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A Loss in the W&L Family: Former First Lady Evelyn Huntley

Evelyn Whitehurst Huntley of Lexington, former first lady of Washington and Lee University, died on Monday, March 29, at her home. She was 78.

A graveside service will be held in Stonewall Jackson Cemetery at 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 1, with Rev. William M. Klein of Lexington Presbyterian Church and Dr. Louis W. Hodges, emeritus professor of religion at Washington and Lee, officiating. The family will receive guests at a reception from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Kendal of Lexington’s Sunnyside House.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that gifts be made to Rockbridge Area Hospice.

Mrs. Huntley was born on April 14, 1931, in Norfolk, Va., the daughter of Eldridge and Edith Whitehurst. She grew up in Virginia Beach and graduated from the College of William and Mary, where she majored in English.

Following her graduation from William and Mary, she began a career as an elementary school teacher. She taught second grade in Virginia Beach before moving to Lexington where her husband, Robert E.R. Huntley, was attending law school at Washington and Lee.

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After teaching fourth grade in Lexington for three years, she also taught the fourth grade in Alexandria, Va., before moving back to Lexington in 1968, when her husband joined the faculty of the W&L Law School. He later became dean of the School of Law and president of the University.

As Washington and Lee’s first lady for 15 years, Mrs. Huntley managed the daily operations of the Lee House as a center for University gatherings, welcoming countless visitors from inside and outside the University to Lee House throughout the academic year. She also planned and supervised activities at many campus venues, such as Evans Hall. Long-time members of the W&L community fondly recall her special events, including the annual faculty and children’s Christmas parties, and she initiated the now-prevalent local custom of white lights in windows during the holiday season.

In addition to her duties as Washington and Lee’s first lady, Mrs. Huntley headed a circle at Lexington Presbyterian Church for many years.

Above all, Mrs. Huntley considered her greatest role to be that of wife, mother, and grandmother.

In addition to her husband, survivors include three daughters and sons-in-law, Martha and Dyer Rodes of Nashville, Tenn.; Catherine (Katie) and James McConnel of Mount Crawford, Va.; and Jane and Robert Hopkins of Lexington; and six grandchildren, Huntley Rodes (a 2007 graduate), Sarah Catherine Rodes of the Class of 2011, Jordan McConnel of the Class of 2010, Robert Huntley McConnel, and Cole and Colin Whitmore..