old products. The main focus that we can bring back to the university would be to raise more awareness on this issue, while simultaneously placing our new product and development process into the market space.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Sam: From a social perspective, it was an unbelievable experience to be able to live within a different culture. I was able to look through a completely different lens, and bring what I have learned back to our Washington and Lee community.

Read about the other 2016 Endeavor pairs:

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16

Alejandro Paniagua ’17 and Kevin Ortiz ’16

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17

International Endeavors: Kumar and Daichinkhuu Rising seniors intern at a pro-democracy NGO that works on community development in Mongolia.

“What really surprised me was that our month together raised questions and provided insights into not only Mongolian history and traditions, but also into my individuality.”

–Oyumaa Daichinkhuu

Ten Washington and Lee University students were chosen in 2015 for the International Student Collaboration, a program funded by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation. The program allowed five international students to each take home an American student for the summer.

During the summer months, the international students introduced their guests to the food and culture of their homeland and, in turn, saw their home country through new eyes. The pairs also worked on community service and research projects together.

The students recently took a little time to talk about their experiences and how they were affected by the opportunity.

Meera Kumar ’16 and Oyumaa Daichinkhuu ’16
Promoting Community Development and Democracy
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

What memories about the area you visited will stick with you the most, and why?

Meera: I had a number of memorable experiences, from being interviewed by a national newspaper about the Mongolian National Ballet to finding Indian food — and even an entire (50-person-strong) Indian community — in Ulaanbaatar. As an art history minor, I was riveted to find out about Mongolia’s deep Buddhist roots and iconography and especially enjoyed visiting different Buddhist monasteries. While working at the Mongolian Economic Forum, I befriended some local girls and managed to get roped into a road trip where we ended up camping in a traditional ger just miles from the Russian border. My most remarkable experience, however, would have to be meeting — and taking a selfie with — Mongolian Prime Minister Chimediin Saikhanbileg.

What was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through their eyes, what was different about it for you?

Oyumaa: After having studied and traveled abroad for an extensive period of time in the U.S. and Europe, it was very exciting to finally switch roles and introduce someone to my home country and culture. As a typical journey from the U.S. to Mongolia takes several layovers and two days at the least, I rarely have friends and family over for a visit, which made Meera’s visit to Ulaanbaatar all the more meaningful and special. Living and working with her for a month, I had the rare opportunity to look at life in Mongolia through a foreigner’s lens and seek answers to many questions that I had been accustomed to take as a given.

However, what really surprised me was that our month together raised questions and provided insights into not only Mongolian history and traditions, but also into my individuality. Both Mongolia and W&L have had a huge influence on my identity and personal values, but Meera’s visit to Mongolia was the first time I got to see my two major worlds intersect. Throughout the month, I realized the place and significance my family and my Mongolian upbringing have in my identity.

Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?

Meera: As economics majors who are passionate about social issues and international development, Oyumaa and I wanted an experience that would allow me to gain a broader understanding of the Mongolian socioeconomic situation, while providing her with the opportunity to make real change in her home country.

We thus chose to work with the Zorig Foundation, a pro-democracy NGO (and largest nonprofit in Mongolia) that works on community development, fostering the next generation of leaders, and educating the public about the role of democracy. Our internship was rotational in nature, and we were presented with a number of special opportunities, from attending the UNDP conference and working at the Mongolian Economic Forum, to developing a timeline of the Mongolian Democratic Revolution for an oral histories project and spending a week assisting the eco-banking division at XacBank.

Oyumaa: During our month in Mongolia, we undertook a rotational internship at Zorig Foundation – a non-profit NGO with programs in the fields of good governance, community and education among others. Given the foundation’s extensive presence and outreach into the Mongolian community, economy and politics, Meera and I had the unique opportunity to observe and engage in a wide variety of work. From volunteering at the Mongolian Economic Forum to researching into the Mongolian Democratic Revolution of 1990, we amplified our understanding of modern Mongolian society from diverse facets. Although Mongolia’s socioeconomic development has always been an issue of utmost importance for me, our internship at Zorig was the first time I explored the issue from an academic and professional viewpoint.

What are the most important takeaways from the research to share with the university audience (and beyond), and how do you plan to do that?

Meera: More than the specific projects that we worked on, I was taken aback by the breadth and scope of the world of international development. When most people think of development, they think of organizations that directly provide aid to governments to alleviate poverty and create economic growth. However, I realized through conversations with leaders at UNICEF, IFC and Zorig itself that players in the development sector include federal legislators, local leadership, NGOs, aid organizations and even private companies; policy is a group effort.

Another important takeaway was the national focus on participatory forums and accessible government — if anything, my experience taught me the importance of being a leader in my community and, more importantly, voting on issues that matter. Democracy is a gift, and we must be active participants in the political process. Zorig’s efforts in empowering youth through democratic summer camps and scholarship programs were especially heartening to see. This year, the SAIL (Student Association for International Learning) showcase featured the Zorig Foundation as the organization of interest. I was pleased to speak about Zorig’s mission and help raise funds for an NGO that truly makes a difference in Mongolia.

Oyumaa: The unique aspect of our internship was of course the ability to peek into different fields and get different takeaways depending on our interests. As an economics major, I found volunteering at the Mongolian Economic Forum and hearing various academics and economists speak about the future of our economy the most informative and relevant. Particularly, as the Mongolian economy’s heyday, with a staggering 17.5 percent GDP growth rate in 2011, has long passed, issues concerning the state of the economy have been widely debated. In particular, as the Mongolian economy is highly reliant on the mining sector and the foreign direct investments from multinational metals and mining corporations, diversification is key for the long-term, sustainable growth of the economy. Otherwise, the Mongolian economy remains an unsustainable one, with its fate often determined by the global commodity market. In addition to sharing these findings and realizations through classroom and informal discussions on campus, I have actively had conversations with other Mongolian students and professionals also concerned about Mongolia’s economic development.

How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?

Meera: My interest in Mongolia and, more broadly, in international development, has impacted both my coursework and my long-term plans. Coming back to campus I was able to take a class on Buddhist art in which I explored connections between religious depictions of Garuda across India, Tibet and Mongolia. As for the future, I hope to be involved in the policy realm — and perhaps even work for an institution such as the World Bank, where I can create meaningful change on a regional and international scale.

Oyumaa: The experience at Zorig Foundation had been very interconnected with both my educational and pre-professional experience at W&L. In addition to seeing practical applications of what I have learned in macroeconomic and global politics courses on campus, I clarified my long-term career goals and aspirations through the internship itself and the various discussions I had with many professionals midway into their careers.

Read about the other 2016 Endeavor pairs:

Amirah Ndam Njoya ’17 and Jenna Biegel ’17

Alejandro Paniagua ’17 and Kevin Ortiz ’16

Wan Wei ’17 and Olivia Howell ’17

Juan Cruz Mayol ’16 and Sam Sheppard ’16

W&L Romance Languages Professor Wins 2016 Mednick Fellowship

mccormick-stephen W&L Romance Languages Professor Wins 2016 Mednick FellowshipStephen McCormick

The 2016 Mednick Fellowship from the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) has been awarded to Stephen P. McCormick, assistant professor of French and Italian at Washington and Lee University.

The award will fund the continuation of a collaborative digital humanities project that aims to translate and digitize an important yet largely unknown work of pre-modern literature, the “Huon d’Auvergne.” The romance-epic, existing in four distinct manuscript witnesses, is one of the first works to reference Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” but because it was written in Franco-Italian, a complicated hybrid literary language, it has not been easily accessible to scholars.

McCormick is working on the project with Leslie Zarker Morgan of Loyola University Maryland and Shira Schwam-Baird at the University of North Florida. Their work thus far has been funded entirely by grants, including a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the W&L Lenfest summer research award, and the University of South Carolina summer research award.

McCormick, who is currently teaching a Spring Term Abroad course in Toulouse, France, wrote in an email that it is a great honor to receive the Mednick award.

“I love my work, and I love medieval literature, so most of all this recognition is great to get the word out that medieval literature is relevant and worth studying,” he wrote. “It’s a great feeling to know that a project in medieval studies has been selected.”

The award money will allow McCormick to travel this summer to libraries and archives in Italy that house three of the four surviving manuscripts of the Huon d’Auvergne epic: the Biblioteca del seminario vescovile in Padua; the Biblioteca nazionale in Turin; and the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna.

In a letter recommending McCormick for the award, Suzanne Keen, dean of The College at W&L, praised the professor for working with W&L undergraduate students and the Digital Humanities Action Team in a way that emphasizes the university’s teacher-scholar model. She also underlined the importance of his project.

“Professor McCormick’s endeavor is both traditional, in the sense that this scholarly editorial work undertakes fundamental literary recovery of a text,” Keen wrote, “and also quite contemporary, for he employs a digital humanities toolkit to create an edition that will be accessible to the public on a web-based platform.”

Read on to learn more about McCormick’s fascinating work on the “Huon d’Auvergne.”

Q: When and how did you first come across the “Huon d’Auvergne”?

I first encountered the “Huon d’Auvergne” romance-epic when I was still a graduate student. I was studying in Padua, Italy, for the year, and a professor at the university there suggested I take a look at it. There are not many people who are currently working on the text — 6 to 10 that I know of. The fact that it was a little-studied document, and its importance in Italian literary history, were reasons I was drawn to it.

Q: Why do you find the work so fascinating and important?

The “Huon d’Auvergne” romance-epic first appealed to me from a linguistic point of view: It is composed in a mix of Old French, Venetian/Padua, Tuscan, and Latin, a mix today called “Franco-Italian.” This was not a spoken language, but rather a highly variable written language used between the 13th and mid-15th centuries to tell stories related to the Charlemagne cycle of medieval epic, stories about Roland, Oliver, and the emperor Charlemagne. This is the same Roland as the ‘Song of Roland.’

The “Huon d’Auvergne,” however, is separate from the Charlemagne cycle and instead tells the adventures of Huon, count of Auvergne, and his journey to Hell. Here he must seek tribute from Lucifer for the emperor Carlo Martello. The thematic program was therefore another reason this text interested me; the story as it exists in the surviving manuscripts is clearly related to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno from the “Divine Comedy.” The more I study this text, the more I’m interested in it. What is perhaps the most interesting for our current project is the fact that the “Huon d’Auvergne” romance-epic survives in four manuscripts, and therefore four distinct yet related versions. It’s fascinating to try to understand how the story changes through time and in response to different audiences.

Q: Why do you suppose it has taken so long for someone to translate it or study it in depth?

There is one reason in particular this text has gone unstudied for so long: the Franco-Italian languages in which it is written. This mixed language is extremely difficult for modern audiences to read and decipher and requires a solid knowledge of French, Italian, and their medieval variants to make sense of the text. This is the case with Franco-Italian literature in general. Many of these epic texts are still unknown to the wider scholarly community.

Q: Are these hybrid languages very common in literary history?

In the context of medieval linguistic history, I would say that language functions very differently than it does today. Now we have dictionaries and grammars that have standardized the languages we use, and languages are very closely associated with national belonging (French in France, English in England, Italian in Italy, etc.). Before print technology, it was impossible to standardize languages in this same way, and for this reason, language variation was the rule and not the exception.

Also, we have many sources that tell us that the language we now call French (which was called the ‘langue d’oïl’ in the Middle Ages) was an international language, spoken and read from the southern part of the British Isles all the way to the near East. For this reason, many of the storytelling traditions in the ‘langue d’oïl’ spread throughout much of the Mediterranean basin. That’s why there are mosaics in the south of Italy that depict King Arthur and, of course, mixed-language epic manuscripts in northeastern Italy that preserve stories of Charlemagne and Roland: Franco-Italian epic.

The hybrid language called Franco-Italian, however, is different than other of medieval languages. Franco-Italian was never a spoken language and, therefore, we suspect it was a language created specifically to tell the stories of Charlemagne and Roland in northern Italy. This particular phenomenon is indeed very rare and unique.

Q: Is there any work in existence to which you could compare it?

The “Huon d’Auvergne” epic-romance, or at least the four versions that have survived, are clearly influenced by Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” So, many of the themes and narrative frameworks are used in the “Huon d’Auvergne.” Also, the “Huon” epic resembles many of the Old French epic works in theme and content. Finally, one narrative segment of one manuscript, the one conserved today in Padua, is a rewriting of the Potiphar’s wife story from Genesis 39. Many variants of this story are found in medieval literature.

Q: Any idea who wrote it? Is it believed to have been written by a single person, or multiple authors?

We have no idea who wrote the “Huon d’Auvergne.” It is anonymous and only mentions a vague and unidentifiable name “Odinel.” Consistent with most medieval literature, the author is seldom mentioned or considered important. These stories were told and retold by professional storytellers. Audiences were probably more interested in the storyteller’s interpretation than who the original person was who invented the story. In any case, it’s a question that has concerned many scholars for a long time. Unfortunately, we have no clues beyond the name Odinel, which does not correspond with any other text or literary name.

Q: Do you know the basic storyline?

The romance-epic’s eponymous hero sets out to wander the world, visiting the most famous medieval pilgrimage sites — Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela — as well as imaginary lands that were common in medieval literature, including the lands of Prester John, an exceedingly rich Christian king whose kingdom is far away in the East, lost and severed from the main lands of Christendom.

Huon’s goal ultimately is to seek tribute from Lucifer on behalf of King Carlo Martello (who is later also identified as the emperor of Rome). Huon does not know, however, that the king sent him on this impossible task in order to gain access to the object of his lust, the lovely Ynide, Huon’s wife.

While Huon is away in search of Hell, Carlo Martello attempts to force Ynide to come to his court in Paris, but the king’s plan fails because of Ynide’s bold self-defense. The king’s elaborately concocted plot ultimately fails: Huon successfully finds Hell, receives the tribute from Lucifer, returns home magically to his castle, and Carlo Martello, when he takes the tribute, is quickly swept away to Hell by a swarm of devils.

Other protagonists include Sandino, Carlo Martello’s loyal minstrel, and Sofia, the wife of Huon’s good friend Sanguino. The story consists of six main episodes: Sofia’s betrayal; Carlo Martello’s love for Ynide; Huon’s travels through the East and his visit to the lands of Prester John; Ynide’s defense against Carlo’s amorous advances; Huon’s journey through Hell; and finally the siege of Rome. None of the four manuscripts conserves all six episodes and variation in inserted or deleted scenes give each textual witness a characteristic reading.

Q: How did you get hooked up with your project partners, Leslie Zarker Morgan of Loyola University Maryland and Shira Schwam-Baird at the University of Florida?

Leslie was one of my dissertation advisors and she sat on my Ph.D. committee. We have worked together for a long time on this project. To complete a printed edition of this text would take a lifetime and would ultimately be a futile task for one person. This is why we assembled the team. Shira was a friend and colleague of Leslie’s before the project. She translated another important text, “Valentin and Ourson,” bringing this fascinating story back into light.

— Lindsey Nair | lnair@wlu.edu

Student Pairs Chosen for International Student Collaboration

For the second summer in a row, several Washington and Lee University international students will be paired with American students for projects and cultural experiences in the international students’ home countries.

The university’s Center for International Education this year selected four pairs of students for the program, which is funded by part of a $219,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation, formerly known as the Christian A. Johnson Foundation. The collaboration will continue for the next two years. Each selected student will receive a grant of $3,500 toward expenses.

This year’s student pairs and their projects:

Matthew Carl ’17 and Melina Knabe ’17 will go to Berlin in Knabe’s home country, Germany, where the pair will use soccer to help refugee children settle in Germany. Their project is called “The Refugees of Germany: Soccer, Service and Stories.” It includes organizing and leading one-day soccer camps with refugee children and youth in Berlin, participating in service work geared toward refugees in the Berlin area, and telling the stories of those they encounter through pictures, video footage, and a bilingual website, “Refugees of Germany.”

Yolanda Yang ’18 and Savannah Kimble ’18 will travel to Shanghai and Beijing, China, to compare and contrast how American movies are presented in the U.S. and China for their project, “The Chinese Cinematography Experience: Observing American and Chinese Films from Political, Psychological and Artistic Angles.” They will examine the overall artistic effect of edited Chinese films compared to their American counterparts, and answer questions such as, “By eliminating gratuitous violence from a film, is a larger message about societal violence missed?”

Elissavet Chartrampila ’18 and Maren Lundgren ’18 plan to spend the summer in Chartrampila’s home country of Greece to study “Greece’s Refugee Crisis.” They hope to work with a non-governmental agency to obtain a sense of the scope of the refugee situation in a country that is struggling with a financial crisis. The project is driven by Chartrampila and Lundgren’s desire to assist NGOs working with refugees, and to document their plight.

Laura Wang ’19 and Natalie Dabrowski ’19 will undertake a project titled “Food and Modernizing Culture in Guangzhou, China.” In Wang’s home city, they will examine the relationship between modernization and the availability of traditional versus contemporary restaurants in four different districts of Guangzhou, China.

The purpose of the International Student Collaboration is to expose American students to unfamiliar places and cultures, and to allow the international students to view their home countries through the eyes of people who have never been there. As pairs, the students will ideally perform service in international communities and present the results of their projects when they return to campus for the next academic year.

Last year, the program sent five pairs of students to Argentina, Cameroon, Costa Rica, China and Mongolia.


Terry Vosbein Releases a New Jazz CD of Classic French Songs

Terry Vosbein, professor of music at Washington and Lee University, has released his latest CD, “La Chanson Française ” (Max Frank Music). The music includes a dozen classic songs that originated in France, interpreted and swung by a jazz nonet.

“La Chanson Française” feaures Vosbein’s inventive arrangements for a high-quality jazz band. The group consists of Chris Magee and Rich Willey on trumpets, Tom Lundberg and Rick Simerly on trombones, altoist Tom Artwick, baritonist Don Aliquo, pianist Tony Nalker, bassist Rusty Holloway and drummer Keith Brown.

“Every musician is a strong soloist and their improvisations are logical extensions of the colorful ensembles, which often have the nine-piece group sounding like a big band,” Vosbein said.

Many of the melodies were made famous by such French legends as Édith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Charles Trenet. Among the more familiar songs that are transformed into creative jazz are “What Now My Love” (“El Maintenant”), “La Vie En Rose,” “Beyond The Sea” (“La Mer”), “I Wish You Love” (“Que reste tíl de nos amours”), and “Under Paris Skies” (“Sous le ciel de Paris”).

Vosbein, who has spent extended periods living and composing in Paris, said, “Piaf, Brel, Trenet and Aznavour were as much a part of my experiences as Hemingway, Picasso and Stravinsky. Each day as I strolled through that magical city I would hear their songs, from street musicians, from club performers, from whistling pedestrians. For this project I set out to recast those familiar melodies in a cool jazz mold, retaining the spirit of the originals, but embedding them with my own swinging vision. I examined over a hundred poignant songs before deciding on these. It was impressive that so many classic French songs were composed by the very performers who made them famous.”

Among the highlights are the trombone feature on “L’Accordeoniste” (which is a bit reminiscent of J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding in the 1950s), the infectious ensembles of “Ménilmontant,” trombonist Lundberg’s warm playing on “La Vie En Rose,” altoist Tom Artwick’s showcase on “If You Go Away,” the interplay of the two trumpeters on “Beyond The Sea,” and the Count Basie feel of “Non, je ne regrette rien.”

Vosbein said, “Upon completing a dozen new arrangements, and totally under the spell of these great songs, I decided to compose an original work. I spent a recent summer living in old Montmartre. I tried to capture the sounds, sights and smells of that unique village on the hill overlooking Paris in this new Chanson Française, ‘Dans le vieux Montmartre.’ It’s a hard swinger that fits in well with the vintage material of ‘La Chanson Française.’ ”

His favorite part of the project was the recording session. “Once the music was arranged the real fun began,” he said. “The notes that I write are just dots on a page until the performers turn them into a living, breathing and swinging organism. It was a thrill to have these good friends and seasoned veterans of the jazz world bringing my creations to life.

“And it was a bit scary. We had just one shot at each selection. There were no second takes in this concert/recording session. The virtuosic playing and superb improvisatory talents of these nine musicians is astounding and I couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Born and raised in New Orleans, Vosbein grew up as part of a musical family. Trained as a classical composer, he has written works for ensembles ranging from choirs and wind ensembles to symphony orchestras. He has been awarded six summer residencies at La Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and a fellowship at University College in Oxford. At W&L, he teaches music composition.

However, Vosbein’s roots are in jazz, and in recent years he has recorded a series of jazz projects. These include “Come and Get It!” (a suite for his nonet), “Progressive Jazz 2009” (featuring the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra), interpretations of the music from “Sweeney Todd” (Fleet Street), and “Stradivarius Christmas” (Yuletide favorites for violin and piano).

With the release of “La Chanson Française,” Vosbein celebrates both the richness of French music and the swinging creativity of jazz.

“This accessible set will be enjoyed by a wide audience,” he promised. “Sit back, prepare your favorite French beverage (mine is café crème) and enjoy these fun selections. Toe tapping is sure to follow. Dancing is optional.”

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Robert E. Lee Davies Named Senior Judge for Tennessee Supreme Court

Robert E. Lee Davies, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1979, has been named senior judge for the Tennessee Supreme Court. In this position, he will hear cases in which other judges cannot serve because of a conflict, or in courts where there is a vacancy.

Robert, a former judge and attorney, practices family law, personal injury, and business litigation in Williamson County. He served from 2000-2008 as a circuit court judge in the 21st Judicial District, handling both civil and criminal cases. He also has served as special judge for the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

“The people of Williamson County have received the benefit of Judge Davies’ experience and expertise and now these resources will be available all across Tennessee,” Chief Justice Sharon Lee said in press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts. As well as his legal practice, Robert teaches family law at Nashville School of Law and is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31-listed mediator.


Washington Post Correspondent Jim Tankersley to Give Public Talk

Jim Tankersley, an economic policy correspondent for the Washington Post, will give a lecture at Washington and Lee University on May 18, at 5 p.m. in the Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.

He will speak about how America’s middle class sputtered — and how to get it back on track. The talk is free and open to the public.

Before joining the Washington Post in December 2012, Tankersley covered the breakdown in American job creation, the decline in economic mobility and the failure of policy makers to adapt to an increasingly complex set of global economic challenges for the National Journal.

He also worked at the Washington bureau of the Chicago Tribune, the Toledo Blade, the Rocky Mountain News and The Oregonian.

Tankersley and a colleague at the Toledo Blade won the 2007 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for their Business as Usual series of stories revealing the roots of Ohio’s economic decline. He was also part of the Coingate team at the Toledo Blade that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Author and Musician Clyde Edgerton to Perform at Washington and Lee University

Author Clyde Edgerton, the Thomas S. Kenan III Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, will give a presentation at Washington and Lee University on May 12, at 4:30 p.m. in Northen Auditorium.

The event is titled “You are History Longer than Fact: Stories and Music from Southern Communities.” It is free and open to the public. Edgerton’s “Lunch at the Piccadilly” will be available for purchase and signing after the talk.

Edgerton is the author of 10 novels including “The Night Train” (2011) and “Lunch at the Piccadilly” (2003). He also wrote a book of advice, “Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers” and a memoir, “Solo: My Adventures in the Air” (2005).

“Raney” (1985), “Walking Across Egypt” (1987) and “Killer Diller” (1991) were made into movies and stage adaptations were made from seven novels. Five of his novels have been New York Times Notable Books.

His short stories and essays have been published in New York Times Magazine, Best American Short Stories, Southern Review and Oxford American, among others.

Edgerton is also a musician who has performed with other musicians including Jim Watson, Mike Craver, Jack King and Matt Kendrick. Audio albums and CDs on which he has performed include most recently “The Bible Salesman,” music and story, with Mike Craver.

Edgerton’s awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, Lyndhurst Prize, the North Carolina Award for Literature, Honorary Doctorates from UNC-Asheville and St. Andrews Presbyterian College, and membership in the Fellowship of Southern Writers.

School of Law Honors Graduates at 2016 Commencement Ceremony

The Washington and Lee University School of Law celebrated its 161st commencement on Saturday, May 7, awarding 93 juris doctor degrees.

The rainy weather that pestered Lexington all week cleared off to brilliant blue skies and a crisp spring morning for the commencement ceremony, which began with an official welcome and remarks from President Ken Ruscio. He reminded the graduating students that W&L seeks to produce not just attorneys, but a particular kind of attorney.

Related: Photo Gallery | Event Video

“I believe that the men and women who graduate from this institution are particular kinds of people,” said Ruscio. “People who understand that being a lawyer is so much more than a set of technical skills, more than a trade, more than a job. It is an ethic and carries with it a set of values.”

Prof. Brant Hellwig, Dean of the Law School, followed President Ruscio to the podium. He congratulated the students on their achievement and also thanked them for their many contributions to the life of the school, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Our academic community thrives on the energy and the intellectual curiosity of our students, and we are grateful for your significant contributions on that front,” said Hellwig. He went on to encourage students to be open to the professional opportunities that will present themselves, even if they are unconventional.

“There is no one defined successful career path to pursue,” said Hellwig. “Success will mean finding a positon that allows you to utilize your particular talents in a way that you find fulfilling or rewarding.”

The graduates were then awarded their degrees.

After the degrees were presented, Reggie Aggarwal, a 1994 graduate of W&L Law and founder and CEO of event management company Cvent, delivered this year’s commencement address. In his remarks, Aggarwal recounted both the highs and the lows of his journey from taking a two-person startup to a 2000-person company with customers across the globe.

Aggarwal shared a number lessons with the graduates about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, including being persistent and consistent in the face of failure. He also extolled the importance of people, which he calls the DNA of his company.

“Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, said a CEO can focus on one of three things: strategy, customers, or people,” said Aggarwal. “I’ve chosen people.” Aggarwal personally interviewed 700 of Cvent’s first 800 employees and says he spends 60 percent of his time on his workforce.

“At the end of the day there are a thousand competitors across the globe against Cvent. How did we become number one? It’s simple. We had the best team and the best people.”

Aggarwal said that among the things he learned at W&L was the importance of a caring community, and he has tried to create that same sense of community and trust at Cvent. He urged the graduates to do the same thing wherever they go and in whatever position they hold.

“Be an ‘intrapreneuer’,” he said, “Be an entrepreneur within an organization. That means that you take responsibility, you take risk, and you can make an impact and believe that organization is yours even though you may not be the founder…. I can promise you the journey will be more fun, it will be more interesting, and it will be more rewarding.”

Following the Aggarwal’s remarks, third-year class officers Morgan Fiander and Amanda Fisher presented him with his very own walking stick, traditionally given to students at the awards ceremony preceding graduation. The walking stick, or cane, originated in the 1920’s as a way to distinguish third-year law students on campus. At that time, only two years of law school were required, and the walking stick served as a way to reward and honor those students who stayed for a third year.

Graduation festivities began Friday afternoon on the Lewis Hall lawn with the annual awards ceremony and presentation of walking sticks. The John W. Davis Prize for Law, awarded to the graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average, was awarded to Christina Tacoronti of Fayetteville, Georgia.

Two students graduated summa cum laude, 15 graduated magna cum laude, and 15 graduated cum laude. Nine students were named to Order of the Coif, an honorary scholastic society that encourages excellence in legal education. A list of honors and awards appears below.

The Student Bar Association Teacher of the Year award was also presented at the awards ceremony. This year’s recipient was Prof. David Millon, who teaches courses in the area of corporate law.

Special honors at Friday’s awards ceremony went to the following students:

Christina Lynne Tacoronti was awarded the John W. Davis Prize for Law, given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average.

Zachary James Clifton Watkins was awarded the Academic Progress Award for the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the final year.

Emelia N. Hall won the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Award for effective trial advocacy.

Paul Kent Keith won the Roy L. Steinheimer, Jr. Commercial Law Award for excellence in commercial law.

Vincent Louise Smith won the Calhoun Bond University Service Award for significant contributions to the University community.

Aria Bianca Maria Allan and Julianne Catherine Freeman shared in the Frederic L. Kirgis, Jr., International Law Award for excellence in international law.

Emily Elaine Tichenor won the National Association of Women Lawyers Award given to an outstanding woman law student.

Christopher Quinn Adams won the Charles V. Laughlin Award for outstanding contributions to the moot court program.

Hector Leonardo DeJesus Alvarez and Ariel S. Wossene shared in the Randall P. Bezanson Award for outstanding contributions to diversity in the life of the Law School community.

Jennifer Lynn Harrington won the Virginia Bar Family Law Section Award for excellence in the area of family law.

Kelton Patrick Frye won the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal for excellence in the study of bankruptcy law.

Paul C. Judge won the Barry Sullivan Constitutional Law Award for excellence in constitutional law.

Hollie A. Floberg and Christina Lynne Tacoronti shared in the James W. H. Stewart Tax Law Award for excellence in tax law.

James A. Cooper and Kirby Zoe Kreider shared in the Thomas Carl Damewood Evidence Award for excellence in the area of evidence.

Loren K. Peck won the A. H. McLeod-Ross Malone Advocacy Award for distinction in oral advocacy.

Julian Harf won the Student Bar Association President Award for services as the President of the Student Bar Association.

Alexandra L. Klein won the Clinical Legal Education Association Award for excellence in clinical work.

Summa Cum Laude                        

  • Elaine D. McCafferty
  • Christina Lynne Tacoronti   

Magna Cum Laude                         

  • Christopher Quinn Adams
  • Aria Bianca Maria Allan
  • Hunter Amadeus Bayliss
  • Jennifer Lee Commander
  • Alyson Michelle Cox
  • Kelton Patrick Frye
  • Krista Marie Haab
  • Paul C. Judge
  • Kerriann Elise Laubach
  • Loren K. Peck
  • Charlotte Weatherford Rhodes
  • Christina Marie Rossi
  • Vincent Louis Smith
  • Emily Elaine Tichenor
  • Brooke Alexandra Weedon

Cum laude         

  • Brandon Scott Allred
  • John Zachary Balasko
  • Boris Bindman
  • Brittany Agnes Dunn-Pirio
  • Alice Meredyth Eckel
  • Hollie A. Floberg
  • Kyle R. Fontaine
  • Julianne Catherine Freeman
  • Emelia N. Hall
  • Margaret Elizabeth Hayes
  • Paul Kent Keith
  • Kirby Zoe Kreider
  • Benjamin Alexander Kussman
  • Claire Linda Leonard
  • Alexander R. Miltenberger

Order of the Coif            

  • Jennifer Lee Commander
  • Alyson Michelle Cox
  • Krista Marie Haab
  • Paul C. Judge
  • Elaine D. McCafferty
  • Charlotte Weatherford Rhodes
  • Christina Marie Rossi
  • Christina Lynne Tacoronti
  • Emily Elaine Tichenor

W&L Celebrates Distinguished Alumni and Sets Reunion Records

Washington and Lee University bestowed its Distinguished Alumni Awards on four graduates during its annual Alumni Weekend, April 28-May 1. The presentations came on April 30, during the annual meeting of the Alumni Association.

At the same event, W&L celebrated the 25th reunion of the Class of 1991 and the 50th reunion of the Class of 1966, who presented their milestone class gifts to the university.

Distinguished Alumni Awards:

James D. Humphries III ’66, ’69L

J.D. Humphries graduated with a B.S. in commerce and was a member of Phi Gamma Delta. He attended Washington and Lee University School of Law and was the editor of the Law Review.

J.D. practices with Smith, Gambrell & Russell and was previously a partner at Stites and Harbison. He has been noted as a Best Lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell in commercial litigation, construction law and labor law. He has also been recognized by Georgia SuperLawyers. J.D. received Atlanta Legal Aid’s Life Time Commitment to Legal Services Award for 2014.

Active in the community, J.D. incorporated Communities in Schools Inc., a national nonprofit devoted to getting high school dropouts a college education and job opportunities. Additionally, he incorporated Resolve of Georgia Inc., a nonprofit working with infertility issues. He served as president and on the board of the Georgia Lacrosse Foundation Inc., a chapter of the national governing body of the sport of lacrosse, U.S. Lacrosse, and was elected to the Georgia Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2015.

J.D. has been a volunteer for his 25th, 30th, 35th and 50th class reunions and has been a consistent supporter of the Annual Fund.

John Ebner ’91

John Ebner graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. in business administration and accounting. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

John joined Westrock Asset Management, a startup alternative asset manager, in 2015 as a senior advisor. He has over 20 years of corporate finance and strategic advisory experience. Previously, John was the CFO of Interline Brands and was part of the team that led its go-private transaction in 2012. Before joining Interline Brands, he worked at Alltel Corp. for 13 years in a variety of strategic and operating roles primarily focused on mergers, acquisitions and corporate finance activities. John was part of the executive team that took Alltel private in 2007 and that ultimately sold the company in 2009. He began his career in investment banking with Stephens Inc. and J.P. Morgan.

John is a member of the Williams School Board of Advisors and has been a volunteer for his 20th and 25th class reunions.

Carol Dannelly O’Kelley ’91

Carol Dannelly O’Kelley graduated with a B.A. in English and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta.

Carol joined Salesfusion as CEO in 2015. She has more than 20 years of technology marketing and operations experience, ranging from startups to multi-million-dollar global businesses. Her expertise includes developing differentiated brand strategies, completing strategic acquisitions and successfully integrating those into existing operations, and creating marketing programs that drive growth.

Previously, Carol was chief marketing officer of RedPrairie, now JDA. She led global strategy and marketing during a time of rapid growth for the company. Before RedPrairie, Carol was vice president and chief of staff of Oracle’s global business unit for retail, which acquired and successfully integrated numerous leading retail technology companies.

Carol is a member of the Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and was a volunteer for her 20th reunion. This year, she is serving as co-chair for the 25th reunion committee. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Brooks, and their daughters, Cate and Davis.

Raymond James Welder ’91

Ray Welder graduated with a B.A. in history and geology and was a member of Phi Kappa Sigma.

Ray is the president and CEO of Welder Exploration & Production Inc., an oil and natural gas production company headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. He is currently the chairman of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO) and a director of Well Aware Oilfield Monitoring.

Ray was featured in the August 2012 issue of Texas Monthly Magazine for his TIPRO Top Producer Award as the Best CEO of a Midsize Company. In 2010, Ray was one of 25 young Americans and Swiss chosen to participate in the American Swiss Foundation’s Young Leaders Conference in Basel, Switzerland.

Ray is a volunteer for his 25th class reunion and a past president of the San Antonio Alumni Chapter.

Reunion Gifts and Awards

The Class of 1966 gave $3 million in honor of its 50th reunion, with 61 percent of the class participating in the gift and 88 members returning for their milestone reunion. Their gift will fund the university’s soon-to-be-published institutional history by Blaine Brownell ’65 and establish the Class of 1966 Endowment to Collect and Preserve the University’s History, which will support Special Collections and Archives.

The Class of 1991 celebrated its 25th reunion with a gift of $1.8 million and broke several records, including Reunion Calyx submissions, 25th reunion attendance and 25th reunion class gift participation. Sixty-three percent of the class participated in the gift, which supports the Annual Fund, the indoor athletics and recreation center, the Entrepreneurship Program, the IQ Center and other areas.

Other classes enjoyed reunions and made their own significant gifts to their alma mater, with combined contributions of over $1.3 million for this year’s Annual Fund and a total of $4.7 million dollars in current gifts and future pledges to the Annual Fund.

The John Newton Thomas Trophy goes to the class with the largest percentage increase in annual fund commitments over the previous year. With a 66 percent increase in its one-year Annual Fund total: Class of 2001. This class also broke the 15th reunion single-year record, overall record with almost $190,000 committed to the Annual Fund.

The Trident Trophy is presented to the class with the highest percentage of members participating in the Annual Fund. With 62 percent of the class: Class of 1991.

The Colonnade Cup is awarded to the class with the largest reunion gift to the Annual Fund, including current gifts and future pledges. With a reunion gift of $754,000: Class of 1971.

Reunion Attendance

More than 700 alumni assembled on campus to celebrate the weekend. Most classes were at or near-record attendance, with the 25th and 35th classes setting records for the largest number of returning classmates in their reunion years.

The Reunion Bowl goes to the class with the highest percentage of members registered for the weekend. With 42 percent of the class in attendance: Class of 1966.

The Reunion Trophy is awarded to the class with the greatest number of members registered for the weekend. With 169 registrants: Class of 1991.

The Reunion Traveller award for farthest distance traveled to attend the reunion: Todd Crowell ’66, who came from Tokyo, Japan.

Class Reunion Chairs

  • 2001: Laura Adelman Philipson and Andy Crawford
  • 1996: Betsy Blunt Brown and Drew Crawford
  • 1991: Carol Dannelly O’Kelley and Dax Cummings
  • 1986: Scott Boyd and Paul Davey
  • 1981: Chip Nunley
  • 1976: Bill Garrison and Harold Howe
  • 1971: Buddy LeTourneau
  • 1966: Pete Hendricks and Dave Redmond

Ruscio Addresses Opening Assembly at Alumni Reunions

Ken Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee, gave the keynote talk at the university’s annual Alumni Reunion Weekend Opening Assembly on April 28, in Lee Chapel. He spoke on “A Timeless Trust.”

The event was the kickoff for the weekend, which featured reunions for eight classes, including those celebrating their 50th reunion (Class of 1966) and 25th reunion (Class of 1991). It also included the induction by W&L’s Alpha Circle of ODK, the national leadership honor society, of seven new undergraduate members, and the recognition of four honorary initiates.

Ruscio described the numerous ways that Washington and Lee has changed in the years since members of the Class of 1966 graduated a half-century ago. And, he observed, there are bound to be countless more changes between now and the Class of 2020’s 50th reunion in 2070. “Sometimes,” he said, “respect for tradition requires change.”

What has not changed, he said, is the university’s dedication to a particular kind of education. “In this day and age, a commitment to the development of character has become a rare and distinguishing feature of a college,” he said. “It puts us in an increasingly lonely corner of higher education. We have not abandoned that mission, as have many others have, either implicitly or explicitly. We continue to embrace it.”

Ruscio was honored at the assembly by the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Foundation,  whose president, Russ Chambliss ’74, unveiled the Kenneth P. Ruscio Endowed Fund to provide graduate and professional school scholarships to members of W&L’s Alpha Circle, and other resources for the chapter. Chambliss applauded Ruscio’s leadership of both ODK and Washington and Lee, and his efforts to bring the organization’s national offices back to Lexington, Va. “I would like to say thank you, Ken. Thank you for your service to W&L, for all that you’ve done for ODK … and for your exemplary service in helping today’s campus leaders become tomorrow’s community leaders.”

Video of the opening assembly including ODK initiation and Ruscio’s talk is available online. The text of his talk is also available on the President’s website.

The ODK inductions were held prior to Ruscio’s keynote. The honorary initiates:

Theodore Jon Ellestad served for 24 years as the city manager of Lexington, Virginia. Under his leadership, the Lexington city government upgraded the water system, reorganized fire and emergency services, and unified with other local governments for an emergency dispatch center, a senior center and a tourism office. He served on the boards of the Rockbridge Regional Jail, the Rockbridge Regional Emergency Communications Center, the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and the Community Services Board. In community service, Ellestad has served on the boards of the Rockbridge Area Recreation Organization (RARO) and the Valley Program for the Aging. He is a charter member of the Kendal at Lexington retirement community board and treasurer of the Miller’s House Museum board. He is a member of the Lexington Sunrise Rotary Club, where he has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. Ellestad has coached youth sports and served as a collegiate swim official. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in urban affairs from the University of Delaware. Ellestad has five children and four grandchildren and lives in Lexington.

Elizabeth Pryor Knapp ’90 is the associate provost, the director of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity and a professor of geology at Washington and Lee. She is the chair of the Special Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L, the University Sustainability Committee, and the Community Engagement and Service Learning Advisory Committee, and the co-chair of the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate. She previously served as the senior assistant to the president and as the associate dean of the College. She has been on the faculty at W&L since 1997, teaching geochemistry and hydrogeology, with particular interest in the geology of Hawaii and rock-weathering processes. She received her bachelor of science in geology from Washington and Lee and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia. Knapp has been a board member of the Rockbridge SPCA, the Rockbridge County Public Service Authority, the Community Foundation for Rockbridge, Bath and Alleghany, the VMI Research Labs Board, and Nature Camp Foundation, and a member of the vestry of the R.E. Lee Episcopal Church. She and her husband, Chuck Smith, have two teenagers — Jenner and Charlie.

Schuyler Rideout ’91 is an accomplished illustrator, event planner and fundraiser. She earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art, with mentors Professor Pam Simpson and Professor Kathleen Olsen. Her senior art portfolio included paintings and drawings based on campus architecture. She worked for the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Gallery of Art. She worked for Turner Broadcasting for 15 years as head of the event marketing department, planning major events such as trade shows, client events and Super Bowl events. For the Atlanta Humane Society, she as managed the fundraising event program. In 2010, Rideout enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to study illustration. She returned to Atlanta to establish a studio that specializes in watercolors. Her inspiration includes Georgia O’Keeffe, Oscar de la Renta and the orchids in Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens. Rideout serves as a W&L class agent. As a student, she was a founding member of the W&L chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma and served as its social chair. She also was involved with several committees for Fancy Dress, with Kathekon and with the Student Activity Board.

Anderson Dodd Smith ’66 is Regents Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Smith recently retired as senior vice provost of academic affairs at Georgia Tech. Prior to becoming senior vice provost, he served as vice provost of undergraduate studies, the associate dean in the College of Sciences and chair of the School of Psychology. Smith received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in Psychology at the University of Virginia and was made an honorary alumnus of Georgia Tech. His research interests are in cognitive aging, and he has written or co-edited more than 75 articles and books, with funding from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health for over 30 years. At Georgia Tech, he won both the Sigma Xi Sustained Research Award and the Outstanding Teacher Award. In 1997, the Division of Adult Development and Aging of the American Psychological Association (APA) recognized him with the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. In 2011, he received the Award for the Advancement of Psychology of Aging from the APA. He has served on the National Advisory Council on Aging. He has been elected a fellow with the Association for Psychological Science and the Gerontological Society. He was an affiliate scientist at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University. In his community, Smith has served on the boards of the Northside Shepherd’s Senior Citizen Center, Meals on Wheels Atlanta, Saint Anne’s Terrace Retirement Community and Zoo Atlanta. At Washington and Lee, Smith was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and the Glee Club. He and his wife have two daughters and four granddaughters.

The juniors who were tapped into membership in ODK are Elena Ray Diller, a sociology and anthropology major with a double minor in poverty and human capability studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies from Rome, Georgia; Brooke Rose Donnelly, an accounting and business administration major from Kennesaw, Georgia; Melina Lauryn Knabe, a neuroscience major with a minor in philosophy from Berlin, Germany; Harry Raab Lustig III, a business administration and geology double major with a minor in environmental studies from Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ashley Kenimer Oakes, a business administration and Spanish double major from Spartanburg, South Carolina; Kathryn Suzanne Sarfert, a neuroscience and Spanish double major from Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Harrison James Westgarth, a Spanish and biology double major from McKinney, Texas.

ODK also presented the Rupert Latture Award, which recognizes the sophomore with the most leadership potential, to Kassie Ann Scott, an English major with a minor in poverty and human capability studies from Pennsville, New Jersey. It gave the James G. Leyburn Award for community or campus leaders who provide exemplary service to The Refugee Working Group, a local group dedicated to resettling refugee families in Lexington to combat the global refugee crisis.


Spotlight on Native American Writers

Deborah Miranda, the John Lucian Smith Term Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, will moderate a discussion on Native American literature at the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center, in Washington, D.C., on May 10.

The Spotlight on Native Writers program includes authors Eric Gansworth, Linda LeGarde Grover and Stephen Graham Jones.

Deborah is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of California and the author of “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir,” as well as works of poetry.

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My Money is on the Horse

Kentucky Derby Day is just around the corner, and along with the traditional mint julep, the event calls for a wager or two. But what happens when the habit gets out of control? Scott Boylan, professor of accounting at Washington and Lee University, weighs in on the $240 billion gaming industry on WalletHub.

Scott, who studies gambling and risk taking, answered questions on fantasy sports and the pros and cons of gambling. He noted how difficult it would be to eliminate the lottery. “States are too dependent on the revenue produced by the lotteries to change them. It is difficult to watch someone play, who could probably spend the money elsewhere. That said, everyone has the right to spend their money how they see fit. Perhaps education and outreach might be useful. $200 on Powerball still equates to almost no chance of winning.”

Taylor Crothers ’93 Curates Pop-up Exhibition of Dave Mathews Band Photographs

One of the first bands Taylor Crothers covered as a freelance photographer was the Dave Mathews Band, when it was new to the music scene in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the early 1990s.

Taylor, who graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1993, is curating a pop-up show featuring his work and that of some of the band’s other favorite photographers to celebrate DMB’s 25th anniversary. Assisting him is Jeanne Rene Barousse ’12.

The retrospective, a preview to the exhibition’s official opening in the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City in mid-June, will be held May 7 at 722 Preston Ave., in Charlottesville. An opening reception the day before is from 6 to 9 p.m.

As well as following DMB, Taylor has worked with PHISH and Zac Brown Band. Recently he has had acclaimed photo shoots with Rolling Stone, AC/DC, Green Day, Adam Lambert, and JP Chrissie and the Fairground Boys. He has also covered Bonnaroo, ROTHBURY, Mile High Music Festival, Vegoose, and “Austin City Limits.”


W&L Journalism Ethics Professor Colón Comments on Huffington’s Conflict of Interest

Aly Colón, the Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism at Washington and Lee University, has contributed to the conversation about Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, and her new role on the board of directors of Uber.

“So how can HuffPost readers rely on HuffPost’s coverage of Uber going forward, knowing its editor-in-chief has a personal and financial stake in the company’s success?” writes Dave Jamieson, labor reporter for the Huffington Post. “According to media ethics experts, the newsroom will have to take precautions to keep readers’ trust.”

“It’s a challenging situation,” Colón told Jamieson. “It doesn’t mean will cease to trust Huffington Post news about Uber. But it will raise a question for anybody who knows she’s on the board. There’s no way around it … If I read a positive story now about Uber in The Huffington Post, I would wonder.”

Colón has spoken to The New York Times, the Pittsburgh News-Gazette and other publications on matters of journalistic ethics. He has been at W&L since 2014.

Leyburn Library Presents Photographic Exhibit and Reception about “Ginsberg and Beat Fellows”

“Ginsberg and Beat Fellows: Photographs 1969-1997,” an exhibit of photographs taken by Gordon Ball, visiting associate professor of English, will be on display from May 4–July 13 in Leyburn Library’s Main Floor Exhibit Space at Washington and Lee University.

A reception to celebrate the photographic exhibit and photographer will be held May 10, from 4:30–5:30 p.m. in front of the exhibit area. Both the exhibit and the reception are free and open to the public.

The exhibit features candid shots of Ginsberg and fellow poets and friends over the course of nearly three decades, including novelist William S. Burroughs, poets Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anne Waldman and Andrei Voznesensky, as well as rock star Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. The photos were taken at Ginsberg’s upstate New York farm, his Lower East Side apartment and the faculty swimming pool at Naropa Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

Ball’s photographs have been shown and reproduced widely, from numerous exhibitions and books, such as “The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats” to periodicals such as The New York Times Sunday magazine. The exhibit contains 21 photographs. Ball will be offering a course in Literature of the Beat Generation next winter at W&L.

W&L Law American Constitution Society Named Chapter of the Week

The Washington and Lee University School of Law chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS) has been named the “Student Chapter of the Week” for the week of May 2, 2015.

The ACS national organization selects chapters to be featured that it considers to have held exceptional programming, have aligned themselves with the priorities of the national office or have established themselves as a premier student group on campus. The W&L Law chapter is featured on the ACS website, in the ACS weekly bulletin and in the ACS Student Chapters weekly announcement.

The W&L chapter held fifteen events during the school year and also focused on increasing name recognition and building a sustained membership base.

The W&L ACS events included:

  • Jefferson Powell, Professor at Duke Law School, joined W&L and ACS to give his interim report at W&L’s campus wide Constitution Day;
  • A Supreme Court Preview featured a wide variety of cases including FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, and Evenwel v. Abbott;
  • A screening of the film Vessel provided a unique perspective on the realities created by anti-abortion laws around the world;
  • Alumnus Anthony Kreis spoke about LGBTQ rights and the intersection of anti-discrimination protections and religious liberty;
  • Ian Millhiser joined ACS to explain the judicial restraint found in Carolene Products footnote 4 for a Constitutional Interpretation Debate;
  • Chiraag Bains of the DOJ reported on solitary confinement and explained the guiding principles for reforming correctional practices;
  • Steve Miskinis of the DOJ’s Environmental and Natural Resource Division presented on public interest work, Indian rights, and clerking.

The faculty advisors for the W&L Law ACS chapter are Professors Margaret Hu and Christopher Seaman. You can follow the organization’s activities on Twitter: @WLULawACS.

Strong: Examining the Political Commentary on the Presidential Race

The following opinion piece by Robert Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee, appeared in the May 1, 2016, edition of the Roanoke Times and is reprinted here by permission.

A Catalog of Commentary on the 2016 Presidential Race

by Robert A. Strong

Remember when commentators thought the 2016 presidential election cycle would be dull? It was supposed to be dominated by the fund raising prowess of a Bush and a Clinton in a 1992 rematch of two famous political families.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, we have witnessed one of the most peculiar presidential races in modern memory. What is going on? There are at least three repeated themes in the political commentary on 2016. Here they are:

Angry Voters Rise Again

Perhaps 2016 is like 1992 when millions of Americans were frustrated with traditional politics and chose to support Ross Perot, the Texas businessman who promised simple solutions to national problems. The Perot voters, angry and unpredictable, were drawn to the ultimate outsider. Maybe part of the American electorate is angry again and rather than looking to a third-party is voting for unusual candidates in the regular party primaries.

Working class families have suffered decades of stagnant wages, global competition and technological change that have shaken economic expectations and middle class aspirations—fertile ground for Donald Trump. Young progressives, enthusiastic about Barack Obama in 2008, may be disappointed by his modest accomplishments, still burdened by college debt and languishing in a sluggish recovery from the great recession—an opening for Bernie Sanders.

The angry voter analysis assumes that the presidential selection process is actually working well. If unlikely candidates are getting unexpected support, it must be evidence that voters are restless and responding to voices that express their views.

There is a second possibility.

A Media Circus Gets A Clown

The complicated process by which we winnow presidential hopefuls has a long history of problems and predictions of disaster. The voters who show up at caucuses and primaries are more liberal on the Democratic side, more conservative in Republican contests, and don’t represent the nation as a whole.

Sometimes a protest candidate, like Bernie Sanders, can show surprising strength without ever having broad national support. Sometimes an odd candidate, like Donald Trump, can be a “winner” because, in a large field of contenders, a fraction of the vote (in an already unrepresentative process) constitutes a victory.

Moreover, modern presidential races get saturation coverage from the 24-hour news channels. This creates a magnet for those who may want a book contract, speaking fees, ego gratification, an audience for idiosyncratic ideas or invitations for more television appearances. Publicity-seeking candidates are nothing new. But this year the Republicans have an unusually skillful celebrity who has monopolized the media and managed to become the unlikely likely nominee.

This media circus analysis assumes that the presidential selection system is broken because it fails to faithfully reflect the sentiments of most citizens and invites the shenanigans of charlatans. There may well be angry voters, but in this analysis their views and candidate preferences get too much weight in a flawed nomination process.

There is a third line of analysis.

Rupture in the Republican Ranks

Some commentators speculate that something momentous is taking place in one of our national political parties. The Democrats are having an ordinary, if sometimes ornery, argument between progressives and pragmatists, but the Republicans are in real trouble. Their party is an awkward coalition of prosperous fiscal conservatives, evangelical critics of social change and tea party rebels without longstanding political connections to country club or church. Maybe that coalition is coming apart.

There were warning signs that this might happen. In recent senate races, some traditional Republican candidates lost primaries to tea party or evangelical challengers who subsequently suffered defeat in the general election. One Delaware senate contender felt compelled to announce that she was not a witch; others in Indiana and Missouri made comments about rape, conception and abortion that were stunningly strange. Those kinds of unconventional candidates, once problematic only in state party races, may now be standing in the spotlight on the national stage.

This analysis does not conclude that the presidential selection system is broken. Instead, it observes that storms within one of the political parties are so strong that the groups currently under the Republican umbrella may no longer be able to stand together.

Many establishment Republicans don’t want Ted Cruz or Donald Trump to be the party’s nominee, but at this late date they may not have the power to steer the nomination to a more mainstream candidate, and could not do so without generating enormous controversy.

It may end up that the most quoted Republican from 2016 will be Bobby Jindal. He entered and left the pool of presidential candidates with hardly a ripple, but back in 2013 he gave a prescient speech in which he urged fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” They didn’t listen. A major political party on its way to nominating Donald Trump for the presidency, or on its way to blocking his nomination in a floor fight at the national convention, provides a nearly perfect definition of a stupid party.