Ancient Text, Modern Strife Professor Stuart Gray examines the Mahabharata with fresh eyes.
“The Mahabharata is not just an ancient text; it’s very much a live one, with serious implications in the political thought and lives of modern-day Indians.”
~ Professor Stuart Gray
“Think of the Mahabharata like the Old Testament, New Testament and Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ rolled into one,” explained Stuart Gray, assistant professor of politics and a scholar of the 2,000-year old text and Indian political theory. Not only is the Mahabharata massive — it contains almost 100,000 couplets — it’s complex, layered and full of fascinating tales and morals.
But it’s not “just an ancient text,” he added; it’s very much a live one, with serious implications in the political thought and lives of modern-day Indians. Like the Bible, certain sections have been co-opted by political parties to promote their interests or justify policies. In the case of the Mahabharata, which is perceived by some as patriarchal and masculinist, it’s been a political tool of the Indian right — those who advocate Hindu supremacy, Indian nationalism and preserving the caste system, for example.
Gray’s work seeks to examine the controversial, sometimes polarizing, tome from a fresh and more nuanced perspective. “The text is understudied and misunderstood by many, particularly in the fields of political theory and philosophy,” he explained. This is the message he brought with him this past winter on a lecture series in Delhi on older sacred texts, the Vedas, and the Mahabharata, where it was received with a mixture of appreciation, skepticism and sometimes fear — but always a willingness to listen.
“I knew it would be intense,” Gray said of his lecture experience, “but maybe not so intense.” He recalled lecturing at a left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru University. “One young woman took me aside after and said, ‘I wanted to say some positive things [about your lecture] but I knew I would be marked on campus and possibly put myself in a position of significant social reprieve or stigma.’ ”
During the same trip, Gray made a last-minute visit to Daulat Ram Women’s College at Delhi University, where he participated in a round table on the text. “That was my favorite experience,” he recalled. “The Mahabharata can be viewed as a very patriarchal text, so I was very interested in what these young women thought.” He was not disappointed: “Their comments came from a deeply personal place — they put into flesh what I had been studying in a much dryer, analytical and scholarly way.”
Gray explained the origin of the challenging climate. “In the early 20th century, post-Independence, Indian nationalists were trying to prove that ‘Hey, we have a great political-philosophical tradition too, just like the Greeks and the West,’ and they used these texts to highlight content that supported their nationalist views. So most of the existing scholarly work on the Mahabharata in political theory and history of political thought, which was written during this time, is shot through with these political intentions. There is a lot of ground-clearing to do.”
In addition to his second book project on the Mahabharata (the trip served as an opportunity for research, in part), Gray is working to create a network of political theorists and other scholars in India and around the world that share his interest in the Mahabharata’s political thought. “Because of the historical motivations and existing work in Indian political theory, there is really nothing like that right now,” he said.
In Gray’s class this semester, Intro to Political Philosophy, as well as a Spring Term class on the Mahabharata, students are able to explore some of these fascinating materials and themes. Look for them in his first book, “A Defense of Rule: Origins of Political Thought in Greece and India” (Oxford University Press, 2017), as well as his forthcoming chapter, “History, the Hindu Right, and Subversion of Brahmanical-Hindu Political Thought,” in “The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Political Theory.”
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Ayoub and Friend Awarded NSF Grant for Research in Spider Silk
Two Washington and Lee University professors have received a National Science Foundation Grant of $302,674 that supports their research of the evolutionary diversity of spider aqueous glues.
Nadia Ayoub, associate professor of biology and principal investigator of the project, along with her W&L colleague Kyle Friend, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, worked together to secure the funding.
The grant will help fund a multidisciplinary team from three institutions, including W&L, that will investigate how variation in adhesive-protein components of spider silk relate to differences in the glue’s material properties. The wet-adhesive silks of the 18 target species of spiders that the group is studying have significant differences in adhesiveness, material efficiency and response to humidity. Identifying the molecular correlates of these properties will advance basic understanding of structure-function evolution, and contribute to the development of high-performance biomimetic glues.
“I am most excited about having funding to support close collaborations with a colleague in another department, Kyle Friend, as well as colleagues at other institutions. This includes Brent Opell from Virginia Tech, a pioneer in silk biomechanics, along with Cheryl Hayashi at the American Museum of Natural History, who is the leader in spider silk molecular evolution,” said Ayoub.
“I am also really excited to work on this project with Nadia Ayoub and other experts in spider physiology and evolution,” said Friend. “It has been wonderful working with students to better understand how spider glues work as adhesives and how their proteins contribute to their function.”
The study of the web-building spiders offers many opportunities for science educators to integrate biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics as they engage their students in the natural world. Ayoub and her team will mentor both undergraduates and graduates, as well as incorporate the research into their undergraduate courses.
“Having the external funding also means that I can support additional undergraduates doing research in my lab than I would be able to do with internal funding,” said Ayoub. “I can involve even more students through research-based courses. Having funding also means that I can advance my scholarship in the area of spider silk genetics at a deeper, more complete and more complex manner than I would otherwise be able to.”
Team members will also offer science-enrichment activities at rural Virginia public elementary schools, run workshops for middle and high school science teachers and mentor New York City high school students to complete original research projects.
Debbie Tang ’03L Named to Washington Business Journal 40 under 40
Debbie Tang, a 2003 graduate of Washington and Lee School of Law, has been named to Washington Business Journal’s list of “40 Under 40” industry leaders.
Tang is a partner in the minority-owned executive search firm Bridge Partners. She works to increase the number of women and people of color in executive positions and on company boards. Being fluent in Mandarin, Tang also is able to help clients in the U.S. hire overseas.
In her Washington Business Journal profile, Tang says the one thing she would like to see more of in her industry is greater flexibility from employers so that relocation to a company headquarters does not derail a job search. She also wishes teleportation was real so she wouldn’t waste so much time in airports and commutes in the D.C. area.
Before joining Bridge Partners, Tang spent over 6 years as a Managing Director in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house practice group. Prior to her career in executive search, she gained corporate experience as in-house counsel for Marriott International and also served as General Counsel of an international restaurant chain. She began her career as an attorney at Troutman Sanders and Reed Smith.
Tang is actively involved in the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
Nothing like a Password: Trial and Resilience in the American Asylum System Anne Rodgers '20 completed a 2018 summer internship with Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE) through the Shepherd Program. These are her reflections.
The following article by Anne Rodgers ’20 was originally published on the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty website. Anne completed a 2018 internship with Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE).
“We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.” – Donald J. Trump, June 21, 2018, 8:12 am, Twitter.
On June 20, 2018, I was holding a little baby girl named Katie* at Asylee Women Enterprise (AWE). Katie is a United States citizen, but her mother is not. Although Katie doesn’t know it now, she is the reason her mother is seeking asylum in the United States. In her home country, her mother resisted several forced marriages, and was exiled from her family. She then became pregnant in a different country, but was arrested because it is illegal in that country to be pregnant out of wedlock. When she was 7 months pregnant, she fled to the United States. Upon arriving at an airport in the United States, she was detained. She spent a month in jail without prenatal care. Her asylum case is still pending.
After a summer of working at AWE, I have found that “asylum” is anything but a “password” that asylum seekers say to get a green card. After arriving at the U.S. border, asylum seekers are put through a credible fear interview. In this interview, an ICE agent picks apart asylum seekers’ stories to determine if they have a legitimate fear of persecution over their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. Sometimes a person’s history of trauma is written on his or her body, as is the case of a client who was attacked with acid in her home country for her work as a women’s rights activist. Other times, a client’s trauma is not apparent to an ICE agent, as is the case of a client who was raped in her home country by soldiers because of her membership in an ethnic group. Telling this story to a U.S. customs agent whose job is to find inconsistencies in your story is not easy.
If your fear is deemed credible and you can enter the United States, the road to asylum does not get any easier. Asylum seekers, unlike refugees, do not qualify for public benefits. After fleeing their home and often arriving at the United States border with nothing, they face homelessness and starvation. Additionally, asylum seekers do not qualify for health insurance until after a year or more of being in the United States, which leads to many chronic conditions going untreated. Many asylum seekers arrive in the United States suffering from the physical trauma of the torture they went through, as is the case of a client who had unknown substances injected into his body, and motorcycles driven over his back daily after he was taken and detained by government officials in his home country. An asylum seeker cannot obtain a work permit until after six months of applying for asylum. Multiple clients at Asylee Women who were doctors, lawyers and politicians have been tortured for speaking out for basic human rights and democracy. In the United States, their higher education degrees mean nothing.
With all of these needs, AWE provides a safe, supportive community space in which a case manager assists asylum seekers in finding housing, food, clothing, shelter, medical care and legal services. AWE also provides on-site programs for survivors of torture to attend in healing, cultural adjustment, and employment readiness while they are waiting on their work permit. These programs include a music therapy group, cultural orientation and employment training. AWE tries to find jobs that match their skills, so that they can utilize their strengths and skills to better the American economy after they attain their work permit. AWE helps asylum seekers to rebuild their lives—to make them citizens that are ready to strengthen American communities when they are granted asylum.
Many asylum seekers come to the United States alone, not knowing how to speak English, and feeling extremely isolated in our current political climate that is so against immigrants entering the United States. Despite the struggle every day to survive in a system that is unsupportive of asylum seekers’ needs, as well as cope with the physical and mental scars of torture, the clients that I worked with this summer are the most resilient individuals I have ever met. Despite one client describing how she feels like she is “constantly going in circles” in our legal immigration system, she still comes every day to English class at AWE. At Asylee Women, clients have a place to call home as they are living in limbo, not knowing if they will be able to stay in the United States. The clients rely on each other for strength through this process, and the caseworkers at AWE support these individuals in their trauma recovery.
This summer at AWE, I have learned that we must stop seeing asylum seekers as individuals that are trying to “game the system,” as they have lost everything that made them feel human. The large percentage that have legitimate claims should be treated with the dignity and respect that they are legally entitled to. We could all be asylum seekers if we lived in a country where voting for a political candidate, believing in a certain God, or being gay meant that you would be targeted, tortured and possibly killed. As the Program Director at AWE stated at a community meeting in Baltimore, we must start seeing asylum seekers as our neighbors, our friends and our family.
By the end of my SHECP internship at Asylee, Katies’s mom was coming in and putting Katie in my lap, saying, “Katie, say hello to your auntie.” One client practicing her English would come into the office before she left in the afternoon to say, “I love you.” Last week she and her husband moved out of a shelter to a new home that AWE caseworkers arranged, and she came into my office and said, “for me, when I can’t cook I’m not home. In the shelter, I cannot cook. Now I can cook. Now I am home.”
Editorial Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.
Lee Chapel Researcher to Deliver Fall Lecture
David Cox, professor of history at Southern Virginia University, will give Lee Chapel’s fall lecture on Oct. 8 at 12:15 p.m. in Lee Chapel.
Cox’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Lee Chapel at 150: Redefining a Symbol.”His talk will focus on the changing nature of Lee Chapel as a symbol over the years, tracing its history from its original purpose to how it is perceived and used by the community today.
Ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1972 to serve parishes in Connecticut, Cox returned to Virginia in 1987 to become rector of R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church in Lexington (now Grace Episcopal). In 2000, he left that position to complete doctoral studies, for which he received fellowships at Harvard Divinity School and Virginia Theological Seminary.
“David’s talk will center on the main themes of his book, ‘Lee Chapel at 150,’ which contains the best research done on the chapel to date,” said Lucy Wilkins, director of University Collections of Art and History, which includes Lee Chapel and Museum. “If you want to understand the building’s evolution over time and how it reflects the history of not only the university but also in our country, this is a must-read.”
Cox’s talk will be available to view on Livestream at https://livestream.com/wlu/cox-lee-chapel-redefining-a-symbol.
The talk is sponsored by University Collections of Art and History at W&L.
Henry Sharp Jr., Professor of Mathematics Emeritus, dies at 94 Sharp taught at W&L from 1983-1991.
Henry Sharp Jr., Rupert and Lillian Radford Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, died Sept. 23, 2018, in Lexington. He was 94.
“I know from my colleagues that Professor Sharp’s breadth of expertise and his commitment to his students was impressive, teaching courses from Calculus I to Cantor’s Theory on Transfinite Numbers and directing a number of honors theses and directed-study projects,” said President Will Dudley. “In addition, his service on the President’s Advisory Committee, the Library Committee and the Fringe Benefits Committee helped improve the W&L community in tangible ways. We are grateful to Professor Sharp for his commitment to his students and to the life of the university. Our thoughts are with his family in this time of loss.”
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Sharp received his B.A. in civil engineering from Vanderbilt University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Duke University. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II in the Pacific Theater.
Before joining the W&L faculty as head of the Mathematics Department in 1983, he taught at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Sharp retired from W&L in 1991.
“When Hank Sharp came to W&L, the Mathematics Department was trying to decide its direction with strongly held, but opposing views,” said Wayne Dymacek, Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics. “He not only healed the divisions, but set the department on a successful course which has lasted until the present. Without him, the department would not have the faculty, nor the number of majors we currently enjoy.”
Sharp’s research interests included graph theory and combinatorial mathematics, and he received an NSF grant and an NSF science faculty fellowship to study these topics. He published numerous papers for professional journals and wrote four pre-calculus textbooks.
After retirement, Sharp volunteered as a mentor/tutor in the Lexington and Rockbridge County public schools, where he earned the esteem of many young students, parents and teachers. He joined the board for the Kendal at Lexington Retirement Community, and he and his wife were among the earliest residents there. He continued his lifelong interest in education by offering a number of short courses in mathematics for fellow Kendal residents.
He is survived by his son, Henry Kerr Sharp, and daughter, Margaret Lewis Sharp.
W&L Law’s Sarah Haan Contributes to First Amendment News Online Symposium
Haan is one of 15 experts, all of whom are women, to provide commentary and analysis. Her essay, based on a work in progress, is titled “Facebook and the Idenitity Business” and examines Facebook’s regulation of political speech and, more broadly, what it means for political discourse to be regulated through private ordering by a global, profit-seeking, public company.
First Amendment News has long been published on the popular legal blog Concurring Opinions but in October will move to its online new home, The Foundation of Individual Rights in Education.
Haan joined the faculty of W&L Law in 2017. She writes about corporate political speech and disclosure. Her most recent article is “The Post-Truth First Amendment,” published in the Indiana Law Journal.
She received a B.A. in History from Yale University and a law degree from Columbia Law School, where she was an articles editor of the Columbia Law Review. Prior to joining legal academia, Professor Haan worked in the litigation department at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York, and as a Teach For America teacher in Compton, California.
Studying Medicine in Pakistan A grant from the Endeavor Foundation allowed Midha Ahmad '21 and Sawera Khan '21 to spend the summer in Pakistan, where they compared alternative medicine to traditional treatment.
Midha Ahmad ’21 and Sawera Khan ’21 were one of several pairs of Washington and Lee University students who were awarded Endeavor Foundation grants for summer 2018. These grants allow students to pair up and pursue summer research projects overseas. Student teams for Endeavor projects are traditionally made up of one American student and one international student; the teams then spend time doing research and sightseeing in the international student’s home country.
Midha, a native of Islamabad, Pakistan, is majoring in neuroscience with a minor in either creative writing or Middle East and South Asia Studies (MESA). Sawera, who hails from Atlantic City, New Jersey, is majoring in biochemistry with minors in MESA and human poverty and capability studies.
Please briefly describe your project. Why did you choose this topic?
Midha: Sawera and I centered our research around alternative medical practices in Pakistan — that is, any medical practice that cannot be categorized under the conventional, allopathic practice that is common. Most of these practices aim at using characteristically prepared medicine from herbal resources to treat a variety of ailments of patients. These practices are extremely popular in Pakistan for many reasons; they are reasonably cheaper, more easily accessible and are much preferred than their allopathic counterparts as they can be consumed without any side effects. They also constitute a big part of traditional Pakistani life. We chose to conduct our research on this topic as we were curious about how much these traditional medical practices have integrated themselves within normal Pakistani life, and how well they have aligned with the modern medical field during this era of technological boom.
Sawera: Although I currently live in the states, I was born in Pakistan and most of my extended family lives there. One of the things that I remember most from my time there and from talking to my family is how much people rely on non-allopathic medicine. This includes herbal medicine (hikmat), homeopathic medicine and religious scholars (aalima/hafiza). Midha and I wanted to see why these types of medicine were so popular in Pakistan and how/whether poverty, lack of access to healthcare or religious beliefs played a role in its widespread use.
How did you go about conducting the project when you got there?
Midha: We traveled a lot — probably halfway across Pakistan— to hit the big cities as well as the rural areas. Our goal was to widen the scope of our research to get information from people across many different medical fields. We interviewed the practitioners of alternative medical practices themselves — hakeems, homeopaths, ayurvedics, religious scholars, etc. — as well as some of their clients. We also interviewed allopathic doctors on the opposing side to get their point of view as well. Our focus mainly was on how their practices were conducted, the degree of effectiveness of their services offered, the type of clientele they receive, the type of acute and chronic illnesses they treat, and so on.
Sawera: Before we actually went to Pakistan, Midha and I contacted practitioners from each of the different medical practices we were going to explore and asked if they would be interested in doing an interview with us for our research. A lot of the people we asked were very interested and agreed to be interviewed. We traveled across most of Pakistan, from the north in Kalam, Madyan and Bahrain to as far south as Lahore. We covered well over half of Pakistan. One of our main questions in doing this research was whether these practices were popular in both rural and urban areas. By exploring such a large part of the country, we were able to hear from both the rich and the poor, males and females, doctors and clients, and hear many different opinions on traditional medicine.
While most people were eager to sit down for an interview, others were much more hesitant. In fact, none of our interviewees consented to a video interview, and only some to an audio interview because of the very conservative culture of the country. Despite this, we were still able to get plenty of information on how these practitioners conducted their treatment, which maladies they treated, who they treated and their thoughts on why they believed traditional medicine was such a big part of Pakistani culture.
What were your most important takeaways from the research?
Midha: We received a lot of information, but to break down our findings, these practices remain a huge part of Pakistani life and will continue to do so. Most of the clientele that visit these practices are those who have had an acquaintance who benefited from them before. In the big cities, in most cases these practices are seen as a last resort option to consider if you are in the final stage of an illness and have given up on modern medicine.
Conversely, clients regularly visit these practices in less affluent areas of Pakistan, in place of normal doctor consultations. Perhaps the most intriguing finding was the claim from both practitioners and clients to have treated “incurable diseases,” like many types of cancer. Tension and friction exists between the alternative and allopathic fields, both accusing the other of selling adulterated medicine to clients and doing irreversible harm. But both fields do acknowledge the benefits the other field brings to the medical world and hope that peaceful co-existence under government supervision would be possible soon. Laws have been made for the latter with varying results, due to the current unstable political climate of Pakistan.
We do hope to present these findings through presentations and media, and hopefully contribute to some papers.
Sawera: One of the biggest factors in these forms of medicine is faith/belief. One of the examples that I remember most distinctly and one that many of our interviewees gave was that of Surah-e-Rahman, a chapter from the Qur’an, being played in Cardiac ICUs. According to our interviewees, patients in hospitals that played the recitation saw better results than those in hospital that didn’t. People in Pakistan genuinely believe that traditional treatments will cure them because they have such strong belief in hikmat and the Qur’an.
Another big takeaway was that, unlike what most of the allopathic doctors believed, not all of these traditional medical practitioners are just in it for the money. We heard of one family who made an herbal concoction that was used to pass kidney stones. Patients found out through word of mouth and went to the family. The family said that they did not want any money because they were happy to share their gift from God and perform a good deed.
The biggest takeaway was that these practices are used by the rich and the poor and those that live in urban and rural areas equally. While money is definitely a factor in medical treatment in Pakistan, both the rich and the poor turn to hikmat and aalima/hafiza when they have exhausted all other treatments or in addition to going to an allopathic doctor.
Midha, what was it like introducing your study partner to your homeland? When you saw it through her eyes, what was different about it for you?
With Sawera, I got to revisit a lot of my favorite childhood sites and a whole load of new ones. It was nostalgic yet exhilarating to see everything again from new eyes. I guess I never realized how rich in culture every single site was, how much history was contained within the walls, and how valuable that is — something I subconsciously knew but never paid attention to. For me, mundane things of everyday life gained a new meaning.
Sawera, what were your impressions of Pakistan after this visit?
The last time I was visited Pakistan was in 2012, almost 6.5 years ago. Since I had been to Pakistan before, I was expecting to be very familiar with the culture and the environment. However, I was definitely not ready for the super-hot summer weather (average 105 degrees), or the lack of 24/7 electricity, or the mosquitoes! Even though there were power generators and solar panels, sometimes everything just stopped working and I would find myself sleeping in mosquito net, in 100-degree weather with no fan, let alone an A/C.
On the other hand, there were so many places that I was able to see because of this experience. Because I have lived in the states for most of my life, my parents, my family in Pakistan, and the media always painted an image of a third-world, war-ridden, impoverished country. While it is true that Pakistan is still a developing country, this trip helped me see how beautiful my birthplace was. I was able to connect to my roots, meet some of the most hospitable people I had ever met, listen to beautiful music, and see stunning scenery that I would never have imagined being in Pakistan.
What was your favorite experience of the trip?
Midha: I would definitely say it would be the stories and anecdotes we heard. Stories of patients with debilitating illnesses, of fighting through the worst and pulling through with sometimes only hope and faith, when everything else fails. Of miracles being performed and of dreams being fought for. Perhaps the most heartwarming stories were of those offering medical services free of cost to those who cannot afford them, which was more common than not. Kindness, I realized, was sometimes more healing than medicine could ever be.
Besides that, it would be the hospitality of the people we met. Our topic was a bit sensitive, but the people were very accommodating. We couldn’t leave the establishments without drinks and refreshments being offered by strangers! It was definitely a blessing in the heat of 115 degrees.
Sawera: My favorite part was seeing the cultural differences in the different cities that we visited, from Kalam to Charsadda to Islamabad to Lahore, and listening to the stories of the people of these different regions. It was very interesting to see how, between the Pashto and Urdu speaking regions, despite the difference, there were also many similarities in the experiences that people had with traditional medicine. Another part that was really enriching for me was that we were using three different languages, English, Urdu and Pashto, when conducting interviews. It was remarkable just seeing the variety of cultures, traditions and languages of Pakistan despite the fact that over 90 percent of the country shares the same religion. I also just loved all of the cultural heritage sites that we visit because it made me see how beautiful Pakistan is.
How do you think this project has enriched your overall educational experience at W&L?
Midha: My major is concerned with the medical field, so it was definitely like gaining hands-on experience within the real world. Reading about something in class is way different than actually interviewing doctors, medical experts and clients about them. It was fascinating to place my limited knowledge within the vast medical field, and to see the myriad of ways it has been incorporated and carried out.
To be brief, this trip was definitely an experience of a lifetime, and is something I’m not going to forget anytime soon.
Sawera: I am a biochemistry major on a pre-med track, with a double minor in poverty and human capability studies and Middle East and South Asia studies. Through this trip, I was able to bring all three of my areas of learning together into one moving experience. Not only was I able to explore different types of medicine, which I will most likely not learn about here or in medical school, I was also able to experience the culture of Pakistan and its people. I was so satisfied with my progress these past two months that I want to go back for another summer and do more research, a Shepherd internship, or even incorporate all of this into my poverty and human capabilities capstone.
I am so grateful to the Center for International Education for giving me the opportunity to explore such a beautiful country and allowing me to explore and learn more about a topic that I am very interested in. Thank you for allowing me to explore my passions and helping me figure out what I want to do with my education at W&L.
What’s a YAC and How You Can Be One Too
If you are a younger member of our alumni community and wondering how you can get involved with the law school, our Young Alumni Council, or YAC, is the answer.
W&L Law YAC has quadrupled in size since its beginnings in 2015, with a membership of 153 alumni from the most recent ten years, (save the newest class). They come from 27 states, as well as Canada and Sweden. Their practice areas range from academia to workers’ comp. More than 80 are returning to serve from last year’s Council, and nearly 70 more are first time members.
So what exactly does YAC do? Members help job-seeking students and recent grads by reviewing resumes and conducting mock interviews, providing practice area insight and job contacts along the way. They share stories of their time in Lewis Hall with prospective students through phone calls and emails, and make time to attend law school fairs. They reach out to admitted students and come to their receptions. They also support the Law School with their gifts to the Law Annual Fund and promote networking at alumni events.
Working closely with Admissions and Career Strategy offices, members can make an indelible impression with their engagement. In fact, this year’s recipient of the newest alumni award, Young Volunteer of the Year, is YAC member Matney Rolfe ‘14L, who facilitated the hiring of six students in summer internships and two young alumni in full-time positions, through her own position as clerk to The Hon. Loren A. Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.
Lisa Rodocker, Director of Law School Admissions, credited YAC members for helping shape an excellent incoming 1L class.
“Thanks to their efforts and enthusiasm, we were able to enroll an extremely accomplished group of 131 students from 28 states plus the District of Columbia and five foreign countries,” said Rodocker. “Many of our entering students spoke about the strength of our alumni network, their friendly interactions, and what an impact those conversations had on their decision.”
If you are interested in staying engaged with W&L Law and making a difference beyond Lewis Hall, contact Jen Andrews, email@example.com.
Walking in Sunshine Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center’s Lexington branch recently held a grand opening celebration for a nature trail built by Washington and Lee University engineering students through a community partnership.
Sept. 7 was a stifling day in central Virginia, but students at Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center’s Lexington branch were perfectly content to shun the air conditioning and explore the facility’s new outdoor nature trail.
The trail, which was designed last year by four Washington and Lee University engineering students, was officially dedicated at a cookout and celebration that Friday afternoon, during which BRAAC also presented W&L with a plaque of appreciation. Meagan Harding, a behavior analyst and special education teacher at BRAAC, said their students flat-out love the new trail, which includes interactive stations and doubles the facility’s activity space. Prior to construction of the trail, students there had no playground, only an overgrown, wooded area behind the building.
“From the moment we first showed them the trail, they were begging to come outside,” Harding said.
With locations in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Lexington, BRAAC serves families who face unique learning challenges, including autism, ADD, and physical or visual impairment. The Lexington office works with children ages 2-16.
Annie Jeckovich, Walker Brand, Kyle Ruedisili and Ryan Brink, all members of the W&L Class of 2018, spent their senior year designing and mapping the trail, raising money and securing volunteer labor, and finally overseeing its completion. They were advised by Professor Joel Kuehner and Associate Professor Jon Erickson of Washington and Lee’s Department of Physics and Engineering.
The students were able to liaise with BRAAC through W&L’s Office of Community-Based Learning and create a community-based research (CBR) project. Such projects provide students, faculty and community partners an opportunity to collaborate on mutually beneficial research aimed at addressing community-identified needs. The walking trail also fulfilled a new year-long capstone project requirement for engineering majors.
Sensory stations have been added along the finished trail to give kids a chance to play and experience interesting sights and sounds. A music station includes drums, chimes, a small xylophone and other noisemakers; further down the trail is a crazy mirror with nine convex circles, as well as a small playhouse.
“The kids need the sensory input so these stations give them the experience they really need,” said Craig Charley, a registered behavior tech at BRAAC. “They have behaviors that they don’t have an outlet for, so it’s cool to see a kid come and bang on a drum or look in the mirror.”
At a brief dedication ceremony before a ribbon-cutting, BRAAC Development Director James Garner thanked everyone who contributed to making the trail a reality, including Jim and Brenda Fonner, owners of Park N Pool Corp. in Lexington, which donated the land for the trail. Jim Fonner passed away in January 2017, but his wife was present to see the trail dedication and a bench along the trail that will bear an engraved plaque in his memory.
Angie Leonard, CEO of St. Vincent’s Home, the umbrella organization for BRAAC, said that working with W&L on the project was a very positive experience.
“The students who participated under Joel [Kuehner] were absolutely amazing, thorough and very conscientious,” she said. “We just had a wonderful partnership and we’re very thankful to W&L.”
Strong Addresses George Washington’s Words in Richmond Times-Dispatch
Robert Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor in Political Economy at Washington and Lee, addresses why George Washington’s words still matter in today’s political climate in an opinion piece published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In the article Strong argues that “Now, more than ever, we need to take George Washington’s warnings to heart.”
Read the full piece here.
Destined for Public Service Balen Essak '20 interviews Maisie Osteen '14L about her experiences with the Shepherd Program and as an assistant public defender.
Editor’s note: Welcome to a new series on The Columns, “Living the Shepherd Dream,” in which current students in the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability at Washington and Lee interview alumni of the program who are working in a field that interests both. Look for installments in this series once a month on The Columns.
Balen Essak ’20, a poverty minor and economics major from Wisconsin, has a demonstrated interest in the criminal justice system. He has spent the last two summers exploring different aspects of the justice system and hopes to attend law school after he graduates from W&L. His ultimate goal is to become a public defender. Balen got in touch with Maisie Osteen ‘14L, an assistant public defender in Richland County, South Carolina, and asked her a few questions about her career.
Essak: When did you first think that you wanted to go into public service work?
Osteen: I think I have always wanted to be in public service. I mean, I am the daughter of public service-oriented parents—I grew up with service and community-building as very valued aspects of life. When I was trying to determine my career path I narrowed it down to three areas: law enforcement, teaching and the law. I knew whichever path I chose would be in the public interest sector.
When did you first think that you wanted to go into public defense specifically?
Prior to law school I worked at the Legal Aid Justice Center and a small boutique law firm in Charlottesville, Virginia. These two jobs were a great foundation for my legal career because they showed me how much I valued public service and my affinity for criminal law. When I went to law school I thought that I would focus on international human rights. After my first summer placement, through the Shepherd Program, I decided that there was enough work to be done in my own backyard and set my focus on public defense.
Why did you decide to go to law school?
I took three years off after I graduated from undergrad. When I graduated I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I worked a few different jobs, I traveled, I talked to people about their careers and about different options, and I determined that a career as a lawyer would probably fit me the best. It sounded like there was a nice balance between fighting, academic rigor and ability to make systemic change—on some days there is!
How did your time at W&L affect your decision to go into public service work?
I would like to think that I would have ended up a public defender no matter what school I went to, but I don’t know if that is true. I was so fortunate to be able to work with some of the best and most accomplished criminal defense lawyers in the country at W&L. Almost all of these professors had some connection to indigent defense or indigent services of some sort.
In addition, my relationship with the Shepherd Program gave me space to really focus on the academic study of poverty and human capability and to pair that with what I was seeing in the field. My relationship with Shepherd started my first law school summer. I was a Shepherd fellow at the Georgia Justice Project. After my summer and the closing symposium in Arkansas, I took two classes in the Shepherd Program, as well.
Did W&L prepare you well for public service work?
I think the W&L School of Law, like most law schools, is generally geared to those students who want to have careers in big law or in private practice. Fortunately, W&L has a very practical take on legal education. Between the practicums, the seminars and, most importantly for me, the clinics, W&L afforded a great foundation for my practice. And, as I said before, the professors I had at W&L were not only incredible teachers and mentors but now they are colleagues and friends. These folks are still people I call on for professional and personal guidance.
Was being a public defender your first job out of law school?
Yes. It is the only job for me.
What do you think is the biggest problem facing our criminal justice system today?
Man, this question could be its own essay. I am going to break my answer into three responses:
- There are absolutely two justice systems, a system for the poor and a system for the wealthy. In some ways this idea runs against the mission of the public defender. We are working really hard and we want our clients to have the exact same “odds” or shake at justice, but the reality is that is not the case—yet. If you are wealthy you are given benefits at every impasse. You’re less likely to be arrested, more likely to get out on bond, less likely to be found guilty, and likely to receive a lighter sentence if found guilty. It is just two different systems.
- The acceptance of injustice. Injustice has just become the status quo. You get people who are a part of the “system” and can be so totally unfazed by violations of other people’s rights.
- Unbalanced resources is a common woe of the public defender. We are told that our country values the principles of “innocent until proven guilty” or that “everyone deserves their day in court,” but ultimately, we don’t give our defense lawyers enough resources to give these maxims any real teeth.
What can the average person do to help improve our criminal justice system?
Keep your eyes and ears open. Courthouses are open to the public and citizens should feel empowered to head down to their local courthouse to watch proceedings. We are all seeing the images and videos of police shootings and, while police brutality is horrific and we need major reform in that area, there are daily injustices carried out in courtrooms across America that we aren’t talking about. We need to be talking about these injustices too.
Interested in meeting Maisie? She’ll be on campus in October for the Social Impact Summit. Learn more and register here.
W&L to Host Talk with ‘One of the World’s Principal Observers of Democracy’ In his talk, which is free and open to the public, Mounk will discuss the rise of populism around the world.
Yascha Mounk, an author and lecturer at Harvard University, will give a public lecture at Washington and Lee University on Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. in Northen Auditorium.
In his talk, which is free and open to the public, Mounk will discuss the rise of populism around the world.
“Yascha Mounk has been on the cutting edge of the study of democracy around the world,” said Mark Rush, Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law. “Through his analysis of the World Values Survey, he anticipated the rise of populism on the left and the right as well as the shifting sands of democratization in Eastern Europe.”
Mounk received his B.A. in history from Trinity College, Cambridge University and his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University. In addition to lecturing at Harvard, Mounk is also a senior fellow in the political reform program at New America and executive director at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
His publications include three books: “Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany;” “The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice and the Welfare State;” and “The People versus Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.”
“His current book, ‘The People versus Democracy,’ offers tremendous insights into the sources and consequences of the challenges to liberal democracy that have arisen across countries and continents,” said Rush. “His visit to Washington and Lee will be a wonderful opportunity for the campus and community to interact with one of the world’s principal observers of democracy.”
Mounks talk is sponsored by the Center for International Education, W&L School of Law, the Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of Politics and the Mosbacher Fund for International Lecturers and Visitors.
Exhibit Highlights Mock Convention Through the Years The exhibition, “The Mock Convention Through the Years,” is on display on the first floor of Leyburn Library between Sept. 15-29.
Kylie Piotte ’21, the director of operations for Mock Convention 2020, has organized a public exhibit highlighting Mock Convention’s history at Washington and Lee University. The exhibition, “The Mock Convention Through the Years,” is on display on the first floor of Leyburn Library between Sept. 15-29.
Washington and Lee’s Mock Convention is a non-partisan student political research project that simulates the presidential nominating convention for the party not currently in control of the White House. It has taken place at W&L every four years since 1908 and has correctly predicted the nominee on 20 out of 26 occasions.
With the help of W&L’s Special Collections and Archives, Piotte has gathered photographs, posters, pins, T-shirts, newspaper clippings and much more, collected over the years from students, faculty and alumni.
The Operations Department of Mock Con, which consist of four student members, manages the non-political side of the event.
“We work as a team to create a professional environment that rivals the quality of a true national convention, and we are the ‘memory-makers,’” said Piotte. “My team and I are responsible for memorabilia and exciting experiences such as this exhibit, an upcoming tailgate for Parent’s Weekend, Spring Kickoff, the Presidential Gala, parade and of course Convention Weekend in 2020.”
The idea for the exhibit came to Piotte last spring when she stumbled upon some old campaign posters from the late 60s tucked away in the corner of the Mock Con office. Special Collections quickly introduced her to their own Mock Convention vault.
“Upon rifling through the other items saved, I was inspired to put together a showcase for this fall,” said Piotte. “Mock Convention is coming faster than we think, and I believed an exhibit would be a fun way to get the community talking about the convention again, along with providing Young Alumni and parents an opportunity to look at memories that they might have experienced firsthand.”
Scaling the Entrepreneurship Summit Jesse Evans '20 spent his summer ensuring that this year's summit, which took place Sept. 21-22, would be a success.
“I want to ensure that all students know about the Entrepreneurship Summit and the value it can add to them. With over 100 alumni coming into town, there are plenty of learning and networking opportunities.”
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Major: Business Administration
Minor: Environmental Studies
What makes the Entrepreneurship Summit such an important event at W&L?
The Entrepreneurship Summit offers W&L students immense opportunities. We have intentionally invited alumni from all disciplines, so any W&L student from any major can find value from the summit. We have awesome keynote speakers this year: Chip Mahan ’73, from the finance industry, and Amy Bohutinsky ’97, from the real estate industry. We also have seminars and panel discussions that relate to almost any major on campus, from computer science to music and finance.
Aside from the vast knowledge that these alumni bring back, there are many networking opportunities during the summit that I recommend students attend. Alumni really want to help current students and even offer jobs to their startups. The alumni, as well as students, pitch their business ideas at the summit on Saturday– a fantastic event that every student should attend to see the creativity and ambition of their fellow students and alumni.
What is your role in the Entrepreneurship Summit?
I am the chair of the marketing committee for the summit.
What made you want to be part of this work?
I was a member of the Entrepreneurship Summit Marketing Committee last year and I really enjoyed my experience. So, I took full advantage of having the opportunity to lead the marketing committee this year. Additionally, I have a general interest in marketing and advertising. I enjoy the work for its creative and strategic aspects. Aside from my interest in marketing, I wanted to be deeply involved with the summit because it is such a valuable event for the W&L community and I really want it to be successful. I want to ensure that all students know about the Entrepreneurship Summit and the value it can add to them. With over 100 alumni coming into town, there are plenty of learning and networking opportunities.
What has an average day for you looked like on this project?
An average day is tough to say. There are so many irons in the fire. I have so many marketing channels and moving deadlines that my days are certainly not the same. Some days I am hanging posters around campus, then the next day I am designing Instagram stories, then the next day I am sending emails to department heads. Much of the prep work is done over the summer. The marketing committee, for the most part, has already planned our strategy prior to the start of the semester. So during the semester, we execute the plan we already made. However, we do leverage and devote resources to other marketing opportunities that present themselves unexpectedly.
Has it been challenging in any way? If so, how?
The Entrepreneurship Summit is certainly challenging to put together, but this is why we have several committees to delegate tasks. No Venture Club member has the bandwidth or resources to successfully lead the student and alumni pitches, operations team, marketing team and panel discussions.
The most challenging part for my committee was probably designing the plan during the summer to ensure that we are taking advantage of all possible channels to advertise to students. We want to make sure that all students know about the summit and no one misses the opportunity to attend due to ignorance of the event.
How does the project relate to your wider experiences at W&L in terms of student-faculty relationships?
The Entrepreneurship Summit, while a Williams School event, caters to all majors. We design our panels and speakers to address topics in most departments at W&L. For instance, we have panels on food entrepreneurship, the fashion and music industry, Blockchain and many more.
What is your role in the Venture Club?
I am a member of the Executive Committee. There are five other students on the committee, and we work to lead summit committees, and after the summit, we lead the club and design the schedule. During the year with Venture Club, we work with our professors, Shay and Junkunc, to create fun and interesting projects that enhance certain business and entrepreneurial skills for our members. We also bring in speakers, alumni or other professors, to lecture the club on various topics.
Has your work on the summit impacted your future plans in any way?
Yes, but I think my attendance at the summit has an even larger impact. The more I work with the Venture Club, the more I fall in love with entrepreneurship. I enjoy hearing from alumni at the summit about their businesses and their non-linear paths to success. At the summit, alumni show that there are many paths to reach a single goal. I am very driven and self-motivated to put all my resources into an idea that I am passionate about. There is a saying in entrepreneurship that an entrepreneur avoids a 40-hour work week only to work 80 hours. If you are passionate about an idea, then you put all your time into it to ensure its success.
How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
The Entrepreneurship Summit is a great opportunity for networking, and W&L really does a great job of teaching students how to network. I really look forward to the summit to meet successful alumni and hear their stories.
Additionally, for my marketing committee specifically, my business classes have given me the skills to successfully create awareness and consideration among the students. When developing the marketing plan this summer, I had many previous business class lessons in the back of my head: understand your target consumer, define your consumer persona, understand what your consumer wants, define marketing channels, etc.
If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.
More About Jesse
What extracurricular activities do you do?
Venture Club, Intern for the Sustainability Office on campus
Why did you choose your major?
My attraction for business began when I co-founded a dog walking and pet service business, Happy Hounds, at the beginning of high school with my friend, Chris Prattos. We started with one client and grew to over 40 clients and four employees. We turned the business over to neighbors after our freshman year of college. The business started as an accident when a neighbor walking her dog saw me running and asked me if I wanted to run her dog for money. When Chris heard that I was running this dog after school, he said we should start a business. So, we ordered business cards and walked door-to-door every summer after that. This business experience, while minimal, piqued my interest in learning more about business and wanting to start another business. I am currently working on two: Colonnade Oaks and Vesper Media Group.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Two friends of mine, Graham Novak ’19 and Steve Allen ’18, have inspired me, and both have been immensely helpful. Both were highly involved (Graham is still currently involved) in Venture Club. Two years ago, they started a global co-living community for digital nomads in Portugal, called NomadX. I was amazed at their hard work and the number of hours per week they spent starting the company. It showed me the dedication needed to successfully launch a company. Both Graham and Steve have been great mentors to me, helping me with my studies and business pursuits. Steve helped guide me with my current website design and social media marketing business, Vesper Media Group, that I co-founded with John Harashinski ’20.
What’s your personal motto?
Be a solution finder.
Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I order the Phoenix salad with a scoop of hummus at Blue Phoenix.
Favorite W&L memory:
One of my favorite memories was an overnight hike on Big House Mountain at the end of freshman year with two close friends of mine.
Freshman geology lab with Professor Jeff Rahl. Jeff is a fantastic professor and just an overall great professor. He was very helpful in and out of class and just made the class fun. I always looked forward to going to class. The best part of the class was that once a week we would go into the field for our lab. I love nature and hiking, so this was a highlight of the week. We even went swimming in a creek and went caving for the last field lab.
Favorite W&L event:
The Entrepreneurship Summit, of course!
Why did you choose W&L?
I choose W&L because when I visited for the first time, I felt so welcome to the community and everyone was so friendly. After attending this university for two years, I truly believe the community is one of our best characteristics. Additionally, the small class sizes, close student-professor relationships and beautiful geographic area were also significant factors in my decision to attend.
Linda Greenhouse to Deliver Annual Tucker Lecture at W&L Law
Renowned journalist Linda Greenhouse will deliver this year’s Tucker Lecture at Washington and Lee University School of Law.
The lecture will take place Thursday, Oct. 11 at 4:00 p.m. in the Millhiser Moot Court Room, Sydney Lewis Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee. The title of Greenhouse’s talk is “The Supreme Court’s Challenge to Civil Society.” This event is free and open to the public.
Greenhouse is currently the Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law and Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence at Yale Law School. She covered the U.S. Supreme Court for The New York Times between 1978 and 2008 and continues to write a biweekly op-ed column on law as a contributing columnist.
Greenhouse received several major journalism awards during her 40-year career at the Times, including the Pulitzer Prize (1998) and the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism from Harvard University’s Kennedy School (2004). In 2002, the American Political Science Association gave her its Carey McWilliams Award for “a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.”
Her books include a biography of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, “Becoming Justice Blackmun”; “Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling” (with Reva B. Siegel); “The U.S. Supreme Court, A Very Short Introduction,” published by Oxford University Press in 2012; and “The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right,” with Michael J. Graetz, published in 2016. Her latest book is “Just a Journalist: Reflections on the Press, Life, and the Spaces Between,” published by Harvard University Press in 2017.
Greenhouse is president of the American Philosophical Society, the country’s oldest learned society, which in 2005 awarded her its Henry Allen Moe Prize for writing in jurisprudence and the humanities. She also serves on the council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the national Senate of Phi Beta Kappa, and is one of two non-lawyer honorary members elected to the American Law Institute, which in 2002 awarded her its Henry J. Friendly Medal.
She is a 1968 graduate of Radcliffe College (Harvard) and earned a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale Law School (1978), which she attended on a Ford Foundation fellowship.
The Tucker Lecture at Washington and Lee School of Law was first established by the W&L Board of Trustees in 1949 to mark the bicentennial of the University and the centennial of the Law School. It was named after John Randolph Tucker, hired in 1870 as the second teacher in legal education and named the first dean of the Washington and Law University School of Law in 1893.
W&L Choral Program and Instrumental Ensemble to Hold Parents and Family Weekend Concerts Join members of the W&L choral program for a Parents and Family Weekend choral concert on Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall.
Join members of the Washington and Lee choral program, under the direction of visiting choral director Morgan Luttig, for a Parents and Family Weekend choral concert on Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall in the Lenfest Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are free, but required.
Through the upcoming season, members of the choral program will experiment with varying styles of audience engagement within the Washington and Lee community and beyond. The Parents and Family Weekend performance will feature surround-sound experiences with choir members exploring audience engagement as an integral part of their choral studies.
The University Singers repertoire will feature traditional Scottish pieces such as “Loch Lomond” by Jonathan Quick, and pieces representative of “home” such as J. David Moore’s arrangement of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.”
Cantatrici Women’s Choir and the Men’s Glee Club will perform as a joint ensemble, as well as individually for the concert. Some highlights include the men of the Glee Club performing “Cover Me with the Night” by Andrea Ramsey, a piece featuring soloists, piano and auxiliary percussion. In addition, the women will present Brian Tate’s “Hold Me, Rock Me,” a spiritual compilation.
This year’s visiting conductor, Morgan Luttig ’14, is an alumna of the Washington and Lee Conducting Mentorship Program.
“It is an honor to return to W&L to direct the choral ensembles,” said Luttig. “This experience feels like coming home, and I look forward to seeing how today’s students will shape and be shaped by the choral program in the same way that the choral program greatly impacted me as a student.”
Luttig received her master’s of music education – choral emphasis degree from Westminster Choir College, and previously taught at St. Andrew’s School in Savannah, Georgia, as choral director and general music teacher for pre-k through 12 students. Luttig has performed with choral ensembles such as Westminster’s Kantorei, Symphonic Choir and Jubilee Singers, as well as the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and iCantori Choral Ensemble.
Instrumental Ensemble Concert Parents and Family Weekend
The W&L Music Department will also present an Instrumental Ensemble concert Parents and Family Weekend at 8 p.m. on Sept. 29 in the Wilson Concert Hall.
Join the University Jazz Ensemble, University Orchestra and University Wind Ensemble as they perform a combined concert as part of Parents and Family Weekend 2018.
The concert is free and no tickets are required. For more information, call the Lenfest Center box office at 540- 458-8000.
W&L’s History Department to Hold Public Panel in Response to Constitution Day Lecture The panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Who Is America?! A Response to Michael Anton’s Constitution Day Lecture.”
The History Department at Washington and Lee University is sponsoring a public panel in response to Michael Anton’s Constitution Day lecture on Sept. 25, at 5 p.m., in Hillel 101.
The panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, is titled “Who Is America?! A Response to Michael Anton’s Constitution Day Lecture.”
The panelists will share their expertise on the Constitution, the law and immigration. Panelist members include Kameliya Atanasova, assistant professor of religion, David Baluarte, associate clinical professor of law and director of Immigrants Rights Clinic, and Mohamed Kamara, associate professor of romance languages.
Michael Anton is a former deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications on the United States National Security Council. He also is a former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush’s National Security Council and has worked as director of communications at Citigroup and as managing director of BlackRock.
His Constitution Day lecture is Sept. 18 and Anton will give remarks about constitutional self-government and the Trump presidency.
“While no doubt Anton has interesting experiences to relate as a former White House staffer, his writings are also notable for their xenophobia, hostility to Islam and birthright citizenship,” said Sarah Horowitz, associate professor of history. “We organized this event so that members of the community could get an alternative perspective, ones more rooted in facts about Islam and immigration and a historically and legally grounded understanding of the Constitution.”
The event will be to view on Livestream at https://livestream.com/wlu/who-is-america
Habitat Hotel Takes on Lexington’s Housing and Hotel Shortage A philanthropic twist on AirBnB, W&L's Habitat Hotel raises thousands for much-needed affordable housing in Rockbridge.
“One of the things I’ve learned about [in my classes] and that my mom has really stressed to me, is the negative effects and downward spiral caused by not having a home. It’s a mental impediment; it effects your self-esteem. It’s also been tied to other social problems, such as drug abuse and domestic violence.”
~ Turner Banwell ’19
A number of charming inns, bed and breakfasts, as well as a smattering of the standard corporate hotel fare open their doors to Lexington’s 40,000 plus tourists each year. But with the arrival of fall – and with it, W&L’s Parents and Family weekend (Sept. 28 and 29 this year)– the No Vacancy signs begin to light up. Nearly 400 parents and relatives overtake Lexington and the Washington and Lee campus to show support of students, and those who don’t get a room early risk being left out in the cold.
For those who wish to call Lexington “home,” there is also a serious shortage of affordable housing. Much of the town is absorbed by the campuses of its two major universities (W&L and Virginia Military Institute), leaving little room for the development of new housing. The Roanoke Times reported in May that the medium home value of Lexington was estimated at $230,500, far more expensive than the $112,400 figure for nearby Buena Vista or $193,300 for surrounding Rockbridge County.
Which is why the student-led Habitat Hotel is a win-win: since 2006, the hotel — think of it as AirBnB with a philanthropic twist — provides lodging options for the hundreds of visitors who descend upon lodging-crunched Lexington for Parents Weekend. The initiative also raises tens of thousands of dollars annually for Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity, which in turn uses those funds to build much-needed affordable housing for area families.
How it works: During Parents and Family Weekend, between 40 to 50 faculty, staff and local residents open rooms in their homes to visitors in exchange for donations to the Rockbridge Habitat Chapter. In 2016, the W&L Chapter of Habitat, the folks behind Habitat Hotel, raised over $23,000. This year, the chapter is working to surpass that. One-hundred percent of proceeds fund Rockbridge Area Habitat projects. The Habitat Hotel program is so popular (and lodging in Lexington is in such short supply) that Habitat Hotel sells out every year.
“W&L is only the second campus in the nation, that I am aware of, to host Habitat Hotel,” said Lynn Harris, director of development and marketing for Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity.
Turner Banwell ’19, an economics and politics double major from Charlotte, North Carolina, is co-president of the W&L Habitat for Humanity chapter, along with Julian Hennig ’19, a business administration major from Columbia, South Carolina. Banwell has been has been heavily involved with community service since high school and joined the W&L Habitat fundraising board his sophomore year. Over the past calendar year, Banwell has participated in more than 100 hours of community service, with the majority of it dedicated to Habitat. “One of the things I’ve learned about [in my classes] and that my mom has really stressed to me, is the negative effects and downward spiral caused by not having a home,” said Turner. “It’s a mental impediment; it effects your self-esteem. It’s also been tied to other social problems, such as drug abuse and domestic violence.”
During high school, Hennig’s favorite Habitat experience involved repairing an elderly woman’s porch in rural Columbia. “The wooden paneling surrounding the screen porch was almost completely rotten and unusable, so our job was to remove and replace the rotten wood and torn areas of screen around the porch. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the excitement on the face of the elderly woman as she was finally able to use her front porch once again.” This experience, among others, inspired Hennig to join W&L’s Habitat chapter.
“I have seen first-hand the immense benefits that W&L’s Habitat for Humanity has had in the Lexington/Rockbridge community,” he added.
Another upside to the Habitat Hotel project is that for over a decade, the project has helped spark connections between far-flung members of the W&L community, connections which frequently evolve into lasting friendships. “We have a number of people who request to be with the same host as last year,” said Harris. “Long after their kids graduate, they stay in contact with the host. A number of wonderful relationships develop.”
Registration for Habit Hotel typically opens in late May on the W&L website. There are a few rooms left for Parents Weekend Sept. 28 and 29, 2018; there is also a need for additional hosts. Contact Lynn Harris at Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or learn more here.
W&L Faculty Trio Present “From the Salon to the Dance Hall”
A Washington and Lee University faculty recital will present “From the Salon to the Dance Hall,” a concert of works by Schumann, Brahms and Astor Piazzolla, at 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 in the Wilson Concert Hall in the Lenfest Center for Performing Arts.
The show is free, and no tickets are required. A reception in the Atrium of Wilson Hall will be held immediately following the concert.
The group consists of Ting-Ting Yen; violinist, Julia Goudimova; cellist and Timothy Gaylard; pianist.
The program will begin with Robert Schumann’s “Five Pieces in the Folk Style for Cello and Piano, Op. 102,” followed by Johannes Brahms’ “Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108.” After intermission, the entire trio will play Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”
For more information, call the Lenfest Center box office at 540-458-8000.
Summer in Germany Mark Donohue '19 spent the summer working as a software engineering intern at a company called AGCO, located in southern Bavaria.
Mark Donohue ’19
Hometown: Wilton, Connecticut
Majors: Computer Science, German
Please tell us about the work you’ve been doing in Germany this summer.
I worked as a software engineering intern at a company called AGCO, located in southern Bavaria. They are an agriculture firm (I know, it is a weird combination, software and agriculture, but nevertheless an interesting one). I helped write some of the software that collects data from AGCO machines—and, in some cases, controls them.
What made this internship possible for you?
The support from Professor Youngman and the German department at W&L made the internship possible, as well as the German American Exchange, the organization responsible for organizing all of these internships.
What does an average day for you look like on this project?
Usually, I have a meeting with my boss in the morning where I update him on the work I have been doing. I’ll work throughout the day. In the afternoon, I’ll have another meeting with AGCO employees around the world and discuss the software changes that my team has implemented.
Has it been challenging in any way? If so, how?
Trying to understand my coworkers on a daily basis was definitely the most difficult part. Not only do they speak German at an unreasonably fast rate, they also speak in the dialect of the region, which sounds nothing like regular German.
Has your work this summer impacted your future plans in any way?
Yes. Although my first choice would be to work in the U.S., the experience has opened up the idea of possibly working in Germany.
How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
For starters, I started learning German at W&L, and this internship would not have been possible without any knowledge of German. Secondly, the German department and Career Development made sure that my application for the program stood out.
More about Mark
What extracurricular activities do you do?
I’m a member of Phi Zeta Delta, I work in the IQ Center, and I sporadically play on the club hockey team.
Why did you choose your major?
I came to W&L with absolutely no idea in what I wanted to major. On a whim, I took a computer science class my sophomore year. I really liked the subject and the career opportunities it could provide, so I stuck with it. As for German, I had actually forgotten to take the Spanish placement test before my freshman year. Still needing to fulfill the language requirement, I decided to take a German class. Since then I’ve taken at least one German class every semester, and that is primarily because of the professors within the German Department. They are some of the best that W&L has to offer.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Professor Youngman. He encouraged me to pursue this internship and helped me throughout the application process.
What’s your personal motto?
“Just do it.”
Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Muchacho Alegre. Chicken quesadilla or the enchiladas.
Favorite W&L event?
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I can hit the high notes in “Hello” by Adele.
A Natural Inclination As a senior ecologist with Trihydro Corp., Jana Heisler White '98 works on environmental protection and remediation.
Jana Heisler White ’98 entered W&L as a pre-med student. But about halfway through her undergraduate years, she discovered her interests lay more in the natural world than human anatomy. She did become a healer, but of the environment rather than people.
“At W&L, I discovered that botany and entomology were what I was enjoying, so I decided this is what I should do,” she says.
After graduating with dual degrees in biology and geology and working a brief stint as a teacher, she decided to continue her studies of the natural world.
At the same time, she felt an urge to go west, so she pursued a master’s in plant biology at Arizona State University and a doctorate in ecology from Colorado State University. After conducting postgraduate work on the effect of climate change on rangeland ecosystems in the West, she settled in Laramie, Wyoming, where she is a senior ecologist with Trihydro Corp., an engineering and environmental consulting firm.
“I work on environmental protection and remediation, doing everything from habitat restoration to endangered species protection,” she explains. “I help clients make sure they are in compliance with regulations and advise them on incentives for protecting the environment.”
Although she spends a lot of time in her office staying current on natural resource policy and reviewing reports, she enjoys fieldwork at sites across the West. She has spent four and a half years working on conservation and habitat enhancement for greater sage-grouse, a species that was historically found throughout the western U.S., but has seen a large decline over the past 40 years.
“Greater sage-grouse have high fidelity to habitat and are sensitive to human impacts. The species also relies on sagebrush, which is susceptible to fire due to the spread of cheatgrass throughout the western U.S. I have contributed to numerous projects to improve habitat quality for sage-grouse and other sagebrush obligate species,” she explains.
She finds her job most rewarding when she feels she is actively working to protect or restore landscapes and species habitats, and when projects require the collective expertise of diverse stakeholders.
A Salad Bowl with a Sordid Past This elegant bowl, which is part of W&L's Reeves Collection, can be traced back to the Opium War of 1839-1842.
Drug wars may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you see this elegant and elaborately decorated piece of Chinese export porcelain. But this bowl, from a large service emblazoned with the name of the ship Red Rover, is intimately connected to the smuggling of opium from India into China in the 1830s and the first Opium War fought between China and Great Britain from 1839 to 1842.
Red Rover was a 97-foot long, 245-ton, three-masted ship built in Calcutta, India, in 1829. Named after the swashbuckling pirate in James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Red Rover,” she was the first of what became known as “opium clippers,” which were fast sailing ships that smuggled opium from India to China.
Based on American clipper ships designed during the War of 1812, Red Rover was built for speed, with a sleek hull, flush deck and raked masts. These features allowed her not only to go fast, but also to sail close into the wind, allowing her to sail from India to China even during the winter monsoons that blew from north to south. On her maiden voyage in 1830, she sailed from India to China and back in just 86 days, beating all previous records. She made two other voyages to China that year, a schedule she continued most years until she was lost at sea in 1853.
For most of her life, Red Rover belonged to Jardine, Matheson & Co. The company had been founded in 1832 by the Scotsmen William Jardine and James Matheson, and was the leading merchant house involved in the lucrative but illegal opium market; by 1834 they were responsible for one-third of the opium smuggled into China. They were also among the leading proponents of “free trade,” which to them meant forcing China to ease trade restrictions and open more ports to foreign merchants, by force if necessary.
Opium, a narcotic that Chinese addicts mixed with tobacco and smoked, had been illegal in China since 1729. However, British and American merchants smuggled it into China starting in the early 18th century. The amount grew each decade, from around 4,000 chests a year (a chest would hold about 140 pounds of the drug) in the early 1800s to 10,000 chests in the 1820s. That figure was up to 19,000 chests in 1831-32, and 40,000 in 1838-39.
This made vast fortunes for a few British, American, Indian and Chinese merchants, and created serious medical, social and economic problems in China. As Cheng Hanzhang, a Chinese official, described it, opium was “a poison that foreigners do not use themselves but still sell to China, harming our people, consuming our wealth to the tune of millions of taels per year, all secretly in exchange for silver that will leave and never come back.”
All of this and other issues led to what became known as the Opium War, which last from 1839 until 1842 and ended in defeat for China. It marked the end of long period in which China was powerful, prosperous and envied around the world, and the beginning of what China has called its “Century of Humiliation” in which European, American and later Japanese governments would seize Chinese territory, meddle in Chinese politics and dictate Chinese trading policies. The Opium War and what came after continues to color Chinese perceptions of the rest of the world; according to one historian, “No event casts a longer shadow over China’s modern history than the Opium War.”
That British merchants did not see anything wrong with their actions is reflected in this bowl. It was part of a large service meant for elegant dinner parties, and may have been used on board Red Rover, or by William Jardine or James Matheson in their homes in Macao, Hong Kong (which the British got in 1841 as part of the settlement of the Opium War), or Scotland. The name of their fastest and most famous ship, emblazoned on a garter (a heraldic device that had connotations of the exalted Order of the Garter), would have been an obvious reminder of the source of their wealth and influence.
The Red Rover salad bowl is on display at the Reeves Center on the Washington and Lee campus. Read more about the Reeves Collection here.
Charles Grant ’91L Named Board President of Tennessee Legal Aid Society
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, the state’s largest nonprofit law firm, has appointed Charles K. Grant as its new board president. Grant is a 1991 graduate of Washington and Lee School of Law and a member of the Law Council.
Grant previously served as vice president of the board, and his term as president will last through 2020.
Grant is a shareholder at Baker, Donelson, and a member of its board of directors. His practice focuses on complex employment litigation, including FLSA collective actions, general business litigation and representation of licensed professionals before licensing boards. A prominent lawyer and veteran litigator, Grant has tried more than 50 jury trials to verdict in federal and state courts and represented clients in mediation and arbitration proceedings.
Grant is a past president of the Nashville Bar Association and has been the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Napier-Looby Bar Foundation’s Trailblazer and A.A. Birch Outstanding Public Service awards, the Nashville Bar Association’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award, the Tennessee Bar Association’s Harris Gilbert Pro Bono Award and the ACLU of Tennessee’s Bruce Kramer Cooperating Attorney Award.
Grant has been listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers every year since 2006 in the area of Employment Litigation Defense, in The Best Lawyers In America in the areas of Employment Law – Litigation and Employment Law – Management every year since 2014, and in the Nashville Business Journal’s “Best of the Bar” six times, most recently in 2018.
Covering 48 counties in the state, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands advocates for fairness and justice under the law. The nonprofit law firm offers free civil legal representation and educational programs to help people in its region receive justice, protect their well-being and support opportunities to overcome poverty.
NYU Professor to Give Keynote Address for “Ethics of Identity” Series Appiah will speak on “The Ethics of Identity: The Injuries of Class.”
Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and law at New York University, is the first speaker in the 2017-18 “Ethics of Identity” series, sponsored by the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics at W&L. His lecture is Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. in Stackhouse Theater.
Appiah will speak on “The Ethics of Identity: The Injuries of Class.” The talk is free and open to the public.
Appiah received both his B.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy from Clare College, Cambridge University. His early work focused on the philosophy of language and of the mind. His current interests cover areas including political philosophy, ethics, African-American intellectual history and literary studies and philosophy of the social sciences.
He has published several books, including “The Ethics of Identity” (2005), “Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers” (2006), “Experiments in Ethics” (2008), “The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen” (2010), and “Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity” (2014). Appiah won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as the Herskovits
Award of the African Studies Association for his book: “In My Father’s House” (1992).
Appiah has taught and received recognition on a global scale and was named one of the top-100 global thinkers by Foreign Policy in 2010. He won the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in 2013.
The Mudd Center was established in 2010 through a gift to the university from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd, a 1950 graduate of W&L. When he made his gift, Mudd said that “given the state of ethics in our current culture, this seems a fitting time to endow a center for the study of ethics, and my university is the fitting home.”
For full details on this series, visit https://www.wlu.edu/mudd-center.
Finding Your Path Kristen Mynes '19L spent her summer in Germany with Jones Day, getting a new perspective on the law and her career plans.
Kristen L. Mynes is a Washington and Lee third-year law student. Kristen spent her summer abroad in Frankfurt, Germany. As a centrally located city, Frankfurt allowed Kristen to travel and take her W&L gear on many adventures across Europe.
This summer, I worked for Jones Day in Frankfurt, Germany. Jones Day partners with the German Law Journal at W&L Law each year to host the Transatlantic Seminar, which brings together German and American students at their Frankfurt office. As a member of the German Law Journal, I had the opportunity to partake in the Transatlantic Seminar during my spring break this year, and I was happy to return to work with the firm for the summer.
At Jones Day, I worked on projects from both the Banking, Finance & Securities practice and the Mergers & Acquisitions practice. I had never worked for a law firm before and found this experience valuable to improve my versatility as a law student. Since I truly enjoyed my contracts class during my first year, this let me exercise those skills and use them in a work environment.
I joined Jones Day without having taken many (read: any) business law courses. I prepared for the job by reading a couple “in a nutshell” books and borrowing outlines. Fortunately, my supervisors were helpful and made a point to teach me how to write documents, what certain terms meant, and how the relationships between businesses operated. I learned about a new sector of the law and tried to gain as much knowledge as possible while I was there.
Undoubtedly, the best part of my summer was my ability to travel across Europe. I spent long hours at the firm during the week but reserved my weekends for travel. Beyond that, I truly enjoyed looking at the law from a new perspective. Although I worked on international law, the Germans approach the law differently than American lawyers—and law students—do. Working in a different legal system and with lawyers who were trained differently than me was incredibly valuable because it encouraged me to evaluate legal problems in a new way going forward. The Germans are very formulaic and scientific as it regards the law, so I have tried to incorporate that into my legal analysis.
Finally, although I enjoyed my time abroad and with Jones Day, I now know that I am not cut out for transactional work. I know I want to be in the courtroom and litigating, so I am now pursuing career opportunities that reflect this interest. I will begin litigating while working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Veterans Practicum during this school year. I have tailored my schedule to reflect this interest otherwise as well—adding classes such as appellate advocacy and electronic discovery. I am looking forward to finishing my last year at W&L while I explore my interests and see what my next step in my career will be.
Confronting Cancer with Research Erin An '19 has spent time this summer researching immunotherapy treatments for pediatric cancer at the University of Virginia.
Erin An ’19
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Majors: Religion, Pre-med track
Q: What kind of work are you doing in Charlottesville this summer?
While working with a former W&L alum, Dr. Daniel “Trey” Lee, I have had the opportunity to conduct research at U.Va Health System in the Department of Pediatrics and Hematology. We are developing potential CAR T cells immunotherapies for a specific type of pediatric brain tumor, DIPG. Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) are very aggressive brain tumors in children, and they are difficult to treat due to their precarious location in the brain. However, that may all change with the promising potential of CAR T cell immunotherapies.
Q: What made you want to be part of this work?
While shadowing and volunteering last summer in the oncology department at a hospital in Spain, I formed relationships with the cancer patients there as they came in for their chemotherapy treatments. Until then, I did not realize how harshly those treatments attacked their bodies. During that summer, I decided to pursue pediatric cancer research. CAR T cell immunotherapies are so innovative because they are more personalized treatments, different from chemotherapies, and the goal is to create more effective and specific treatments with less side effects.
Q: What does an average day for you look like on this project?
My day normally starts at 7 a.m., when I go for a run and have quiet time before starting work at 9:30. I do different protocols on a daily basis; some days I do plasmid minipreps, restriction enzyme digests and transductions to create our different CAR T cell constructs, while other days we do tissue culture, check on the mice in the vivarium and perform stereotaxic brain injection of the tumor cells into the mice. Once we successfully transduce the T cells into CAR T cells, we can give the treatments to the mice with brain tumors and look for promising results. After work, I read outside, go hiking or visit the lakes in this area.
Q: What is the most interesting knowledge you’ve picked up while doing this work?
I did not realize that CAR T cells were so versatile. We’re not only trying to develop CAR T cells to treat DIPG brain tumors, but also trying to develop a different type of CAR T cells that will minimize the side effects (cytokine release syndrome) of CAR T cell treatments!
Q: Has it been challenging in any way? If so, how?
Initially, conducting research in an entirely new field was challenging, but researching in a hospital puts things into perspective and has challenged me to confront the disease that we are trying to combat face-to-face. We have to monitor the effects of the brain tumor in the mice, and it is difficult to imagine that similar effects are also occurring in the pediatric patients. The reality of this disease makes me work harder to successfully develop the immunotherapies.
Q: Has your work this summer impacted your future plans in any way?
Because of this research, I want to continue to pursue the development of novel therapeutic therapies in cancer research.
Q: How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
Through my liberal arts education as a pre-med and religion major, W&L has challenged me to analyze critically, not only in academics but also with real life problems. I have realized that medical research is not only about knowing the science behind it; it also necessitates creativity and thinking from multiple perspectives, and all of those skills were fostered by the W&L education.
If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.
More about Erin
What extracurricular activities do you do?
-ESOL community coordinator
-Intervarsity Small Group Leader
-Burish Intern at Maury River Middle School
-Biochemistry research student
-Cellist in University Orchestra
-PAACE and SAIL officer (last two years)
-EMT (ride-along and volunteer)
Why did you choose your major?
Originally, I was a chemistry major; however, I decided to further my religion studies. People are often shocked that I am a religion major on the pre-medical track, however my religious studies are not incongruent to my pre-medical studies, but have fostered my critical analysis skills and have challenged me to really understand the different perspectives that we study in the different religions. I love the Religion Department because they truly care for their students and challenge us to look deeper into the different philosophers and the different religions that we study.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
There have been so many professors, students and staff that have inspired me. It is so difficult to just choose one. I would say that Professor Kyle Friend has inspired me the most, as not only is he my research mentor and professor, but a life mentor overall. He has not only challenged me in the academic setting in his lab and viochem class, but also has challenged me to really pursue my passions. He was one of the many professors who encouraged me to further my religious studies along with my pre-medical studies and hopefully pursue a MD/Divinity dual degree in the future. I am so thankful for Dr. Friend and all the inspiring professors and students who have supported me to pursue all my passions and studies at W&L.
What’s your personal motto?
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” —Psalms 118:24
Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Napa Thai. I love their spicy drunken noodles.
Favorite W&L memory:
Dinners with friends and science library hangouts. I know that everyone at W&L works super hard, but all the learning has been enjoyable due to the W&L community!
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I wrestled on an all boys’ wrestling team in high school.
Why did you choose W&L?
I chose W&L because I was offered a ROTC scholarship here, however, I decided not to do ROTC anymore. I could not picture myself being at any other college than W&L. It is truly an unexpected blessing to be here!
Preparing for Florence
Monday, Sept. 17
University and local officials continue to monitor Tropical Depression Florence as it moves through our area. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Advisory for the City of Lexington and Rockbridge County until 12:00 p.m. today. There is also Flash Flood Warning for our area through this evening. Please continue to monitor news and weather sources throughout the day.
Friday, Sept. 14
The GRE scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 15, in the Science Center has been cancelled.
Thursday, Sept. 13
Recent weather forecasts show a shift in the path of Hurricane Florence to the south, reducing the immediate threat of severe weather in our area. Predictions now call for rain and gusty winds in some parts of our region as early as Friday evening, with extended heavy rainfall beginning on Sunday and into early next week. Extensive and widespread flooding remains possible. 20-30 mph winds combined with already saturated ground may result in downed trees and power lines. Widespread power outages remain a concern. Please continue to monitor news and weather sources as the storm progresses.
On campus, there is a significant likelihood of flooding for Woods Creek, which may result in the closure of the Dell and the bridges and road behind Leyburn Library. Students, faculty and staff should plan to avoid the area behind Woods Creek Apartments and the library. We do not anticipate that the Woods Creek Apartments will be affected, but will continue to monitor the area and other issues around campus, and communicate additional information as needed.
If you notice flooding, leaks or clogged drainage, please report them to Public Safety at x8999 or via the LiveSafe app.
All home athletic events scheduled for the weekend have been cancelled, along with many other campus events, including Young Alumni Weekend, the Black and White Ball and the Unity Cookout. Please refer to Campus Notices, email, the university website and social media channels for updates on other events scheduled in the coming days.
Students with concerns about accessing food or temporary housing, should refer to the message below.
Tuesday, Sept. 11
Washington and Lee University and the City of Lexington are monitoring the approach of Hurricane Florence as it prepares to make landfall later this week. Updates will be posted to this page.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency for the entire commonwealth. Current weather predictions include both high winds and heavy rainfall in our area beginning late this week and throughout the weekend, which may result in downed power lines, widespread power outages and flash flooding. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to monitor news and weather sources as the storm develops.
Facilities Management and Dining Services are preparing to provide emergency power and meals for students on campus in the event of severe power outages.
Many events, including Young Alumni Weekend and several athletic contests, have been cancelled in anticipation of this storm. Check the W&L website and social media channels for status updates on events scheduled in the coming days.
Information about Class Cancellations or Delays
In inclement weather, assume the university will remain open on schedule unless there is an official announcement to the contrary via General Alerts messages on text, email, the LiveSafe app and the university website. More information about the delay and closing policy and official notifications can be found at inclementweather.wlu.edu.
Please note: The university might operate on schedule, even when area schools and businesses are closed or delayed. Therefore, always check your text messages, email, the LiveSafe app and/or the W&L website for the latest update or to verify any TV/radio cancellation announcements, because public media announcements are sometimes wrong.
In Case of High Winds or Flooding:
Should a high wind or flood warning be issued, the university will issue a message via the General Alerts system. If severe flooding poses a threat to your safety inside a building, evacuate the area. If it is safer to remain inside the building, shelter in place. Contact Public Safety at (540) 458-8999 (x8999 on campus) and report the exact location and severity of the flooding. If you are stranded and need emergency assistance, dial 911.
Traveling to and from Campus in Inclement Weather:
In remaining open, the university does not advise anyone to travel who feels that he or she cannot do so safely. All students, faculty and staff should exercise their best personal judgment with regard to their own local road conditions and other safety concerns. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE ACROSS FLOODED ROADS.
Students should communicate directly with professors if they are unable to safely get to campus.
Faculty members are asked to be understanding about student absence. Faculty members who cannot safely travel to campus should notify their department and/or respective dean’s office in a timely manner so that a notice can be posted in the classroom if possible. Faculty members also are encouraged to email their students directly if class will not be held.
Staff members should notify their immediate supervisors of their personal decisions to delay arrival or be absent. For additional information regarding the university’s inclement weather policy for employees, including special instructions for essential personnel, please see pp. 86-87 of the Employee Handbook.
Preparing for a Hurricane or Flood:
- Assemble an Emergency Kit, including water, nonperishable food, flashlight, batteries, and prescription medications.
- Charge your cell phone.
- Unplug small appliances, including stereos, TVs, electronic equipment and lamps.
- Bring inside anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture, etc.)
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to coldest setting and keep them closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage in case of a power outage.
- Pick up items on floors and store them in drawers or closets.
- Move upholstered furniture away from windows.
- Close and lock your windows.
- Back up computer data and take a copy with you if you evacuate.
- Cover your computer and other electronic equipment with plastic sheeting or large plastic garbage bags.
- Be aware of changing weather conditions and monitor local news sources as the storm moves into the area.
- Remember that standard insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding.
For those living off campus:
- Turn off propane tanks.
- Coordinate an evacuation plan with your housemates or family members.
- Students who live in low-lying areas off campus should consider staying with friends on campus for the duration of the storm, or contact Student Affairs for assistance.
- Fill your car’s gas tank.
- Avoid flash floods, underwater roads or washed out bridges. Do not drive into standing water.
Remembering 9/11 Flags were placed on the Front Lawn today to honor those whose lives were lost 17 years ago on September 11, 2001.
Flags were placed on the Front Lawn today to honor those whose lives were lost 17 years ago on September 11, 2001. Those losses include two members of the Washington and Lee family — Rob Schlegel, of the Class of 1985, who died in the Pentagon, and James Gadiel, of the Class of 2000, who died in the World Trade Center.
Rob was on the staff of the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon and had been promoted to commander just weeks prior to the attack. James worked in the equities department of Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.
W&L Holds Public Lecture: ‘Getting Away with Fraud: The Lansdowne Portraits of George Washington’ Evans will discuss the history behind several fraudulent copies of Lansdowne-style George Washington portraits that were produced based on the original.
Washington and Lee’s University Collections of Art and History will host Dorinda Evans, professor emerita at Emory University, on Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. in the Science Center, Room 114 for a public lecture titled “Getting Away with Fraud: The Lansdowne Portraits of George Washington.” The talk is free and open to the public.
Evans will discuss the history behind several fraudulent copies of Lansdowne-style George Washington portraits that were produced based on the original. W&L owns a Lansdowne-style painting given to the university, which now hangs in Leyburn Library.
“Evans will reveal historical and art historical intrigues based on her research regarding paintings she attributes to William Winstanley, who copied Stuart’s work and sold the paintings fraudulently,” said Patt Hobbs, associate director of UCAH and curator of Art and History. “This includes the university’s copy of the Lansdowne portrait of Washington, once thought to be an original Stuart.”
Evans has also worked closely with Erich Uffelman, Bentley Professor of Chemistry at W&L, and his summer interns who have conducted scientific examinations of W&L’s Lansdowne, as well as other copies in the country, including the White House.
The talk is sponsored by University Collections of Art and History.
The 2018 Earle Bates Lecturer in Environmental Studies to Discuss ‘A Critical Time for State Environmental Leadership’ Strickler will give a talk on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater in Elrod Commons.
Matthew J. Strickler, secretary of natural resources for Virginia, is the 2018 Earle Bates Lecturer in Environmental Studies at Washington and Lee University. He will give a talk on Wednesday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. in the Stackhouse Theater in Elrod Commons.
The title of Strickler’s talk, which is free and open to the public, is “A Critical Time for State Environmental Leadership.”
Prior to joining the Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, Stickler served as senior policy advisor to Democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Originally from Lexington, Virginia, Strickler graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2003 and holds master’s degrees in public policy and marine science from The College of William & Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
He was a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’sOffice of International Affairs in 2007 and worked on Sen. Mark Warner’s 2008 campaign. Prior to his time on Capitol Hill, Strickler worked in the Virginia General Assembly as a legislative assistant to then-state senator Ralph Northam.
Strickler’s talk is sponsored by the Program in Environmental Studies.
Quick Hit: Students See Sustainable Farming in Action During The Leading Edge Pre-Orientation Program on sustainability, first-year students were treated to a visit to Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia.
W&L Partners with Correctional Center for New Exhibit A panel discussion and reception for "The Unfreedom of Expression: Artworks from the Augusta Correctional Center" will take place Sept. 13, but the exhibit will remain on display through Sept. 30.
A new art exhibit in Wilson Hall’s Lykes Atrium and hallway galleries at Washington and Lee University highlights the talents of men housed (or formerly housed) at Augusta Correctional Center (ACC) in Craigsville, Virginia. “The Unfreedom of Expression: Artworks from the Augusta Correctional Center” will be on display through Sept. 30. A panel discussion and reception will take place at 5 p.m. Sept. 13 in Wilson Hall Room 2017. Both the discussion and reception are free and open to the public.
Two Washington and Lee juniors, Laura Calhoun ’20 and Balen Essak ’20, first got the idea for this exhibition during a 2017 Spring Term class taught at ACC. During the course, Calhoun and Essak noticed some impressive doodling on an inside classmate’s textbook and began to learn more about the variety and quality of art produced by men who are incarcerated at ACC.
The exhibition features the work of 18 men who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated, and it includes sculptures, paintings, drawings and textile pieces. Some artists are extremely imaginative when it comes to finding materials for their work — for example, a tiny white skull was carved from two bars of soap using a pen cap.
To read more about the story behind this exhibit, please click here. Visitors to this exhibit are invited to leave comments in a guest book that will be shared with the artists at a later date.
Lykes Atrium and hallway galleries are located on the second floor of Wilson Hall, in Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. The Atrium is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, please call 540-458-8861.
Finding Beauty Behind Bars After taking a course at Augusta Correctional Center, two W&L juniors helped to organize an exhibition at the university featuring artwork by artists who are incarcerated. The exhibit is entitled “Unfreedom of Expression.”
During a Spring Term 2017 course held at Augusta Correctional Center (ACC), Washington and Lee University students Laura Calhoun ’20 and Balen Essak ’20 admired some elaborate doodling on a textbook owned by one of their classmates from ACC.
“That’s nothing close to the best art you’ll find here,” he told them. “There are some incredible artists at Augusta.”
After seeing more examples, which ranged from detailed pencil drawings to papier-mache figurines fashioned out of toilet tissue rolls, Calhoun and Essak were astonished. That day, as they drove home to Lexington, they began to wonder what it would take to bring that amazing artwork out of the prison and into the galleries of W&L.
More than a year later, with support from both the correctional facility and multiple departments at W&L, a new exhibit has opened in Wilson Hall’s Lykes Atrium and hallway galleries. “The Unfreedom of Expression: Artworks from the Augusta Correctional Center” features the work of 18 men who are incarcerated or were formerly incarcerated, and will be on display through Sept. 30. A panel discussion and reception will take place on Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. in Wilson Hall Room 2017. Both the panel discussion and reception are free and open to the public.
For everyone involved in the project, this show is a chance to share with the wider community what W&L students have been learning through their interactions with residents at Augusta.
“We saw through our class that the people who are incarcerated are people with real feelings and emotions,” Essak said. “But on the outside, when people think of a prisoner they think of people who are violent and inhuman. That is the stigma we are trying to tear down. They are more than one action that they may or may not have done at some point in their life.”
Washington and Lee’s relationship with ACC began in 2015, when Kelly Brotzman ’95, then a visiting assistant professor in W&L’s Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability, taught a Spring Term class at ACC called “Incarceration and Inequality.” The course, which was the first of its kind in Virginia, was taught three times a week to nine W&L students and 10 inmates.
For Spring Terms 2016 and 2017, Brotzman used the same model to teach courses at ACC called “Freedom and Unfreedom” and “Profit and Punishment.” Calhoun and Essak were students in the 2017 course.
One year after they had the initial idea for the art show, Calhoun and Essak began to work with W&L’s Tammi Hellwig, director of Community-Based Learning; Clover Archer, director of Staniar Gallery; and Howard Pickett and Fran Elrod, director and associate director of the Shepherd Program. On ACC’s end, the project was enthusiastically supported by Warden John Woodson and Regional Principal Darlene Maddy.
Calhoun and Essak wrote a proposal for funding from the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics at W&L, which is hosting a 2018-19 speaker and discussion series on the “Ethics of Identity.” In their proposal, Calhoun and Essak wrote: “One of the central questions of this year’s Mudd series theme is: ‘Can we choose our identities, or are our identities given to, or imposed upon, us?’ In the case of incarcerated individuals, this question becomes especially poignant.” The Mudd Center generously supported the collaboration, with additional funding from the Shepherd Program, the Office of Community-Based Learning and the Provost’s Office.
After lining up all of that support, it was finally time to pick up the artwork from ACC. In late August, Essak and Calhoun traveled with Archer, Pickett and representatives from the Office of Community-Based Learning to retrieve the pieces. It wasn’t until they had possession of the art that Calhoun felt as if the show would really happen.
“I don’t know that one word can describe that feeling,” she said. “It was like a combination of elation and relief and hope.”
Archer, who has curated dozens of exhibitions at W&L, said she was delighted by both the number of pieces offered for display and the level of technical skill they evidence.
“This art was made without any expensive or sophisticated art supplies or classes or formal training,” she said, “yet the level of expression is just sensational and the technical skills are amazing.”
Two bars of soap
Inside a clean peanut-butter jar is a tiny ship flanked by two miniscule dolphins, all floating on an indigo sea — and all made from the pulp of wetted toilet paper rolls. No less impressive are the handkerchiefs made from bed sheets or the fist-sized white skull, which was carved from two bars of soap using a pen cap.
The materials and tools used to create the art in “The Unfreedom of Expression” lend much to the exhibition’s overall meaning. While the students who study art in Washington and Lee’s Lenfest Center have access to some of the best art supplies money can buy, residents at Augusta have far fewer resources. For example, the watercolors used to paint the image of a ruby-throated hummingbird may have been fashioned from an item such as liquid paper mixed with marker ink. These kinds of methods speak to what Archer called “the risk and the sacrifices they make in order to have an outlet for expression.”
“We’ve had work by untrained artists and artists who come from a very different experience than our students,” Archer said, “but this is probably one of the most intensely powerful exhibitions we’ve had because I feel like our students are so far removed from this experience.”
She hopes the work will inspire rich conversations among W&L students. A guestbook set up at the site of the exhibition will record visitor thoughts that can then be shared with the contributing artists at ACC.
This pattern of W&L students learning from ACC residents, and vice versa, is one that has been exceedingly successful since Brotzman taught that first class at the correctional facility. This year, Pickett, the director of the Shepherd Program, taught a Spring Term course at ACC called “Martin Luther King Jr.: Justice, Love, and Forgiveness.” Some of the students in his class will have artwork in the show (one student even painted a portrait of Pickett).
Jeff Schatten, assistant professor of business administration, taught a seminar with a similar model at ACC in Spring 2017 and at Middle River Regional Jail in Spring 2018. Schatten’s course, entitled “Organizational Behavior: Leading Teams,” explored the interpersonal processes and psychological factors that affect the way individuals interact and engage with one another.
One of the goals of the Community-Based Learning Office in supporting an engaged course, Hellwig said, is to facilitate a reciprocal relationship. “The community voice is essential, which includes collaboratively identified learning objectives, clear and timely communications and a structure that enables students, community partners and faculty to design a mutually impactful partnership.”
“The collaboration with ACC has been outstanding,” Hellwig added. “The administration has been involved in every step of the project in a positive way. Principal Maddy thoughtfully considered the collective learning experience of the artists, W&L students and the community.”
Hellwig also noted that Archer spent countless hours curating the show, and that her contributions have made the exhibition even more impactful. “So much thought went into the way the exhibit is set up. The arrangement of the art, the design of the labels, and so many other details speak to the level of respect she has for these artists and their work,” she said.
Of course, nobody at W&L or ACC would have been involved in a project like this if not for the compassion and tenacity displayed by Essak and Calhoun as they strived for months to make their vision a reality. Most students who take seminar courses at detention facilities describe it as a transformative experience, Hellwig said, but these two students “made sure it wasn’t a fleeting transformation. They wanted to make something lasting.”
“Helping Laura and Balen realize their vision to showcase each artists’ voice, as well as their humanity, has been a humbling and moving experience,” Hellwig said.
Community-partnered seminar courses at detention facilities are often popular during registration, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy for any of the students. In addition to heavy reading loads and writing assignments, Pickett’s MLK Jr. class required each student to reckon with preconceived notions, as well as emotions like guilt and feelings of helplessness.
“At the very end of class, people had grown quite close in those important conversations about love and justice and forgiveness,” Pickett said. “A lot of outside [W&L] students were feeling very sad, and one of the inside students said ‘Look, don’t be sad. We’ve sat down for the last four weeks and you came in here not knowing what to expect, and we came in here not knowing what to expect, and we just had real, honest conversations about really important issues. I want you to remember that’s a beautiful thing.’”
Photos from Professor Howard Pickett’s Spring Term 2018 course at Augusta Correctional Center, “Martin Luther King Jr.: Justice, Love, and Forgiveness.”
“The Unfreedom of Expression: Artworks from the Augusta Correctional Center”
When: Sept. 1-30
Where: Wilson Hall’s Lykes Atrium and hallway galleries, Washington and Lee University
A panel discussion and reception will take place on Sept. 13 at 5 p.m. in Wilson Hall Room 2017. Both the panel discussion and reception are free and open to the public.
W&L History Professors Talk Monuments in Washington Post Professors Michelle Brock, Sarah Horowitz and Molly Michelmore discuss the message and weight behind Confederate monuments on college campuses.
Michelle Brock, Sarah Horowitz and Molly Michelmore, associate professors of history at Washington and Lee, discuss the message and weight behind Confederate monuments on college campuses in an op-ed published in the Washington Post.
In the piece, “Why universities should be on the front lines of the monument wars,” they write: “For thousands of years, monuments have served not to educate but to honor a particular vision of the past and in so doing shape the present and the future — and who that future is for.”
Read the full article here.
Finch Addresses Political Debates in Roanoke Times In the op-ed, Professor Kevin Finch argues that Virginians should end the debate about debates.
Kevin Finch, assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee, argues that Virginians should end the debate about debates in an op-ed piece in The Roanoke Times.
In the commentary piece, Finch makes the case that Virginia needs a debate commission to set the format and rules for political debates in the Commonwealth.
Read the full piece here.
Two Law Alumni Named 2018 Leaders in the Law
Channing J. Martin, an attorney with Williams Mullen, and Marie Washington, from the Law Office of Marie Washington, have been named to the 2018 class of Leaders in the Law by Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
Martin, a 1975 graduate of the College and 1979 graduate of the School of Law, is a partner in the Richmond office of Williams Mullen and chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Group. He counsels clients on a wide variety of environmental issues and represents them before regulatory agencies and courts on such matters as the Clean Air and Water Acts, CERCLA, RCRA, Brownfields redevelopment and wetlands.
Martin is listed in The Best Lawyers in America (2007-present) and was named the Best Lawyers 2013 Richmond “Environmental Lawyer of the Year.” He has been recognized by Chambers USA as a leading environmental attorney in the United States since 2004. Active in community affairs, Martin is a former chair of the board of United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg and was the campaign chair of the 2004 United Way campaign.
At her Warrenton, Virginia law practice, Washington represents clients in a wide array of matters, including contracts, business, criminal violations, domestic relations and estate planning. She is an active member of the Virginia State Bar, the Virginia Women Attorneys Association, Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association, and the Fauquier & Prince William County Bar Associations. Washington served on the Virginia State Bar Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board from 2011 to 2014. She currently serves on the Board of Governors for the Litigation Section of the Virginia State Bar.
Washington is an active community volunteer and has served on the board for Fauquier Faith Partners, Inc., Salvation Army, Warrenton United Methodist Church, and Boys and Girls Club of Fauquier County. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Fauquier Health Senior Living and on the advisory Board for the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County. She also received a distinguished service award in 2010 at the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar for developing a CLE and for her charitable work of organizing the No Bills Night and Wills for Heroes program for her local community.
Leaders in Law recognizes those across the commonwealth who are setting the standard for other lawyers in Virginia. The honorees are chosen for their outstanding contributions to the practice of law in Virginia, significant achievements through the practice of law, leadership in improving the justice system and important contributions to Virginia’s legal community and/or the community at large.
Virginia Lawyers Weekly is the commonwealth’s top source of legal information for practicing attorneys, providing a traditional weekly newspaper as well as online news. The newspaper reports all decisions issued by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. News coverage highlights developments in case law, changes to court rules, verdict and settlement reports, bar-discipline notices and all other news vital to Virginia lawyers.
“Doc Rock” Rocks On Ed Spencer ’53, who has made plans to support a scholarship fund at W&L, is still a cornerstone of the university 17 years after his retirement.
“You really get to know each other when you are all living together. Traveling with alumni, often former students, on alumni college trips has also been a special treat.”
~ Professor Emeritus Edgar Spencer ’53
In 2013 Edgar Spencer ’53, professor emeritus of geology, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for “a lifetime of achievements in academic, teaching and community contributions, and his support and impact on Washington and Lee.” After graduating from W&L, Spencer went on to do graduate work at Columbia University. He had planned to go into the oil industry, but as he was finishing up his dissertation he got a call from W&L’s head of the Geology Department, Marcellus Henry Stow.
The only other professor in the two-person department had taken another job, and Stow asked Spencer if he could fill in for a year or two. Spencer’s proposed two-year stint turned into a 42-year stretch, as Stow sadly was hospitalized with heart trouble when Spencer arrived on campus. Stow passed away during Spencer’s first semester, leaving him to shoulder all the responsibilities of the department. The rest is history: Spencer built the department, which now boasts five full-time faculty members and has graduated hundreds of majors.
Despite retiring in 2001 as Ruth Parmly professor of geology, Spencer still goes in daily to work in the Geology Department. Last year he finished a book on the Blue Ridge, and recently he completed a third edition of a book on interpreting geological maps. He is now writing a history of the geology department, as well as a history of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC), which he helped found in 1976. He is also finishing maps for the state geological survey.
Spencer cares deeply for W&L. He especially values the experiences he had traveling with students during the Spring Term. “You really get to know each other when you are all living together. Traveling with alumni, often former students, on alumni college trips has also been a special treat.”
These trips have taken him around the world, to Antarctica and Norway, down the Colorado River, and to Patagonia and New Zealand, where he picked up the moniker “Doc Rock.” His love of teaching in the field inspired a former student to establish The Edgar W. Spencer ’53 Geology Field Research Endowment, designated to support student field research under the supervision of a Washington and Lee University geology professor.
A number of years ago prior to his retirement, Spencer wanted to provide a future retirement income for his daughters and help the university he cherished. He decided to invest in a deferred annuity that would give him an immediate charitable tax deduction and, at a later point in time, provide his daughters guaranteed fixed annuity payments to augment their retirement income. Because of the delay of payments, a deferred gift annuity offers the donor a relatively higher tax deduction and the annuitants a higher payout rate than an immediate payment gift annuity affords.
Spencer’s deferred gift annuity will ultimately support the Arkansas/H. Tyndall Dickinson Scholarship fund at W&L. “W&L used to have quite a few students from Arkansas, and that’s where I grew up,” he noted. “I’m delighted to be able to help those who hail from my region have the same wonderful experience I did.”
A Gift of Gratitude The Professor Sidney M.B. Coulling ’46 Scholarship Endowment.
“Sidney Coulling represents all that is best and most admirable in the W&L professor.”
~ Provost Marc Conner
“As a scholar you rarely accrue wealth, but you are enriched in other ways,” observed Mary Coulling, the widow of Professor Sidney Coulling ’46, who taught in the English Department for 35 years. Professor Coulling graduated from W&L in 1948 on the GI Bill after serving in World War II. After completing his doctorate, he returned to campus to teach in 1956, where he met Mary who was working in W&L’s first development office.
“The post-war years were lean times, but the very best of times,” she reflectd. “The university was not wealthy, but it was a congenial place to be and a comfortable atmosphere in which to work and raise a family.” The Coullings lived in subsidized housing for six years on campus, then were able to purchase their own home with W&L’s generous mortgage program. All three of their children enjoyed the college’s tuition subsidy, which enabled them to attend the colleges of their choice.
“W&L’s health plan, far more helpful than that of many colleges at the time, provided us with wonderful coverage as long as Sidney was teaching and until our children graduated from college,” she continued. “When Sidney was so sick in the winter of 1961, the insurance benefit provided him with his full salary until he could return to work in the fall of 1962. All these benefits added up financially in an extraordinary way.”
The family also benefited from the less tangible advantages the campus provides. “My three children wanted me to express how growing up on and near the college, feeling the rhythm of the academic year, getting to know faculty as friends and parents of their friends, and being able to use the university library prepared them well for their own college and work experiences.” Mary herself profited from the W&L Library and archives when writing her two books, “The Lee Girls” and “Margaret Junkin Preston: A Biography.”
Sidney Coulling retired in 1992 after an extraordinary career. Among his many honors, he received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia in 1989. In another recognition of his influence, in 1986 William C. Porth, the parent of a W&L student, established the Sidney M. B. Coulling Prize in English, given annually to a first-year or sophomore for the best essay on a literary topic. In 1993, the Sidney M. B. Coulling Scholarship Endowment was established by the estate of Mary Esther Streng at the behest of another alumnus.
“When Sidney died two years ago, a number of gifts came in that augmented the scholarship. I wanted to do something for the university that had done so much for us,” continued Mary Coulling. “We’re not wealthy, in the league of Mrs. duPont or Mrs. Lettie Pate Evans, but, when I reached 90, I received a notice that I had to cash in an annuity I had purchased many years ago. I also had a particular stock that I was no longer able to sell because of the huge capital gains. I was able to cash the annuity and offset it by transferring the stock to W&L.” Her gift will increase the scholarship to pay for half of the tuition for a student interested in majoring in English.
“Sidney Coulling represents all that is best and most admirable in the W&L professor,” observed provost Marc Conner. “His dedication to our students, his friendliness to every colleague and staff member on our campus, and his courteous and generous conduct are legendary. He is the standard by which the W&L professor is measured. The students who are supported by the Sidney Coulling scholarship know that they are honored by the name of one of our most admirable faculty.”
‘Passionate and Prepared’ Working in South Africa gave Will Hardage '20 a chance to combine his economics major and his poverty studies minor.
Will Hardage ’20
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Minors: Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Mathematics
“A lot of the W&L economics electives are purposely integrated with the Shepherd Program, which gives us students the ability to see the inner workings of a system that often perpetuates poverty.”
You worked with the nonprofit iKhaya le Langa in Cape Town, South Africa this summer. What did you do there?
There are a lot of cool economic development projects and social initiatives going on right now at iKhaya le Langa. At the beginning of the summer, I was given the chance to dabble my feet in all the projects being undertaken, from our job readiness program to research on hunger and unemployment in the community. At first, I was really inspired by this new cryptocurrency we’re helping implement within the township. It’s called Project UBU and it helps alleviate poverty by reducing economic inefficiencies such as food waste while providing a universal basic income, which adds liquidity to the currency-deficient township. A project like this is really a huge undertaking, as you have to go door-to-door within the entire township. I decided to pivot my time working in the Langa Township to a project where I could really make a tangible difference.
Tell us more about that work.
Over the course of the summer, I developed a website which will directly increase all commerce in Langa Township, the oldest historically black township in the Western Cape. The majority of the funding for iKhaya le Langa’s social initiative and development programs comes from an in-house tourism agency. This agency is run by members of the organization, and it coordinates with different community groups such as Langa’s apartheid museum and the local AirBnb owners that were trained at iKhaya le Langa. Currently, the only way to book a tour is through DMOs or direct contact. However, the website will showcase the cultural offerings in Langa available to a potential tourist while also offering an e-commerce portal to easily handle bookings. As tourism increases in Langa, more capital will be spent within the community, which will foster job creation and infrastructure development. The Langa Township is truly a beautiful and safe cultural destination with a fascinating history; however, the community has kind of been exiled due to Apartheid-era urban planning. I believe it’s only a matter of time until the potential of this township will be realized.
The second website I worked to develop is called The Langa Development Forum. While Langa is part of greater Cape Town, the township has no formal government or institution that coordinates commerce and events within the community. A lot of investors have been wanting to develop the community; however, there is no central institution that can speak on behalf of the people. Thus, different factions within the community end up fighting for funding. I added capabilities to the website that will allow people to register their business and showcase their events to the community. When the website gets rolling, I’m going to work with future interns at iKhaya le Langa to help further formalize this institution. Hopefully, one day the Langa Development Forum will be a platform that extensively benefits the community through economic and financial means.
What made you want to work with the iKhaya le Langa?
My POV 101 class really opened my eyes to the needs of the world and how, oftentimes, we live in a bubble and become rather ignorant to global issues. I wrote my final paper on Peter Singer’s “effective altruism,” which basically uses economics, philosophy and math to prioritize charities, lifesaving treatments and other actions. One of my takeaways from this paper was that I would be able to make significant impact with an organization in a second- or third-world country. I also felt that this was a really good time in my life to immerse myself in an extremely foreign destination, and both the William’s School and Shepherd Program offered opportunities that I could not pass up.
How did you find this opportunity?
Both the W&L Cape Town Program and the Shepherd Program utilize a third-party agency called Connect123. They have deep connections with the broader Cape Town community, and they were able to find an internship that matched my personality and academic interests while fulfilling the requirements of the Shepherd Program.
What did an average day for you look like on this project?
I tried to spend the majority of my day working on one of my two websites, however, Langa has a really limited WiFi infrastructure. When the internet was down, I usually ended up wearing a variety of hats. Some days I was out in the community buying art for our local shop. Other days I helped other interns with their projects. After a Fulbright Scholar left, I completed maintenance on some of the projects that she started.
What was your favorite part of being in South Africa?
I love South Africa because there’s so much cultural diversity. Outside of Cape Town, there’s a huge French Huguenot wine making community. The town of Franschoek was able to put together a massive festival for Bastille Day, and a couple friends and I were able to celebrate French heritage and culture. At the same time, there is also a major Malay and Indian population, so it’s really easy to find some great curry. Both these cultures somewhat seamlessly integrate themselves with the dominant Xhosa and Afrikaans culture.
What is the most interesting knowledge you picked up while doing this work?
I learned that in many foreign countries jobs are not going to be handed to you on a silver plate. In the United States, I think we often take our educational and employment opportunities for granted. In South Africa, 50 percent of people who start K-12 do not finish. The employment rate also hovers near 30 percent. All the staff members at my work did not receive a salary. They’re simply gaining relevant experience and buying into iKhaya le Langa’s vision.
Do you think pairing majors in economics and poverty studies gives you a special skill set or perspective that you might otherwise not have had?
Yes, 100 percent. A solid background in economics and poverty studies allowed me to analyze inequality in South Africa on a much deeper level. A lot of the W&L economics electives are purposely integrated with the Shepherd Program, which gives us students the ability to see the inner workings of a system that often perpetuates poverty. For example, in Urban Economics we analyzed historical failures of urban planning for public housing throughout the United States. These analytical tools became increasingly relevant in understanding Langa. A lot of the economic inefficiencies in the township were created by ingenious Apartheid-era urban planners and are pretty discreet. A background in urban economics allowed me to play detective and uncover the truths to why poverty persists just streets away from booming parts of greater Cape Town.
You stayed really busy with work – but you took a class, as well! What topics and coursework were involved in that?
Every Monday we took a really interesting politics class co-taught by Prof. LeBlanc and Mattias Kroenke, a University of Cape Town professor. It was really not your typical politics class. We learned a lot about the history of Apartheid, government corruption, service delivery to the poor, and the current political climate. The class perfectly intersected the fields of history, politics and economics, which gave us the perfect background to understand the country we were working in. On Monday afternoons, we had the opportunity to visit a ton of different Cape Town institutions such as the Government of the Western Cape and the Robbin Island Museum.
Did your experience this summer impact your future plans in any way?
For sure. I originally wanted to pursue a career in finance, but now I feel a lot more passionate and prepared to solve complex problems in our society, whether it be through public policy or business.
How did W&L prepare you for this experience?
The Shepherd Program and Fran Elrod were really helpful. They prepared me for my internship through a ton of different readings and lectures. The Cape Town Program also provides a history class during the Winter Term, so I had a really good foundation before I arrived. The Williams School also sponsored a “braai” with John Campbell, Former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria. Ambassador Campbell spent extensive time working in South Africa for the State Department during the transition from apartheid to majority rule. He was really helpful and allowed me to understand South Africa on a deeper level.
Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?
I’d really recommend an international immersion or Shepherd Internship to all W&L students. We often get caught up in the flow of things and have tunnel vision on a certain type of career or field. It’s important to take a step back for a semester or summer in order to really understand your true strengths and passions.
If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.
A little more about Will
What extracurricular activities do you do?
I played on the tennis team freshman year, but this year I got a lot more involved in community service at Lylburn Downing and Project Horizon. I’m also heavily involved in L.E.A.D., the Alpha Phi Omega service organization, Campus Kitchen and Neighbors Service League.
Why did you choose your major?
I love learning more about how the world works. When I’m in the thick of making graphs I often regret choosing economics; however, the research papers and electives are super rewarding for me.
Has anyone on campus inspired you?
Professor Erin Taylor’s lectures in POV 101 really ignited my interest in public policy and philosophy. As a philosophy professor, she always made me take a step back and question the status quo. I was actually so intrigued by her lectures that I enrolled in Medical Ethics without any real interest in medicine; however, the class still ended up being really beneficial. Professor Amanda Bower is also super inspiring. In our Spring Term class, we did consulting for JetBlue, and she brought this problem-solving energy that has carried me throughout my internship.
What’s your personal motto?
Keep life weird.
Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
I get the Blue Sky from Blue Sky with a Blue Sky Square at least once a week.
What one film do you recommend to everyone?
“Living on One Dollar”
What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
Walmart is far. Winter is also cold.
Anyone’s guess, but definitely something involving strategy.
Favorite W&L memory:
Spring Term class trip to Universal Studios and Disneyland; however, 6 a.m. tennis practices are a close second.
Creative Strategic Planning or POV 101.
What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have a pet cockatiel named Sméagol.
Why did you choose W&L?
Small class sizes and good culture. I’m also a huge fan of squirrels, and W&L had the most out of any college I visited.
Success at the Firm As a summer associate with Epstein Becker & Green in New York City, John Milani '20L learned how to manage expectations in a fast-paced corporate law environment.
John Milani is a second year law student from Armonk, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 2017 with a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations. At W&L, John is a Kirgis Fellow, a Sports Czar, and an executive board member for Phi Alpha Delta.
What did you do for work this summer?
This summer, I was a summer associate at Epstein Becker & Green, PC in New York City. During the ten-week program, I gained exposure to corporate labor and employment and health care matters with four other summer associates.
Describe your work experience.
Though I was assigned to the labor and employment group, I worked primarily with attorneys in both that group and the health care group. I researched labor and employment case law to assist senior attorneys in pending matters. Some of the issues I researched were health care insurance discrimination policies, the legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts and employer drug testing policies, and updates to local 2018 minimum wage rates. I also researched and co-authored several blog posts and articles for the firm’s publications.
The firm did a fantastic job of providing us with varied work and helping us meet attorneys in both practice groups—as such, I learned a lot about health care work, too. I was able to see how my contributions to a project impacted the advice and strategy developed by the other attorneys with whom I worked on the project.
My summer culminated in the opportunity to participate in the cross-examination of a key witness in a FINRA arbitration for which the attorneys had been preparing for months.
What were some skills you developed this summer?
This summer, I gained valuable insight into how law firms operate, how to succeed in a fast-paced, corporate environment, and how to manage the expectations of other attorneys, both at the associate and partner level, as a junior associate.
I honed the skills in research and writing I learned as a 1L to draft memoranda and synthesize hours of research into a cohesive work product. I also developed organizational and communication skills which allowed me to meet deadlines and communicate promptly with assigning attorneys about my work. These skills and tips will be invaluable as I progress in my legal career.
What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?
Although all of my courses 1L year served me well, I found administrative law and professional responsibility to be most substantively useful. First, having learned the basics of the administrative process, rulemaking, and the role of federal agencies, I felt prepared to track and understand developing laws, a task instrumental in both employment and health care work.
Second, professional responsibility taught me the fundamentals of law firm administration. Simple things like billing hours and checking for conflicts of interest came naturally to me having learned their true importance in school. I was pleased that I was able to then see how these principles applied in a practice.
What surprised you about the work you did this summer?
What most surprised me about my work this summer was the responsibility I had as a first year. Working with senior and junior attorneys alike on client deliverables, I truly contributed to the firm’s work product. I think this is a unique and valuable experience to have as a 1L, especially because it put into perspective for me the opportunities and challenges associated with working in a legal environment.
What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?
The favorite part of my summer was working with the other EBG attorneys. They were friendly, supportive, and interested in my professional development. I felt comfortable walking into attorneys’ offices, both senior and junior, to clarify assignments and inquire about their practice areas, challenges they face, and their careers. Their perspectives are invaluable for me going forward in shaping my career path.
Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?
Working at EBG confirmed my interest in working at a corporate firm. I plan to pursue a position in corporate labor and employment and health care law next summer and beyond
How do you think this experience will shape the rest of your time at W&L Law?
My experience has inspired me to pursue coursework in labor and employment and health care law, as well as the moot court competition. I also plan to pursue more transactional coursework like negotiations to understand better the other side of corporate legal practice.
Championing Land Conservation A passion for the outdoors led Taylor Cole '75 to launch a second career as co-founder of Conservation Partners in Lexington.
Growing up in Lexington, Taylor Cole ’75 spent many hours exploring the wilds beyond Woods Creek and the W&L football stadium. (His father, Fred Carrington Cole, was president of the university from 1959 to 1967.) In those days, that area was open space, woods and natural habitat all the way to the river. Through those adventures, Cole developed a passion for the outdoors that has translated into a second career as a co-founder of Conservation Partners, a Lexington-based consulting firm that guides landowners through the complex process of protecting their property through conservation easements or land gifts.
Cole spent the first part of his career as a banker. During that time, he served on the board of a land trust and developed an understanding of how to stem the tide of development that is encroaching on farmland and natural spaces.
In 2001, he left banking to establish Conservation Partners L.L.C. with attorney Jim McLaughlin ’86, son of former W&L football coach Lee M. McLaughlin. Their mission is to help clients permanently protect the scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, or historic integrity of their land and preserve its ability to provide a farming or forestry livelihood.
“When we started Conservation Partners, Virginia ranked 50th out of 50 states per capita on expenditures by state on protecting open spaces. Around that time, the state came up with the Virginia Land Preservation Tax Credit,” he says. “In very short order, Virginia began to significantly increase land protected by conservation easements, so it was a great time for us to get involved.”
Although Conservation Partners has helped save many thousands of acres in the Old Dominion, Cole says much work remains.
“We are still losing 100,000 or more acres a year to development. As a state, we have protected about 7 percent of the land eligible for easements,” he says. “We are so fortunate as Americans to have these extraordinary open spaces. It is important we do this so kids growing up now will have the experience we had.”
Into the Storm Caroline Schmidt '13 volunteered for the Red Cross during 2017's horrific hurricane season.
Caroline Schmidt ’13 did not major in journalism and mass communications at W&L, but the writing skills she developed as a business major served her well last fall during her intense eight weeks as a volunteer with the Red Cross during the horrific 2017 hurricane season.
Schmidt was interviewing for jobs when Hurricane Harvey hit. Because her mother, Elizabeth Penniman, is vice president of communications at the Red Cross, she was asked to join the media relations team at Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C. They were happy to welcome her aboard as a media relations and social media specialist. Then the disasters began to pile up, and social media exploded.
“There were three hurricanes, but the responses were different for each,” says Schmidt, who is now an associate in the San Francisco office of True Search, an executive search company. “Harvey just came and stayed. Irma was all over Florida. In Puerto Rico, there were power outages and fear for safety. Just because we did something in one situation didn’t mean we could just do it again. It was very draining because each was so different. Then in the midst of everything, the Las Vegas shootings and the California wildfires happened. Media calls were in the dozens per day, and we worked seven days a week for 65 days straight. It was both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time.”
Further complicating things were the Red Cross’s different rules in different jurisdictions. In Florida, they ran the shelters, but in Puerto Rico, the government managed the shelters. There, the Red Cross facilitated communications to help people locate missing relatives. For Schmidt, the most rewarding moments were when they could help people talk to their families for the first time.
“I was definitely a supporting player,” Schmidt remarks. “The people on the ground were the true rock stars, handling incredibly challenging situations, going without sleep. All departments at the Red Cross came together to help out. I was in no way responsible for what happened. I was just so fortunate to help in any way that I could.”
Michael Anton to Give Constitution Day Lecture Anton's talk about constitutional self-government and the Trump presidency will be held in Northen Auditorium on Sept. 18 at 5 p.m.
Michael Anton, lecturer in politics and research fellow at the Hillsdale College Kirby Center, will deliver Washington and Lee University’s Constitution Day lecture. His talk about constitutional self-government and the Trump presidency will be held in Northen Auditorium on Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
Informed by his own experience in the Trump administration, Anton will give a status report about what President Trump’s policies have meant for America’s constitutional way of life.
Anton is a former deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications on the United States National Security Council. He also is a former speechwriter for Rudy Giuliani and George W. Bush’s National Security Council, and has worked as director of communications at Citigroup and as managing director of BlackRock.
“Last year the university began a lecture series entitled ‘Conversations in the Age of Trump,’ and hosted two speakers that lectured on populism foreign and domestic and the state of political parties and civic engagement. These could be interpreted as critical of the Trump phenomenon,” said Lucas Morel, professor of politics and head of the Politics Department. “So this year, in the interest of content diversity, we sought speakers that could address the Trump presidency from a more sympathetic perspective or give an account of Trump supporters.”
Anton gained some notoriety before the 2016 election with an essay entitled “The Flight 93 Election,” which was published under a pseudonym, Publius Decius Mus, in the “Claremont Review of Books.” His essay and experience with previous presidential administrations earned him the attention of President Trump.
“For this year’s commemoration of Constitution Day, we will benefit from his insights into the Trump Administration and reflections on how the first year of the Trump presidency has fulfilled or fallen short, of what he hoped would happen if Donald Trump—and not Hillary Clinton—became president,” said Morel.
Anton received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Davis, before earning advanced degrees in political science from St. John’s College and Claremont Graduate University.
The talk is part of the larger lecture series “Conversations in the Age of Trump” which is sponsored by the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics.
The talk will be available to watch on Livestream.
Staniar Gallery Presents “Writer’s Block” The show will be on view Sept. 1-30. Oring will give a public artist’s talk on Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall’s Concert Hall.
Washington and Lee’s Staniar Gallery presents “Writer’s Block,” an exhibition of work by acclaimed artist Sheryl Oring. The show will be on view Sept. 1-30. Oring will give a public artist’s talk on Sept. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in Wilson Hall’s Concert Hall. The lecture will be followed by a reception for the artist. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.
The centerpiece of Oring’s exhibition is a series of sculptures in which the artist has enclosed hundreds of typewriters from the 1920s and 30s in sculptural boxes made of rusty construction steel. By “caging” the typewriters, Oring symbolically takes away the writer’s means of expression as a metaphor for censorship, asking viewers to consider their own ideas about freedom of speech. “Writer’s Block” premiered on Berlin’s Bebelplatz, site of that city’s Nazi book-burning, on the 66th anniversary of the 1933 event that destroyed the works of authors ranging from Nelly Sachs and Else Lasker-Schüler to Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Zweig.
Oring’s work has been shown worldwide, including at the International Symposium on Electronic Art in Dubai; Encuentro in São Paulo, Brazil; Art Prospect festival in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Jewish Museum Berlin; and the Bryant Park in New York. She is based in Greensboro, North Carolina where she is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina.
Staniar Gallery is located on the second floor of Wilson Hall in W&L’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call 540-458-8861.
Welcome Class of 2022! Members of Washington and Lee's newest class arrive on campus and talk about why they chose W&L.
One Profession, Many Jobs Blair Barker '20L split her summer between a small firm in Chattanooga and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C.
Blair Barker grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She attended Jacksonville State University where she majored in Criminal Justice and played on the soccer team. At W&L Law, she is Vice President and Treasurer of PILSA.
What did you do for work this summer?
For the first month of summer, I clerked for a small disability law firm. For the remainder of my summer, I interned for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. in the Felony Major Crimes Division.
How did you find/get this position?
I received the firm job from an alumnus that lives in my hometown. He heard that someone from Chattanooga went to W&L Law and asked me to reach out to him. I mass applied to U.S. Attorney’s offices and District Attorney’s offices in all of the cities in which I potentially wanted to live. I came across the D.C. office application online and submitted my materials.
Describe your work experience.
I worked in two very different environments this summer. During my time at the firm, I was essentially assigned one major research assignment by one of the partners. The assignment started out small, but kept expanding. I wrote a memo about what I found at the end of the summer for the partner to potentially use in an article.
During my time at the U.S. Attorney’s office, I was able to work directly with the attorneys on cases. I watched officer body cam footage of defendant’s arrests, listened to jail calls, prepared memos to be used in trial, researched statutes, and wrote a few motions that were filed in court. I had the opportunity to observe trials from motion hearings all the way to closing statements.
What were some skills you developed this summer?
My research skills developed the most over the course of the summer. I became more efficient at finding the answer I needed throughout the summer. My legal writing improved as well. I think by observing how the attorney’s conducted themselves and having to communicate with them, I became more effective at communicating like a lawyer.
What classes or experiences were useful in preparing you for the summer work?
Legal research and legal writing were by far the most useful for me this summer. I also used what I learned in Administrative Law during my time at the small law firm. Criminal Law was the most useful during my time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
What surprised you about the work you did this summer?
I was surprised at how much preparation is required to get a case ready for trial. I was also surprised at how much trust the attorney’s placed in the interns in finding the answer to their research question or addressing all of the arguments defense counsel made in motions.
What was your favorite aspect of this summer work experience?
My favorite aspect of this summer was being able to go to court to watch anything from day to day hearings to trials. I also enjoyed being able to observe a civil trial and compare it to a criminal trial.
Has this experience helped you figure out post graduate plans, and if so, how?
This summer exposed to two very different types of work. Being afforded the opportunity to work in two different environments affirmed what I do and do not want to do.
Three W&L Law Alumni Make Listing of Most Influential Black Lawyers
Three graduates of Washington and Lee University School of Law have been named to Savoy Magazine’s list of Most Influential Black Lawyers of 2018. Kevin Clunis and Ashley Taylor, both members of the Law Class of 1993 appear on the list, as does James Williams, from the Law Class of 1998.
According to the publication, which “drives positive dialogue on and about black culture,” the listing showcases African-American men and women who have been recognized for their legal leadership and expertise in national and global-leading corporations.
Clunis is Group Vice President of Legal and Compliance at Ross Stores, Inc., where he leads a team of attorneys and compliance professionals and oversees a broad mandate of legal matters. Prior to Ross, Clunis served in senior legal roles at the Colgate-Palmolive Company and American Airlines. He also served as a trial attorney with the City of Chicago’s Law Department and started his legal career a criminal prosecutor. He served as Board Member of the Association of Corporate Counsel – Greater New York Chapter, an Advisory Board Member of Legal Outreach and a member of the New York City Bar Diversity Committee.
Taylor is a Partner in the Consumer Financial Services practice at Troutman Sanders. His primary focus is on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state Attorneys General, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. He serves as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and Partner Compensation Committee. Drawing upon his experience as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of Virginia, Taylor has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry, including advising debt buyers, debt collectors, payment processors, credit reporting agencies, and auto finance companies on regulatory and compliance issues.
Williams is a Partner at Chehardy Sherman Williams, where he leads a trial team that implants with existing legal counsel to give clients undeniable firepower in jury trials. Having litigated cases in 15 different states and Milan, Italy, Williams has consistently won significant jury trials for defendants in America’s most liberal venues and for plaintiffs in America’s most conservative venues. His national accolades include being named Top 100 High Stakes Litigators, Nation’s Top One Percent, Super Lawyers, Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Top Trial Lawyers in America, and Bet-the-Company Litigators. Williams represented Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson against the State of Louisiana, which attempted to block her ascension to Chief Justice. He argued and won her case in United States District Court, making her Louisiana’s first African-American Chief Justice.
A Literal Treasure Chest Charles Philip Blackledge ’38 gifted an important and fascinating collection of Roman coins to Washington and Lee Special Collections.
I am often asked, “How does Washington and Lee’s Special Collections acquire such extraordinary material?” That question is usually followed by an equally compelling one: “What is the most unusual item you have ever acquired?” A relatively recent gift, acquired in late 2016, provides the perfect answer to both questions.
Washington and Lee’s alumni have long been the greatest supporters of Special Collections, and a phone call to me by way of University Development led me to one of the most intriguing treasures to grace our vault shelves. Charles Philip Blackledge ’38 was doing some estate planning and wanted to know if I would be interested in traveling to Williamsburg, Virginia, to talk about a collection that he had put together over a lifetime. These kinds of phone calls are not altogether uncommon in my work but realizing that Blackledge was approaching the century mark, I quickly set up a meeting and headed east with my University Development colleague, Margie Lippard.
While I am accustomed to surveying private libraries and collections of family papers, I was completely astonished to see that Blackledge’s collection consisted of a small, beautifully crafted, vintage wooden cabinet filled with more than 300 ancient coins largely from the Roman Empire – a veritable treasure chest, in a very literal sense. Knowing the incredible potential of this small collection as a cross-disciplinary teaching tool, I accepted the gracious offer on the spot. Blackledge’s brilliant smile confirmed his happiness in knowing that his collection, which he began in 1942 while stationed in Palermo, Italy, would find a worthy home at his alma mater.
Charles Blackledge, born on January 23, 1917, served in World War II in both the North Atlantic and South Pacific theaters, completing 20 years of active and reserve duty in the U.S. Navy and retiring at the rank of commander. He also served as a financial analyst for the United States Small Business Administration. Sadly, he passed away just months after our visit on May 22, 2017, at the age of 100.
Although a relatively recent addition, the Blackledge Collection has already been shared in numerous classes and other public venues, and has directly impacted at least one young, enthusiastic undergraduate. Casey Hamlet ’21, under the direction of Adrienne Hagen, formerly visiting professor of classics, completed an independent study last spring in which she chronologically organized the collection and investigated the figures stamped on the coin faces using online numismatic resources.
Most of the figures depicted on the coins are well-documented male emperors but Casey was particularly interested in unearthing histories of women depicted on some of the coins. Her ongoing research is available through this website. Research such as Casey’s not only enriches the fields of classics and numismatics, it serves as a brilliant example of the intersection of past and present. The bulk of the collection dates from the Roman Empire, from the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE) to the reign of Anastasius (491-518 CE), and includes a variety of coins such as a golden aureus and dozens of silver denarii. Some non-Roman coins are represented in the collection, including one drawer of later Byzantine coins, a few pieces from the Roman Republic and a couple of oddities (like a penny from Nova Scotia).
When talking about Washington and Lee’s Special Collections, manuscripts, rare books and historic documents naturally come to mind. Blackledge’s treasure chest of ancient coins, however, reinforces the unique and changing nature of our work. After her Latin 101 class visit to Special Collections and her work with independent study student Casey Hamlet, former Professor Hagen put it succinctly and brilliantly: “The bridge between antiquity and the digital age is pretty neat… I think it’s really cool that we’re taking something so old and so physical, then using digital tools to learn about it and help share that research with other people.”
Charles Blackledge may not have been well-acquainted with those digital tools, but I feel sure he would have flashed a brilliant smile knowing what his legacy has spawned.
Best of Both Worlds Professor Kevin Finch, who just released a new documentary, loves that W&L faculty have “this wonderful combination of academic credentials and practical experience.”
In his second documentary film, “Triton: America’s Deep Secret,” Professor Kevin Finch uncovers a secret submarine mission that took a crew around the world with little knowledge of where they were headed.
The film made its world premier in April at the Silicon Beach Film Festival in Los Angeles as an “Official Selection.” It had two public screenings this summer, in Indiana and Connecticut, and will debut on a New England regional public TV network this November.
“A documentary is sort of an all-consuming enterprise, especially when you’re the one in charge of it,” said Finch, an assistant professor of journalism. With his role as producer, director and writer, he plays a large part in curating the film, but his past projects prepared him for the challenge.
The new film is about Triton, the first submarine to sail around the world fully submerged the entire time. Launched in 1960, Triton’s mission was a secret from the entire world and the crew on board. It was the largest submarine yet built – the first with three decks and the only American sub with two nuclear reactors on board. The film uncovers this classified mission and its underwater adventures through firsthand accounts of crew members, historians and experts.
Finch’s biggest challenge was collecting accurate information about an event that took place so long ago. The seemingly endless research included interviewing Navy veterans who were not used to talking about their missions, as well as tracking original footage of the submarine launch from NASA archives around the country.
“There is a research component for a documentary that is harder than usual because you are tracking down not just text but moving images,” Finch said. “That is a big part of what I did in 2016-2017 but it never stops. It goes on and on and on.”
Since 1996, he has been involved in several documentary projects, but the first documentary he produced, wrote and directed was “A Writer’s Roots: Kurt Vonnegut’s Indianapolis” in 2015. That project took about four and half years to complete.
Finch said the making of “Triton” informed his documentary filmmaking classes and inspired his future projects.
He said he likes making documentaries because “it is an opportunity to, in my case, tell stories that people aren’t aware of. Documentaries, if done well, take you to a place you’ve never been or tell you a story you’ve never heard.”
W&L gives faculty the opportunity to do scholarly work in the traditional research form or a creative method. Finch jumped at the opportunity to do a creative project in the form of a documentary, as he had prior experience in doing the same.
The university has been able to support both of Finch’s documentary projects since he’s joined W&L, either by promoting the film post-production or through funding opportunities during the making.
When he first visited campus five years ago, he said, he loved the small size of the school and “the fact that so many of our faculty have this wonderful combination of academic credentials and practical experience.”
One of his biggest roles on campus since he joined W&L has been as faculty advisor of Rockbridge Report. He not only oversees the weekly broadcasts but also mentors student journalists, anchors and producers.
Finch described his W&L experience as combining the best parts of his interests – teaching, producing live news television and making documentaries – “but it has this added element of guiding and helping students to grow, which you can’t get in the professional field.”
More about Professor Finch
What documentarians inspire your work?
Karen Grau (I)
Henry Hampton (“Eyes on the Prize” is wonderful)
The Maysles Brothers
What advice would you give students who aspire to be filmmakers?
- Be passionate about your story
- Know your audience
- Research the heck out of it
If you could take a class at W&L, what would it be?
Probably something in languages, instrumental music, archeology, classics or even that field biology class Professor Hamilton teaches.
What is your favorite place to eat in Lexington?
Sunday nights at Haywood’s is a ritual for me, but my go-to from my first week in town has been the Southern Inn.