Feature Stories Campus Events

A Community Collaboration: Volunteers from W&L, VMI and RCHS Help Make Woods Creek Montessori’s STEM Summer Camp a Success

After recognizing a lack of summer programs in the area for elementary students interested in math and science, Woods Creek Montessori Director Caroline Russell took action. In mid-June, the inaugural Woods Creek Montessori STEM summer enrichment camp kicked off, with nearly 20 rising fourth, fifth and sixth graders participating in hands-on sessions in science, engineering, technology and math.

The interactive sessions, held in science labs and classrooms on the campuses of both Washington and Lee University and VMI, were taught by volunteer faculty and staff from both colleges, as well as teachers and students from Rockbridge County High School.

The first week of camp focused on science, with students participating in sessions such as Engineering: From Bridges to Rockets, Visualizing Science, Understanding Viscosity and Volcanic Eruptions, Chemistry is Cool!, Spider Behavior, the Woods Creek Project, Rube Goldberg Machines, Science of Cyanotypes, Hands-On Physics, and Beekeeping and Pollinator Protection.

The first week’s sessions were taught by Jim Squire, professor of electrical and computer engineering at VMI; Dave Pfaff, W&L’s integrative and quantitative science center academic technologist; Jeff Rahl, associate professor of geology at W&L; Matt Tuchler, associate professor of chemistry at W&L; Nadia Ayoub, associate professor of biology at W&L; Charles Winder, biology laboratory instructor at W&L; Jay Sullivan, professor of mechanical engineering at VMI; Christa Bowden, associate professor of art at W&L; Daniela Topasna and Greg Topasna, both professors of physics at VMI; and Harrison Branner, recent graduate of RCHS.

Week two of the STEM camp focused on math, engineering and technology, with the students enjoying sessions on Fun with Fractals, Economics Decisions and Games, Electricity and Circuits, Real World Computer Programming, Why Are Some Things Expensive? It’s All About Supply and Demand!, How to Engineer a Bridge, LEGOs and Linear Optimization, Number Theory, and Math in Decision-Making Models: How We Use Math in Making Everyday Decisions.

The second week’s sessions were taught by Meagan Herald, associate professor of applied mathematics at VMI; Katie Shester and Chris Handy, both assistant professors of economics at W&L; Maggie Lee, rising sophomore at RCHS; Brandon Bucy, senior academic technologist at W&L; Art Goldsmith, the Jackson T. Stephens Professor of Economics at W&L; Chuck Newhouse, professor of civil and environmental engineering at VMI; Gavin Fox, assistant professor of business administration at W&L; Chris McGrath, advanced math and science Teacher at RCHS; and Tenni Sen, professor of economics and business at VMI.

In addition to the volunteers from W&L, VMI and RCHS, Waddell Elementary School first grade teacher Janice Black and RCHS advanced chemistry teacher Sherry Baucom served as lead instructors for the summer camp, accompanying the students to the various sessions.

By all accounts, the first year STEM camp was a success, and local parents and students should be on the lookout for the program to run again next summer.

“We received tremendously positive feedback from parents and campers who were grateful for the opportunity to participate in this hands-on enrichment program,” said Russell.  “Woods Creek Montessori looks forward to building on the success of this project and to supporting youth STEM education in the Rockbridge area in the coming years.”

In the Community: W&L’s Denny Garvis Provides Social Enterprise Workshops for Nonprofits

What started as a teaching tool and an annual checklist for local non-profit leaders has grown into a series of social enterprise workshops for both executive directors and board members to stay current on governance best practices.

In its fifth year, Denny Garvis’ Annual Tune-Up Workshops for Social Enterprises: Required and Recommended Practices for Non-Profit Board Governance are highly popular, free sessions, held each summer and attended by dozens of local and regional non-profit directors and board members.

For Garvis, a professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University who was a practicing attorney before he transitioned to teaching, the workshops are a natural extension of his research on topics that straddle law and business, such as corporate governance and social enterprises. The current workshops, targeted specifically to leaders of non-profit organizations, evolved from an earlier corporate governance program. The focus on non-profits allows Garvis to serve the community in a unique way and to have a significant, positive impact on many different organizations.

“I’ve served on a number of local boards over the years, and found myself having to say no to many organizations due to time constraints,” said Garvis. “Offering these workshops allows me to serve and connect with a lot of groups at one time without over-committing.”

In addition to providing a service to the community, the workshops also offer a summer research opportunity for W&L undergraduate or law students. Garvis hires one student each summer to research, develop and co-present that year’s programs. The student’s experience begins in a seminar-like setting, discussing topics and core materials. The student then researches the issues and tailors the workshops to the specific challenges organizations are facing, so while the format is the same, the topics change each year.

“It’s a great experience for an undergraduate student interested in law school,” said Garvis. “There can be curriculum connections, as well, if the student is in the poverty studies program, as it can also combine working with a community organization.”

Typical attendees are directors and board members of preschools, day cares, various arts groups, Hospice and social services organizations such as United Way, RARA, RATS and Community Table. While most attendees are from Lexington and Rockbridge County, there are often a handful of regional attendees from Staunton and Covington.

Garvis describes the sessions as “low key, old-school” workshops. The executive sessions cover legal and regulatory issues, board composition and dynamics, trends and current issues. The sessions also serve as a forum where the directors can share resources and ideas and as a closed group where they can communicate openly. According to Garvis, the directors have established a trust amongst themselves that enables open dialogue and great conversation.

The workshops are extremely popular with a number of executive directors, who make it a point to attend each year. “I go to these seminars for a couple of reasons,” said Stephanie Wilkinson, executive director of Main Street Lexington. “It’s the most efficient way to get information on best practices for non-profits; it’s obviously cost-effective, since they’re free of charge; and possibly most importantly, it’s a safe space for those of us in the local non-profit world to get together and share the challenges and questions that inevitably arise with when you work with a board.”

Garvis continues to offer the workshops each year because he consistently gets great feedback and regular attendance. “People learn something new every year,” he said. “And I enjoy the ongoing, year-round personal connection to a variety of organizations. It’s interesting, fun and gratifying.”

“I’ve attended three years in a row,” said Wilkinson, “and I leave every time with new ideas and a new determination to make our board as good as it can possibly be.

W&L Law’s Lyman Johnson Serves as Expert Witness in $159M MF Global Settlement

Lyman Johnson, Robert O. Bentley Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University School of Law, served as an expert witness in the recently settled bankruptcy case against Jon Corzine and the commodities firm MF Global.

Corzine is a former U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey. Following his reelection loss to Chris Christie, he become CEO of MF Global. The firm collapsed in 2011 after generating a $1.6 billion shortfall following investment in European sovereign debt.

Corzine and other executives were sued by several entities, including their parent company and stockholders. The $159 million settlement ends all litigation so that the liquidation of the firm can proceed.

In the case, Johnson worked with the law firm Jones Day in its representation of the trustee’s claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Corzine.

Johnson is a nationally known scholar, whose work focuses on business associations, securities regulations, corporate finance, and business planning. His scholarship has appeared in a variety of publications including the Michigan Law Review, Texas Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Columbia Law Review, George Washington Law Review, and the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law.

In addition, Johnson’s scholarship and expert testimony have been employed in several high profile corporate lawsuits in recent years, including the nation’s largest stock options backdating case and a case brought by shareholders of the Walt Disney Company for the way their Board of Directors handled the hiring and firing of Michael Ovitz. Johnson has filed amicus briefs in several recent U.S. Supreme Court cases involving corporate disclosures and shareholder rights.

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W&L's Cantey Examines U.S. Policy Toward Syria

The following opinion piece by Seth Cantey, Assistant Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee, appeared on USA Today’s website on July 21, 2016, and is reprinted here by permission.

Obama did too much in Syria, not too little: Column

By Seth Cantey

The U.S. and its partners did just enough to make things worse. Next time, let Assad win.

The recent tragedies in Orlando, Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Medina and Nice — like the related ones coming — all have roots in Syria. Conventional wisdom holds that if the United States had done more to affect the course of Syria’s civil war, the Islamic State terrorist group might never have taken hold, Syrian President Bashar Assad might have been defeated, and the scale of the war might have been far smaller. According to this argument, the terrorist attacks that fill our headlines are the results of failed policy.

But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Providing lethal aid early would have made matters worse, accelerating the war rather than slowing it. What no one wants to see today, because so few saw it at the time, is that there was another policy that could have prevented the chaos now consuming the region. The U.S. and its partners could have, and should have, let Assad win. Instead, years later, an anti-ISIL coalition met for two days this week in Washington to plan next steps against the caliphate and those it has inspired.

Several points are worth remembering about how the Syrian civil war began.  First, to the extent that a moderate opposition existed, it was weak. There were Syrians who protested peacefully, and many hoped for a secular alternative to Assad. These people were no match for a well-trained Syrian army supported by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. The U.S. could have poured weaponry into the conflict, but most intended recipients would have had little training or combat experience. Those weapons would have changed hands, just as U.S.-provided artillery, tanks and Humvees have in Iraq.

Second, the opposition was disorganized and lacked coherent leadership. Many people recognize the names Assad and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL. Some recognize the name Abu Mohammad al-Julani, head of the Nusra Front. But who can name anyone in the moderate Syrian opposition? Who leads the Free Syrian Army or the Syrian National Coalition?

Third, Assad and the powers supporting him had a clear objective: keep Assad in power. Syria’s allies were unburdened by the regime’s atrocities, because they had a dog in the fight. In contrast, the U.S. found itself in a catch-22. By attacking Assad it would help extremist rebels; by attacking extremist rebels it would help Assad. Unwilling to back either party, and without a plausible alternative, the U.S. had no clear goal. And thus no clear strategy. The administration believed it could keep its hands clean by not intervening militarily. Meanwhile, the body count continued to rise.

In this context, Washington chose a third way. When President Obama called on Assad to step down in August of 2011, he invested the U.S. in the dictator’s defeat without changing policy on the ground to facilitate that outcome. The possibility of Assad winning the war outright was no longer on the table, and U.S. acquiescence to a political solution in which Assad remained became more difficult. To do something, the U.S. imposed additional sanctions on the Syrian government, froze Syrian assets under U.S. control, prohibited commercial ties with Damascus, and blocked the import of Syrian oil.

There were other actions too. The U.S. helped to establish supply routes and funneled money, intelligence, and non-lethal aid to handpicked rebels, many of whom would later change sides. Physical supplies included communications equipment, night vision goggles, bullet proof vests, pickup trucks, food, medicine, and more. Most damaging, the U.S. and its partners did little to prevent states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia from sending vast sums of materiel and money to Assad’s opposition, including its most extreme elements. Turkey faced little pressure to control its border, even as thousands of militants flooded into Syria to join the war.

It was clear that none of this would be decisive, but it was also clear that these steps would prevent Assad’s victory and prolong the war. In the meantime, the correlation between the most effective fighters and the most brutal ones grew stronger, eventually to the point that one group began holding territory and attracting recruits from around the world. By doing enough to avoid accusations of doing nothing, the U.S. poured fuel on a fire that might have extinguished itself — and watched as others poured on more.

The main problem with U.S. policy toward Syria is not that the administration did too little early in the conflict. It is that the administration did too much. If the U.S. and its partners had not intervened, Assad would have stamped out the civil war before it began. A brutal dictator would have retained control of his country, but the death toll would be lower, Syria would be more stable, the refugee crisis might not have happened, and ISIL might never have taken its current form. When we look at Iraq and Libya, we see obvious examples of the unintended consequences of intervention. We should see that when we look at Syria, too.

Lee Sommerfeldt '18 Awarded Bridging Scholarship to Japan

Lee Sommerfeldt, from Sealy, Texas, a junior at Washington and Lee University, has received a Bridging Scholarship for Study Abroad in Japan and a Morgan Stanley Scholarship. He will be studying at International Christian University (I.C.U.) in Tokyo during the 2016-17 academic year.

The Bridging Project offers scholarships to American undergraduate students participating in study-abroad programs in Japan. Funding from private foundations and major U.S. corporations (including Morgan Stanley), through donations to the nonprofit U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation, makes it possible to award these scholarships. Sommerfeldt will receive $2,500 from the Bridging Project.

Morgan Stanley supports the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation’s Bridging Project for Study Abroad in Japan. Morgan Stanley awards only two scholarships each year to students who have an interest in economics and international finance and who have been accepted for study in Japan. Sommerfeldt’s Morgan Stanley scholarship is for $7,500.

“It’s an honor to be able to represent the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation and Morgan Stanley during my study abroad at International Christian University in Tokyo,” said Sommerfeldt. “During February break this year, I stayed on campus researching and writing the essay portion of the scholarship on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, so it’s a great feeling having my work be recognized.

“I’d like to acknowledge all the help I’ve received from Washington and Lee’s Japanese Department, including W&L professors Janet Ikeda and Yumiko Tashiro. Their advice has helped me develop my language skills and passion for Japanese culture. Mixing that with our excellent commerce school and the library’s resources, Washington and Lee has given me the skills to seamlessly apply liberal arts thinking to more concrete topics, such as the modern Japanese economy.”

A double major in business administration and East Asian languages and literatures (Japanese emphasis), Sommerfeldt is a member of the Venture Club, which not only promotes entrepreneurship but also helps students learn about start-up businesses in a hands-on environment. He also is a member of Sigma Nu fraternity and W&L Campus Kitchen, where he prepares and delivers meals. He also is a Kemper Scholar.

“I first met Lee when, as a first-year incoming advisee, he emailed me in the middle of the summer and asked what he could do to prepare for the first week of class of Beginning Japanese,” said Ikeda. “My recommendation was to master the first writing system of Japanese known as ‘hiragana.’ True to his word, Lee arrived on campus already having pushed himself to succeed. He is a deserving recipient of two scholarships that will aid his yearlong study at I.C.U. in Japan. We are especially proud to call him W&L’s first Morgan Stanley Scholarship winner.”

Roanoke Times: W&L's mock convention gets it right again with Trump nomination

The Roanoke Times features a story about W&L Mock Convention’s “notable track record for accuracy,” following this week’s Republican National Convention.

Read the full story.


Annual Fund Sets New Record in 2015-16

old-george-l-400x533 Annual Fund Sets New Record in 2015-16Photo by Kevin Remington

In the year following the wildly successful conclusion of Honor Our Past, Build Our Future: The Campaign for Washington and Lee, alumni and parents once again gave more to the Annual Fund than ever before. Toward a goal of $10.2 million, their combined support at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year on June 30, totaled $10.3 million. This represents an increase of more than $260,000 or 2.6 percent over last year’s total and is the seventh consecutive year of record-setting results. The Annual Fund exceeded $10 million for the first time in 2014-15.

“The fact that we can continue the momentum of the Annual Fund the year after the conclusion of the campaign is a testament to the loyalty and generosity of the university’s alumni and parents,” said Dennis W. Cross, vice president for university advancement. “Through their generous support, alumni and parents continue to affirm their belief in the mission of Washington and Lee, their desire to support today’s students, and their satisfaction with their personal experience and that of their children.”

Giving by undergraduate alumni continues to comprise the largest portion of the Annual Fund – this year totaling $7,026,074, the first time giving from this group reached $7 million. Undergraduate non-alumni parents once again set a new record of giving to the Annual Fund with contributions to the Parents Fund totaling $1,700,000. Giving by Law alumni to the Law Annual Fund also set another record – $1,490,000, an increase of nearly $150,000 or 11 percent over last year’s record-setting total. Gifts from friends of the University who are not alumni or parents rounded out the Annual Fund total.

A complete summary of the 2015-16 fundraising results will be included in the August 2016 edition of Generally Speaking.


W&L's Strong Quoted on MSN

Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee, was quoted in a recent MSN article on Why Presidential Candidates Keep Dumbing it Down. You can read the full MSN story online.

W&L Journalism Student Interviews Mother of Slain Dallas Police Officer

Washington and Lee journalism major Rachel Stone ’17 recently found herself reporting on one of this summer’s most heartbreaking stories. As an intern at the Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, she was assigned to interview the mother of Lorne Ahrens, one of five police officers shot and killed in Dallas on July 7.

“Obviously, I had never done any type of article where I had to speak to a grieving family member, let alone the mother — and in such a tragic, hateful killing,” Stone said.

Stone, who has served as the cops reporter for the Rockbridge Report and interned last summer at The Roanoke Times, is technically a business reporting intern for the Observer. But since the newspaper’s night-cops reporter had left for The Washington Post, she said, interns have been taking turns filling in on the shift.

Stone was working the night-cops desk on July 11, when editors found out that Ahrens’ mother, Charleen Sonner, lives in Charlotte. She thought she might do a phone interview with Ahrens’ half-brother, who also lives there, but she ended up talking to Sonner instead.

“I have never done anything like this, so I really tried to plan out all of my questions ahead of time and write out the kind of phrasing that I wanted,” Stone said.

The additional preparation helped, but it did not make the interview easy. Stone said she had a heart-wrenching conversation with Sonner, who lost her husband more than 20 years ago and lost one of her three sons about 10 years ago, only to now lose another child.

Stone asked questions, but her instinct was to stay mostly silent while Sonner told stories about her son. “She reiterated on more than one occasion how proud she was of her son.”

“I was brought to tears several times during the conversation,” Stone said, “but I tried not to let her hear that.”

The only story she has covered that comes close to the Ahrens story in terms of emotion, she said, was the 2013 drunk-driving crash that killed one W&L student, injured two others, and sent the driver to prison. She does not relish the possibility of covering more such stories in her career.

Nevertheless, she said, she received a great deal of support and positive feedback from fellow interns and employees at the Observer, and she appreciated the opportunity to “tell readers what this man was truly like.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity because I’m always open to new experiences,” she said, “and I think that’s what an internship is all about.”

Read Rachel’s story at online >

W&L's Murdock Quoted on FUSION

Karla Murdock, Elmes Professor of Psychology, was quoted in a recent piece on the media site FUSION. In the story, titled “5 settings to change on your phone to make it 100% less annoying,” Murdock weighs in on how to minimize smart phone interruptions.

You can read the full FUSION story online.

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Jenny Elmes '91 Is Good and Green

Jenny Elmes, a member of Washington and Lee University’s Class of 1991, this month received a nice honor for her Lexington business, full circle catering: Top Green Provider for 2016.

“We take small steps locally to make a large impact globally,” Jenny said in the press release about the honor, “and my team and I are honored and proud of this achievement.”

The accolade comes from an industry publication, Food Logistics, which calls itself “exclusively dedicated to covering the movement of product through the global food supply chain.” The magazine’s Top Green Providers list “recognizes companies whose products, services, or exemplary leadership is enhancing sustainability within the food and beverage industry.”

Jenny is well known in Rockbridge County both for her delicious food and for her commitment to sustainability. Her business is certified green by the Green Restaurant Association. And as described in this blog on the W&L website, she is so dedicated to the cause that she will even take home recyclable trash and compostable scraps left over from her catering jobs.

By the way, Jenny’s father is another well-known member of the W&L community: David Elmes, emeritus professor of psychology.


Jackie Coleman '08 Applies Art History to Event Commerce

If you’re interested in the inner workings of an event commerce company — and especially if you’re interested in a great way to use that liberal arts degree — check out this interview in the Chicago Tribune with Jackie (Neilson) Coleman, a 2008 graduate of Washington and Lee University. She is the senior product manager at Eved, in Chicago.

Jackie explains in the interview that Eved buys and sells events for companies like Dell and Eli Lilly, and that tech and pharma corporations make up a lot of their business.

As for her work, she said, “The biggest piece of my role is being the person who sits between all of our clients as well as all of our internal teams, whether that’s sales, marketing, the client account managers themselves and the development team. So I’m the one that sits in the middle, takes all the feedback from everyone and says, ‘Here’s the roadmap. Here’s the item we need to prioritize.’ ”

While her previous professional experience came in event planning, where she handled everything from weddings to art installations, her W&L degree was in art history.

“I got a lot of critical thinking out of that field,” said Jackie, “and seeing things from different perspectives, and that helps my job now.”

She and her husband, Dr. Johnathan Coleman (W&L Class of 2006), have a 2-year-old son, Alden.


Headed to Rio

Lynn Symansky ’05 said she has “essentially been trying out for the Olympics” ever since she began competing during college at the top level of the equestrian sport. 2016 is her year.

Symansky and her mount, Donner, have been selected as the traveling reserve for the U.S. Eventing Team to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The three-day equestrian competition will take place Aug. 5-9 at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Center.

“In three-day eventing, men and women compete against each other, and it is essentially an equestrian triathalon,” explained Symansky. “The same horse-and-rider combination competes in three different phases: dressage, cross-country and show jumping. The sport evolved from a military contest to an Olympic competition.”

Dressage, sometimes compared to ballet on horseback, tests the horse’s obedience and training as rider and horse perform a series of prescribed movements in an enclosed arena. Unlike high scores given in sports like gymnastics or diving, riders need to accumulate the lowest possible score. Penalties are added to that score over the next two phases.

The second phase, cross-country, involves galloping and jumping at high speeds across varied terrain over several miles in a set amount of time. This tests the horse and rider’s bravery and endurance as they jump a variety of large obstacles such as water, ditches, brushes, banks, tables and narrow fences. Penalties are incurred for refusals at obstacles and for exceeding the allotted time.

In the final day, horse and rider jump a series of fences in an enclosed arena over a set amount of time. Rails of the fences can fall down with the slightest tap, and after the pair’s bravery has been tested on cross country, the show jumping tests carefulness, athleticism and scope. Penalties are incurred for every second over time, for knocking down the poles of the jumps and for refusals. The horse-and-rider pair with the fewest points at the conclusion of the three-day event takes home top honors.

The eventing team (four riders and one traveling reserve) is chosen by a group of selectors who have been watching the riders and horses compete at selection trials over the past two years. Top results at the trials help contribute to an invitation to the team, but many other factors are at play, such as experience of horse and rider; talent; the health, fitness and soundness of the horse and rider; and what type of horse will suit the weather, terrain and other factors at the Olympics. “The selection is purely subjective, so it is often a surprise and honor to be chosen,” said Symansky.

Symansky, though, has been performing solidly over the years. In 2003, while she was in her third year at W&L, she was an alternate at the Pan American games. “It is very unusual to compete at the international team level in eventing, while also being a full-time college student,” she said. “Riding at the professional level is an enormous time commitment that involves a lot of travel and training year round. That was my first team experience.”

While at W&L, Symansky traveled up and down the East Coast to compete (W&L didn’t have an eventing team), and she ruefully noted that “I didn’t receive any credit for my sport. I still had to take five additional gym credits. That said, I don’t think I could have been as successful at eventing anywhere else but W&L. I believe the Honor System was a big factor in my success. I was able to take a few exams from hotel rooms while at faraway competitions, and the Honor System allowed me to be absent a bit more than I could have at another school, where I would just have been a number.” She graduated from W&L with a B.S. cum laude in business administration.

Six years after graduating, she competed at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, where the team captured the gold medal. Three years later, Symansky competed at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Other international competitions include Canada, England and Germany, and she’s done eight four-star competitions, which is the highest level in the world. There is only one in North America and six in the world.

Symansky, who has “been riding horses since I was in the womb,” took the LSATs her senior year, planning to attend law school. However, she took one year off to pursue her goal of riding at the four-star level, which is one level higher than the Olympics, and began to train horses and teach lessons. During that time she rented a small barn and slowly grew her business into Lynn Symansky Equestrian. “That one year off turned into several, and now, 10 years later, I run a successful teaching, training and sales business out of Middleburg, Virginia.”

As she and her horse, Donner, look ahead, Symansky noted her training will not vary much from her day-to-day preparations. “We have our final team training camp in Ocala, Florida, a week before we ship to Rio. We will do our final gallops (fitness runs) and dressage and jumping schools. The horses will fly with their grooms and vet out of Miami, and we will meet them in Rio a few days before the competition beings. Eventing starts the day after opening ceremonies.”

Follow Symansky on her Rio journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


A’rese Emokpae '10 Wins “The Voice Nigeria”

Breaking news: A’rese Emokpae, a 2010 graduate of Washington and Lee University, is the Voice of Nigeria after winning the popular televised contest. Watch her big moment here.

During her student days at Washington and Lee, A’rese danced and acted on many a stage at the Lenfest Center before graduating in 2010. Over the past six years, she’s been pursuing a career in musical theater, and now she put her talents to the test by competing on “The Voice Nigeria” TV show.

A’rese landed her spot on #TEAMWAJE with the blind auditions and subsequent competitions known to fans of the U.S. television series. Her coach was the popular Nigerian singer Aituaje Iruobe, who’s known as WAJE (“Words Aren’t Just Enough”).

A’rese majored in studio art at W&L while compiling an impressive résumé in the performing arts. She danced with the W&L Repertory Dance Company, including at the American College Dance Festival Association’s 2008 competition. And in the 2010 Robert O. and Elizabeth M. Bentley production of “Chicago,” she starred as Velma Kelly.

A’rese had the right spirit for “The Voice” competition. As she proclaimed in a 2010 story about W&L’s production of “Chicago,” “Nothing beats a live performance, kids!”

Robert M. Dees ’84 Appointed to Fourth Judicial Circuit Court

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Robert M. Dees, a 1984 graduate of Washington and Lee University, to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court.

Bob, who lives in Jacksonville with his wife and two daughters, has been a partner with Milam, Howard, Nicandri, Dees & Gillam PA since 2002. He has practiced commercial and civil litigation for 25 years, representing clients in insurance coverage disputes, insurance bad faith claims, contract actions, personal injury, employment contracts and non-compete agreements, insurance defense, warranty, leasing disputes, general collection matters and products liability. His practice also includes admiralty, maritime and surface transportation, as well as media and communication.

Previously, Bob was a partner with Holland & Knight, 1998–2002. He began his legal career with Wahl & Gabel in 1987.


Shenandoah Announces 2016 Prize Winners

Shenandoah: the Washington and Lee University Literary Review has announced its annual prize winners for 2016.

The volume 65 winner of the $1,000 James Boatwright Poetry Prize is David Wojahn, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, for his poem “A Briefe Historie of the Noose in the Colonie of Virginia.”

Wojahn is the author of eight books of poems, including “World Tree,” and directs the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also received the Weinstein Prize for Poetry awarded by the Library of Virginia and the Yale Younger Poets Prize for “Icehouse Lights.” Wojahn has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His winning poem, which appears in the Spring 2016 issue, is a harrowing recount of brutal hangings in the Commonwealth.

The winners of the Carter Prize for the Essay and the Shenandoah Prize for Fiction are, respectively, Cynthia Lewis, of Davidson, North Carolina, for her essay “Return Engagement: The Haunting of Hamlet and Dale Earnhardt Jr.,” and Ron Reikki, of Neguanee, Michigan, for his story “Accidents,” both from the fall 2015 issue.

The Dana Professor of English at Davidson, Lewis is the author of “Particular Sinister: Shakespeare’s Four Antonios,” “Their Contexts and Their Plays” and is at work on a collection of essays, “The Game’s Afoot: Sports and Shakespeare.” Her prize-winning essay addresses questions of filial legacy, guilt and empowerment, both on the theatrical stage and on the NASCAR circuit.

A novelist and short story writer, Reikki has published several books, including the novels “U. P.” and “The Way North.” Raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, he was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers Conference and has written several screenplays. His winning story is the troubling monologue of a first responder on a particularly challenging night.

Shenandoah’s prizes are not the result of a traditional contest with a submission deadline but have for several decades been chosen from among the work selected for publication in the journal during a volume year. All work in Shenandoah is eligible for the prizes in their appropriate genres, but special submissions are not considered.

W&L Student and Faculty Member Recognized at ODK National Convention

Paqui Toscano, a member of Washington and Lee University’s class of 2017, has been named a national leader of the year by Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the national leadership honor society.

At ODK’s recent national convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Toscano received one of five General Russell E. Dougherty National Leader of the Year awards, and was awarded a $1,000 scholarship for graduate-level study and a $300 grant for W&L’s Alpha Circle, of which he was vice president.

“Paqui represents the model of commitment to scholarship, leadership, and integrity at W&L,” said Linda Hooks, Professor of Economics and faculty advisor to the Alpha Circle, Washington and Lee’s ODK chapter. “His leadership in student governance and in the classroom have greatly enriched our campus community.  I am very pleased that ODK’s award recognizes the contributions Paqui has made as being significant not only for our campus, but also at the national level.”

A Classics and English double major from Kettering, Ohio, Toscano was honored during W&L’s commencement as the male winner of the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Medallion, awarded by the faculty to the male and female students in the graduating class who “excel in high ideals of living, in spiritual qualities and in generous and disinterested service to others.”

A Johnson Scholar, Toscano also is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Eta Sigma and Eta Sigma Phi classics honor society; was awarded the Edward L. Pinney Prize, the G. Holbrook Barber Scholarship Award and the Matthew J. Mason Latin Prize. He also won the Elizabeth B. Garrett Scholarship in English, the Dabney Stuart Prize in English and the Sidney Coulling Prize in English.

Toscano served as chairman of the Student Judicial Council; a member of the Student Affairs Committee; a Latin and English peer tutor; was a Steering Committee member and platform chair for the 2016 Mock Convention; and gave campus tours as a member of the Student Recruitment Committee. He also was a member of the University Wind Ensemble.

In April, Toscano was among 20 students awarded a Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study. Each scholar receives $4,000 immediately prior to entering graduate school and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school. Toscano plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in English with a specialty in contemporary American literature.

“I was humbled and honored, thrilled and surprised,” said Toscano. “I’m profoundly touched that my peers saw fit to nominate me and that our ODK circle’s voting faculty members deemed me worthy of representing Washington and Lee in this way.”

Also at this year’s national convention, Hooks was selected to serve on ODK’s national society board of directors. She will serve as member-at-large representing academe.

“I am honored to represent the founding circle of ODK on its national Board of Directors, said Hooks. “I look forward to continuing our deep connections with ODK and its ideals of leadership and honor that match our own W&L ideals so closely.”

Founded at Washington and Lee in 1914, ODK was the first college honor society of a national scope to accord recognition and honor for meritorious leadership and service in extracurricular activities and to encourage the development of general campus citizenship.

FOIA’s Early Years Captured in Oral History Project by W&L Law Professor

As the Freedom of Information Act nears its 50th anniversary, Washington and Lee law professor Mark H. Grunewald has announced the completion of the first phase of interviews for an oral history project commemorating FOIA, which was signed by President Johnson on July 4, 1966.

The first phase of the project, which consists of 30 interviews, focused primarily on legislative and agency staff who played critical leadership roles in the early years of the 1966 Act and the 1974 amendments. The second phase of the project will focus primarily on individuals from the FOIA requester and policy communities whose work in those early years significantly shaped the Act’s implementation.

According to Grunewald, the project seeks to build on the FOIA historical record—largely a body of legislative and judicial materials—to include the recollections of individuals, inside and outside government, whose professional commitment gave life to the Act.

“Fitting of a day approaching the 50th anniversary of the Act, President Obama yesterday afternoon signed the recently passed FOIA Improvement Act of 2016,” said Grunewald. “This legislation reminds us that FOIA is not only a critical part of our history and democratic values, but also a vital part of our future.”

The Columbia University Center for Oral History Archive—one of the world’s leading oral history centers—will become the long term home for the project. Access to the project materials is expected to become available during the anniversary year.

Grunewald, who holds the James P. Morefield chair at W&L Law, is an expert in administrative and labor and employment law. In 2014, he authored a study of FOIA dispute resolution for the Administrative Conference of the United States, which adopted recommendations from the report to help requesters and agencies resolve FOIA disputes through the use of mediation and other alternatives to litigation.

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