The Columns

Fuchs Earns Leadership Role with American Ceramic Circle Washington and Lee’s ceramics expert, Ron Fuchs, has been named chairman of the board of the American Ceramic Circle.

— by on January 10th, 2017

“Ceramics are a great vehicle for learning about people.”

— Ron Fuchs

Ron Fuchs, curator of ceramics and manager of the Reeves Center at Washington and Lee University, has been named chairman of the board for the American Ceramic Circle, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to the study and appreciation of ceramics.

Ron Fuchs

The American Ceramic Circle is one of the foremost groups in the country for collectors, dealers and professionals in the area of ceramics. Fuchs has previously served as president of the organization, and as a board member.

“I am very honored and touched and still kind of surprised,” he said of his new post. “It is an organization that was very helpful to me in providing a community, peers, and the chance to see other objects and collections.”

From a young age, Fuchs was interested in the study of archaeology. He majored in history and anthropology at William & Mary, where he began to see how important ceramics are to our understanding of the past. Because of their durability, ceramics can survive underground for long periods of time; as a result, they are often some of the most fascinating and informative objects discovered during archaeological digs. In graduate school at the University of Delaware, Fuchs found himself drawn to the study of whole, intact pieces in a museum setting.

“Ceramics are a great vehicle for learning about people,” he said. “I think a lot are beautiful and I’m interested in how they were made, but I’m more interested in how they were used and what they say about the people who used and collected them.”

Fuchs came to W&L in 2008, after 10 years at Winterthur Museum in Delaware. His work as chairman of the board for the American Ceramic Circle will last for a two-year period. In addition to supporting scholarships and promoting the study of ceramics, he will help to plan and execute annual conferences and a biennial journal.

For more information about The Reeves Collection at Washington and Lee, click here.

Roanoke Park Named for Linwood Holton ’44

— by on January 6th, 2017

On a blustery day in mid-December, former Virginia governor and Washington and Lee University alumnus Linwood Holton drove the first spade into the ground for a downtown Roanoke park that will bear his name.

Linwood Holton. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

According to The Roanoke Times, a space formerly known as SunTrust Plaza will this spring be spiffed up and renamed Holton Plaza in honor of the Republican governor, who is remembered for dealing a blow to a segregationist Democratic machine led by U.S. Sen. Harry Byrd.

Holton, now 93, retired and living in the Northern Neck of Virginia with his wife, Virginia “Jinks” Rogers Holton, graduated from W&L in 1944, then went on to earn a law degree from Harvard. By then, he had also served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

He and his wife, a W&L trustee emerita, have four children, including former Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, who is married to Virginia Senator and 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine. Washington and Lee gave Anne Holton an honorary degree in 2015.

Holton, a Wise County native who settled in Roanoke after graduating from Harvard, was elected governor of Virginia in 1969 and served in that office until 1974. He spent much of that time fighting for racial integration and equality. In the midst of desegregation, Holton drew national attention by enrolling his daughter, Tayloe, in a formerly all-black school in Richmond.

After it has been reconstructed, Holton Plaza will feature wall seating, trees, a pedestal and plaques dedicated to Holton’s career. The Roanoke Times reported that Holton showed up for the groundbreaking ceremony wearing a suit and tie and work boots, and carrying a pair of work gloves. He donned the gloves in order to dig the first hole for one of his favorite trees, a dogwood.

W&L Faculty Get New York Times Shout-Out

— by on January 5th, 2017

Award-winning writer and scholar Charles R. Johnson, who delivered the keynote address at Washington and Lee University’s 2016 fall convocation, apparently still has W&L on his mind.

Charles R. Johnson

In a Dec. 22 Q&A for The New York Times’ feature, “By the Book,” Johnson mentioned two members of the Washington and Lee community — Deborah Miranda and Marc Conner — while discussing books he is reading and literary scholars he admires. “By the Book” is a weekly feature in which writers take on the topic of literature.

When asked what books currently reside on his night stand, Johnson provided a list that included “Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir” by Miranda, who is the John Lucian Smith Term Professor of English at W&L. The non-fiction work was released in 2013, and in 2014, Miranda won an Independent Publisher Book Award gold medal in the category of autobiography/memoir.

Later in the New York Times piece, Johnson is asked to name the living, working novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists and poets he most admires. “If by ‘critics’ you mean literary scholars, then I have to mention some I feel are superb and important,” Johnson said, following up with a list that includes Conner, the interim provost and Jo M. and James Ballengee Professor of English at W&L.

Johnson is the author of multiple novels and non-fiction works. He is also an artist, philosopher and scholar of African-American literature. To read the entire New York Times piece, click here.

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From Craft to Career As a student at Washington and Lee, Noelani Love ’05 made jewelry for fun and extra income. Today, she has turned that hobby into a thriving business.

— by on January 2nd, 2017

On the island of Oahu, some people refer to Noelani Love as “the jewelry girl.”

For Love, a 2005 graduate of Washington and Lee University, this casual nickname indicates that she had achieved two of her greatest goals in life: She has reconnected with her Hawaiian roots, and she turned her love of jewelry-making into a successful career.

“I’m always amazed that it’s still happening,” she said of her island-based business, Noelani Hawaii. “It was a passion project, and it just turned into my lifestyle.”

During her sophomore year of college, before holiday break and a winter semester in Costa Rica, Love decided to make some earrings as Christmas gifts for her friends. Like many young women her age, she had made friendship bracelets and beaded necklaces in elementary school, but these earrings were more sophisticated and stylish, made with metal wire and crystals in various colors.

Love, who double-majored in studio art and Spanish, found herself drawn to the artisan scene in Costa Rica. She learned more about making jewelry there, and returned to campus even more addicted to what was then a hobby — not to mention a good excuse to procrastinate.

“I started making tons of jewelry instead of doing my Spanish homework,” she said with a laugh. “I just really found comfort and enjoyment in sitting in my room and making jewelry. At that point, I had also deactivated from my sorority so I was less social, and I was drawing inward and finding my own creativity.”

As word spread about Love’s jewelry, she began to get custom orders from friends who wanted special pieces for cocktail parties and formal events. Before long, she was selling her creations in Elrod Commons and donating a percentage of the proceeds to raise money for a W&L community service trip to Nicaragua during February break.

“During my last two years at W&L, it became obvious that I was really enjoying [jewelry making] and really passionate about it,” she said, “and that my customers were very interested in it, and it was a lucrative business.”

Love’s father, John Garth ’75, advised her to take some classes in economics and get a business internship before making the leap and starting her own company. But she decided to take a chance, starting her jewelry business one month after graduation. “I was like, ‘Nope, I’m going to figure this out.’ So now it’s been 11½ years since I started my company, and it’s still going strong.”

Love was born and raised in North Carolina, but Hawaii always beckoned. She describes her father as a “Southern gentleman” who grew up in Georgia; her mother is Chinese, Hawaiian and English, so Love has dark hair, dark eyes, a golden complexion … and freckles. “Growing up in Charlotte was not always easy,” she said. “It wasn’t bad, but people asked a lot of questions. I wasn’t black and I wasn’t white. “

Every summer, Love’s mother took her and her two siblings to Hawaii to visit relatives on that side of the family. “It was heartbreaking when we’d have to come home to North Carolina,” she said. “I wanted to go to college in Hawaii, but my parents said no way. Which is a good thing, because I probably would not have graduated. I probably would have been totally distracted by the surf or boys.”

Instead, she says, the opportunities she found at Washington and Lee gave her jewelry business a kick start. Not long after she started the company, she had saved enough money to move to Hawaii and make a life there.

Today, Noelani Hawaii has seven employees. Love designs and makes a prototype of each new piece; the employees then make the jewelry in their studio. She sells the products on her website,, and in boutiques in Hawaii, the mainland U.S., Japan, Indonesia and Ireland.

Love said her newer designs, like the jewelry she made at W&L, are “simple and classic and elegant,” but the quality of the materials she uses — and the intentions she puts into each piece — have evolved. All of the jewelry is made with crystals and gemstones that have healing properties, she said, and she believes strongly in those properties.

For example, a blue stone called kyanite is believed to encourage self-expression and communication, boost self-confidence and cut through ignorance and fear. Rose quartz is said to open the heart and enhance positive feelings. The company website features a guide to the gems’ qualities.

“A lot of the jewelry out there is pretty, but these are gifts from the earth,” she said. “They are grown in the earth, and they have their own healing powers, sort of like plants.”

Love said she certainly encounters skeptics, but that doesn’t bother her. “More people are curious about it and interested in it, and children are most curious. They are not as conditioned to believe things we have been told our whole lives. There’s an aspect of magic that children can more easily relate to.”

Love spends much of her free time with her own curious little person, her 8-year-old son, Aukai. She also teaches yoga and is beginning to lead women’s retreats in Bali and Hawaii. She learned to play the ukulele and has just released her first album, a collection of yoga mantras called “Lakshmi Lullabies.”

To current students who wonder if it is possible to turn a hobby into a career, Love suggested considering a quote by author Scott Stratten: “If you are your authentic self, there is no competition.”

“I would say if you have an idea, and you are passionate about it, and you love it, just go for it,” she said. “You are the only one who can be you. If you are putting that much love into something, the universe is going to respond.”

‘A Good Place to Spend a Career’: Ken Ruscio Reflects

— by on December 16th, 2016

On Dec. 31, after 10 years as Washington and Lee’s president, Ken Ruscio leaves office.
Before he was president, he was, of course, a professor of politics, associate dean of the Williams School, and dean of freshmen, from 1987 to 2002. Before that, he was a student, from 1972 to 1976.

The W&L community recently honored the Ruscios and their legacy in the video above, featuring excerpts from many of Ken’s speeches over the years.

Earlier this fall, President Ruscio sat down with us in his Washington Hall office for a conversation, which appeared in the fall issue of W&L: The Washington and Lee Alumni Magazine.

Q: In a 2011 Q&A for this magazine, you said you take seriously the leadership principle that we are all obligated to leave things better than we found them. You are leaving W&L a better place. Of what are you the most proud?

Being able to change while also respecting history and tradition is very important for an institution like Washington and Lee, so with all that we have been able to accomplish, I think we’ve also held very true to our traditions and our history. And as I have said — on too many occasions, probably — in order to keep things the same, sometimes you have to make some changes. Preserving what matters sometimes means changing some things along the way. That seems contradictory and paradoxical, but Washington and Lee demonstrates the truth of that proposition. So if there’s something that I feel best about, it’s being able to remain true to the institution’s character even as we prepare ourselves for a very different kind of future.

Q: These days in particular, colleges and universities must work to communicate the qualities that distinguish them from the rest of the pack. How has W&L distinguished itself while you’ve been president?

We are not very good at self-promotion at Washington and Lee, and that’s one of the things that I like about the institution; we just do what we’re supposed to do. We don’t engage in constant navel-gazing about what makes us unique and what makes us distinctive. Having said that, we are a category of one. We are so unlike any other college. We have such a depth and breadth of curriculum, and such a unique relationship between professional and liberal arts educations, and also such a deep understanding that education goes beyond the formal classroom setting. We think about education in a comprehensive, broad way.

During their time here, our students learn a great deal about themselves in their everyday interactions with faculty, staff and students. The combination of that breadth of experience, and at the same time a very intensive academic experience, happens at W&L unlike any other place I am familiar with. There is an institutional ethos here that is hard to adequately explain or articulate, but it is real and shapes the lives of our graduates in ways they don’t fully appreciate until they get some distance from the university.

Q: During your presidency, how have we used data to inform decisions about changes
that needed to be made at W&L?

This university is both a left brain and a right brain university. We have an intuitive understanding of the culture that is not quantifiable. But we are also very good at using information and data, keeping up with trends, and understanding the external environment in which we find ourselves. For example, with the capital campaign, which ended last year, Dennis Cross (vice president for advancement) and his staff exceptionally used extensive research to assess the institution’s potential to raise funds.
But at the same time, they knew that for any W&L capital campaign to be successful, it would have to be based on relationships and commitments of individuals who cared about the university. That was a great example of the use of information, the use of data, an understanding of our alumni base, but it was combined with an understanding that success requires more than data.

There are many other instances of that. You look at how Steve McAllister (vice president for administration and treasurer) has managed our finances. A lot of analysis goes into projecting our revenues and expenditures, managing our endowment, and making specific decisions such as whether we could develop additional campus housing. Over in the admissions area, we are increasingly aware of demographic changes in the population, and how we can best communicate with 18-year-olds who acquire their information differently than prospective students did 30, 20 or even 10 years ago.

Q: In your conversations with alumni, you hear so many examples of how W&L has made a difference in their lives. Can you share one of your favorite success stories?

It’s very hard, because I can think of so many alumni Washington and Lee can be so very proud of. Surely one of the most recent ones is Mike Missal ’78, who was confirmed in April as inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It came at a stage in his life where he could kick back and just enjoy things, but he decided to take on one of the nation’s most challenging problems at the moment: the treatment of veterans. And he did it out of a real ethic of service, of duty, of obligation — for all the reasons that we hope our students take from here. He took on a challenge that most of us would have run from in a heartbeat.

So I think of him, but frankly, mostly because he is the most recent example, and I spoke with him just the other day. Call me tomorrow, and I will probably have just been thinking about another alum who is doing something incredible, maybe one of our graduates conducting medical research, like Dr. Erika Proko Hamilton ’03. This summer she became the director of the breast and gynecologic cancer research program at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, in Tennessee, and she is a member of our Athletic Hall of Fame for her admirable career here as a student-athlete.

Or call me the next day, and I may have just had the privilege to talk with one of our legendary public servants, such as Senator John Warner ’49, or Governor Linwood Holton ’44, or journalist Roger Mudd ’50, or philanthropists Gerry Lenfest ’53, ’55L and Rupert Johnson ’62, all of whom are alumni who love what they are doing or who have had careers based not on self-gratification but on the impacts that they have on others and on society.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned at W&L, whether as a student, a professor or the president?

Whenever I have made a decision about whether to take a job or not, it has always come down to whether I will be surrounded by good people. That consideration brought me to Washington and Lee in three different capacities — as a student, as a faculty member and now as president. I’ve learned that institutions that care about relationships and the quality of relationships are a good place to spend a career.

Washington and Lee has the capacity to enhance and nurture relationships, and it’s across the board. It’s student-faculty relationships, of course, but it’s also staff and students, students and students, students and alumni, and faculty and alumni. There’s just something about Washington and Lee that leads to relationships of very high quality and very high character. So if I’ve learned one lesson — and it’s a lesson that I hope our students take away — it’s that as you go through life, look for settings and opportunities where relationships can develop, where you can be surrounded by good people, where you can learn from them, and where you can grow as an individual even as you feel a part of a close-knit, supportive community.

Q: What is your hope for the future of our endowment?

We crossed a major milestone about a year or two ago, when we became one of the few institutions in the country where, on an annual basis, more of our revenue comes from philanthropy than from tuition. A lot of colleges are trying to focus on what they need to do to get through the next year. We can focus on things that we want to do because we have, for the most part, taken care of the things we
need to take care of. We can focus on the quality of the educational experience here, not our survival year to year. So endowment growth is critical for our success in the future. It makes the institution more stable, it makes our future less uncertain, and it puts so many things under our control. The sum of all of that means that we can indeed focus on quality and innovation in ways that other places can’t.

Specifically, the capital campaign has enabled us to do three important things through the endowment. First, our financial aid has increased more than any other part of our budget, and we were able to do that not by putting pressure on tuition but rather by increasing endowment dedicated to that purpose.

Another problem we addressed at the beginning of the strategic plan was a shortfall in faculty compensation. How do you improve faculty compensation, where we lagged far behind our peers, without putting pressure on tuition or without taking away from other priorities? By increasing endowment dedicated to supporting faculty.

The third set of initiatives was the growth of innovative interdisciplinary programs. The Shepherd Poverty Program is now endowed, and the recently created Roger Mudd Center for Ethics (2010) and the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship (2013) are both supported through endowments. Those are among the most exciting and innovative academic developments of the last few years. Without support from an endowment, they would have been impossible to develop and sustain in the long run.

Q: If you had to choose only one quality with which to imbue graduates of W&L, what would it be?

One of the definitions that I have of leadership is that leadership is not about you as a leader, it’s about understanding the needs and interests of those you serve. The leadership we teach here at Washington and Lee starts with a perspective, and that perspective is, “How can I make the community better? How can I help others who are in that community?”

So there is an awareness among our graduates of the needs and interests of others around them. We appropriately reference a number of virtues such as integrity, trust, honor, duty, obligation and respect for others. All of those matter greatly, but when you put them all together, living a life of consequence, of honor, is a rejection of self-interest, and instead a focus on the needs and interests of others. And Washington and Lee does have a way of making that almost instinctive in its graduates. Yes, there’s the Honor System. Yes, there is student self-governance. Yes, it’s the relatively small size of our community.

All of those are means, though, to the end, which is to develop a commitment to something greater than the self.

Q: You’ve made it clear over the years that you believe strongly in civilized debate. Do you think it is endangered?

I do, I really do. It’s always been endangered to some degree. It’s in our human nature to simply spout off, to not think before you speak. And we go through these periods where, remarkably, speaking your mind is mistakenly equated to saying whatever is on your mind without reflection and without letting any kind of judgment or discernment serve as a filter. Well, there is something to be said for being candid and direct, but there is also a lot to be said for thinking before you shoot your mouth off.

And it goes back to what I was saying before: If Washington and Lee teaches respect for others, then understand that some of that respect has to be respect for the opinions of others and the perspectives of others. It’s easy to be around people you agree with; it’s a lot harder to live in a community where people have different views and different opinions, but that’s life in a democracy. Civility is always a fragile virtue in society, but it’s important for places like Washington and Lee to remain committed to that during the tough times and to send the signals that educated, broad-minded people ought to practice the virtue of civility and respect the views of others.

Q: The working group that you established to study the history of African-Americans at Washington and Lee continues to explore that history as race relations in America seem to be eroding. What advice would you give this group?

Clearly we have thought so much about that, and in the broadest context imaginable. Washington and Lee is an institution with a long and rich history. It’s a complex history, and it is a history that reflects the arc of our country’s history. We were here before the founding, we were here during the founding. We were here during the Civil War, obviously; we were here in the aftermath of the Civil War. We were here during the civil rights era, when Washington and Lee integrated its student body. We rightly embrace the history of this institution in all of its complexity. In many ways, we are in a position here at Washington and Lee to lead the very difficult conversations about the nation’s history. Why not take advantage of that opportunity and tell our history in its fullest? We try to understand the history of our country and the history of our institution in order to become better, and the only way we are going to become better is to understand the difficult choices that people made in the past and how that is going to inform the difficult choices that we are going to make in the future. So if any institution ought to embrace the complexity of history, it ought to be Washington and Lee.

So I would advise the working group to keep telling the story and learning the lessons from it. So many people have made contributions to this university in so many different ways, and when we look back at the contributions of African-Americans over time, those contributions have also come in so many different ways. What we have not looked at until this point are the contributions of those 84 enslaved Americans who were part of this institution from 1826 to 1857. They are part of our history, and that ought to be acknowledged, and their contributions ought to be acknowledged as well.

Q: You’ve made some decisions during your tenure that some people considered controversial. How did you prepare yourself for potential backlash?

When there are hard decisions to be made, you talk to as many people as possible, and you do as much research as possible. You really try to understand the issue and understand the perspectives of so many different people. But in the end, if you know you are going to get criticized no matter what you decide, that can be liberating. You might as well do what you think is right, and then you can at least live with yourself when it’s all over. That doesn’t make it easy when the criticism comes, because you know it’s coming from people who also care very much about the university.

I don’t minimize the commitment that individuals have to the institution who may disagree with things that we’ve done. So I’m not saying that makes it easy, but I am saying it enables you to be confident in the decision that you’ve made, knowing that you are looking at the best interest of Washington and Lee. We don’t want to be an institution that’s frozen in time. We are an academic institution, not a museum. For an institution that is always going to be moving forward, always going to be engaging with hard decisions, always trying to improve itself, you can’t sit still. You have to be out there trying to determine how we can constantly make ourselves better.

Q: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

The answer is yes, sure, there are always things you would do differently if you knew then what you know now. If there is one frustration —and I don’t know how I would have fixed this — it’s that there just wasn’t enough time to spend with the people I wanted to be with and keep track of. At the end of every year, I would say to myself, “Gosh, I wish I had spent more time with the faculty and gotten to more of their events and presentations.” The next day, I’d say, “I wish I could have spent more time with the students.” Then I’d be headed off to an alumni trip, which I love to do, and I’d say, “I’d like more time for this.” So I wish I had been fully aware at the beginning of just how difficult it is to spread your time among all the people you really want to get to know.

Q: During your tenure, the university has lost students, esteemed faculty members, former presidents. How did you stay strong for the community at those times?

When Kim and I talked in 2006 about coming back to Washington and Lee, one of the things we understood was that it was entirely possible we would be here when some of the true legends of W&L would be leaving us. So many of them have had such an impact on the institution. As we have gone through those periods of loss, we have tried to use that time to remind ourselves of some of the fundamental values and principles that those individuals represent, and how those dedicated individuals have helped shape the university into what it is today. So those are sad times, but they are also times to reaffirm the fundamental underlying values of the institution those individuals personified.

The loss of students is a very different matter, and there is just no way to ever anticipate that or be prepared for the impact that has on you as an individual or on the community. I am deeply aware of the feeling of loss that students have when one of their classmates has been taken from them tragically, and I’m also very much aware of the impact on the faculty and staff who knew that student. Because of the closeness of this community, any loss has a real and genuine effect on the place, and those are hard times to get through, to be sure. During those difficult times, I take some consolation and draw strength from seeing some of W&L’s finest qualities on display — the caring, mutual support that members of our community provide so naturally to each other.

Q: What advice are you going to give your successor, Will Dudley?

Well, the standard response to that is, that will be between me and Will Dudley [laughs]. We are very, very fortunate to have someone of his experience and background and understanding of Washington and Lee to lead the university, at this time of challenge, but also a time of great opportunity. He is going to be a wonderful president, and he already has made connections and shows a deep understanding of the institution. I think I am going to have my advice be between us, in part because he is not going to need advice from me. He is going to be fine.

Q: In what ways have your wife, Kim, and your son, Matthew, helped you do your job?

You can’t do it without support. Kim has come to know Washington and Lee and come to love and understand this place as much as anybody. In those moments when I needed somebody to say, “Get over yourself,” she has never failed to deliver that kind of message. And of course through her own involvement in campus life, she has helped set the tone and spirit during our time here. It has not escaped my notice that I don’t hear too many people telling me that I’ll be missed, while hearing many, many people say they will miss Kim.

Matthew has also helped me keep things real. He went through his college years while I was a college president, so some afternoons I would go from delivering messages to W&L parents about how to work with sons and daughters during this important time in their lives, to getting in the car and driving up to his college to be a parent. And he would remind me to take the advice that I so easily dished out to the parents of Washington and Lee students. Seeing him make his college decision while I was a college president, then go through the four years as a student (and student-athlete), and then graduate and embark on his career, was a constant reminder that the students at Washington and Lee are young men and women going through the real ups and downs of college life. I would see it every day in my own family.

So the two of them played a lot of roles, but probably the most important role was to keep me grounded, and not to always be thinking of myself as the college president, but as a father and a husband at the same time.

Q: What has been your favorite part of living in Lee House?

We could write a whole different article about living in Lee House. Kim and I have so enjoyed our time there. It’s an adjustment because it’s not the real world, you are right in the middle of everything. It’s a place where you live, and you have to make it your house, but you’re always aware that that so much of the history of the university has gone through those doors. And so many prominent individuals — not just the people who have lived there, like Robert E. Lee, but the people who have been there for dinner and receptions — have graced our campus. We keep track of the number of people who come through on an annual basis, and it’s typically anywhere from 5,500 to 6,000 people per year. That always surprises us because it doesn’t feel like crowds have gone through, it just seems like there is a lot of activity and a lot of events. It includes people who are coming back to campus for the first time in 50 years, as well as new students who have been on the campus for only two or three days and are seeing Lee House for the first time.

Q: Is there any particular feature of Lee House that you wish you could take with you?

You know, in truth, we probably spend more time in the kitchen than any other room. It’s where we go in and out, it’s where we converge at the end of the day or at the end of a meeting or a reception. It’s where Kim and I finally settle down at the end of the day, over dinner on those rare days when we have no late commitments. It’s where the public and the personal side of the house intersect, at least for Kim and me. I’m sure that’s not an answer that people would expect to hear, but it is a place where for us, as residents, we both rest at times and at other times prepare for the receptions, dinners and other events we hold at the house.

I do remember my first night in Lee House. I hadn’t yet been installed as president, but I was preparing for the transition. I was visiting for a couple of days, and the Lee House was not occupied at the time. And I was determined that it was going to be just a matter-of-fact evening, nothing special, this is where I’m going to live for however long, so I’m just going to go to bed like I usually do and do a little reading before I nod off and go to sleep. I figured, I’ll get into the routine, nothing special. But I just couldn’t get to sleep. It wasn’t noise or anything like that, it was the realization that I was in the Lee House. Finally, about 1 or 2 a.m., I just got up and wandered around. [I was thinking] Robert E. Lee lived here, this is the room where his wife taught his daughters how to play the piano, this was Mrs. Lee’s bedroom, and this was Robert E. Lee’s bedroom, and this was the room in which he died, and you just realize that yes, this is a house, but it’s much more than a house.

If you asked Kim that question, she’d probably have a very different answer. She has spent much more time with the décor in Lee House and making sure it was right for its character. One of her projects was restoring some historical integrity to the rooms. My job was to stay out of the way.

Q: When you come back to visit Lexington, what spots are you most likely to visit?

Gosh, we’ll have to make the rounds. When I talk to the alumni and new students — so people who are very familiar with the place and some who aren’t — I tell them that this is a place where the whole becomes much greater than the sum of the parts. For a new student, the footbridge to Wilson Field is just a cement structure that gets you from one place on campus to another. For someone who has been here longer, that becomes a kind of landmark that conjures up certain memories. The Colonnade is not just a bunch of bricks and columns and a nice front lawn, it’s a place where a lot of things have happened that are in your store of memories.

So I don’t know that I’m going to have one place. I’m going to see the Colonnade and think of all kinds of things, I’m going to see Doremus Gym and think of a lot of things. I’m going to see the library and the Elrod Commons and think of a lot of things. I’m going to see the landmarks in town — the shops and the restaurants — and think of people I’ve seen there and stories we have. So it’ll never be one place, because this is a university where truly the whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.

Q: You are moving on to serve as president of the Virginia Foundation for Independent
Colleges. What appeals to you about that job?

It was not planned. This was the first time in my life where I stepped down from a job not knowing what I was going to do, but thinking that I wanted to finally get some time to write, to maybe go back and do some teaching, and I was very happy and prepared to do that. And I hope in some ways to still be able to do that. I knew I didn’t want to do another college presidency; this was the only college presidency that would ever be right for me. So I made the decision to step down, intending to determine the next step down the road, not immediately.

I was contacted by the VFIC unexpectedly. I didn’t know that their president was planning to step down; that had not been publicly announced. I have enjoyed working with the other college presidents in Virginia, and I have enjoyed making the case for independent higher education. I really do believe higher education is at a critical point in its history in our society, and the VFIC presidency sounded like an intriguing opportunity to make the case for independent higher education in a state where independent higher education has played a vital role. So it was one of those decisions that just felt right at the right time, and they were kind enough to wait until April 1, 2017, to let me start. I ran out of reasons to say no. But I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be exciting. And I can still maintain contact with Washington and Lee. We will be living in Richmond, which is close enough to Lexington that we’re going to be back and forth a lot. It’s the best of both worlds for us.

Q: What will you miss most about W&L?

Boy, I could say a lot of things, but there is something about the quality of the relationships around here. Walking into Washington Hall this morning, I ran into Kathy Wallace, who is the custodian here. Kathy had been working since 2 a.m., and here I come strolling in at what is for most of us the start of the work day — 8:30 or 9 o’clock. She and I were talking downstairs for a few minutes about everything from the weather to how the summer has gone to what we’ve been up to. And just before that, I crossed paths with one of the Facilities Management workers who was out with the leaf blower cleaning off the sidewalks. You know, I just never take for granted that we are at a place where people understand that what we do matters. They take great pride in Washington and Lee and their own individual contributions to the university, and I don’t think there are many places around where that happens to the extent that it happens here.

The setting in which we find ourselves contributes to the formation of that community. We are surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Allegheny Mountains. We are in the Shenandoah Valley. We are in a town that has a lot of character itself, so that fosters highly personalized interaction. Things happen here at a certain pace. There is time for reflection and there’s time for action, but the setting in which we find ourselves contributes to that as well. People walk on the campus who are tourists, and they say, “My God, you work here every day?” And I never take that privilege for granted. It really is a special place and a special setting.

Kim and Ken Ruscio ’76

Elliot Emadian Releases Debut Album Somehow, in addition to all of his coursework and extracurricular activities, Elliot Emadian has found the time to write, record and release his premiere album.

— by on December 14th, 2016

“That’s kind of why I write music—as a way to work through things, emotions, life experiences. I hope that comes through in the album.”

— Elliot Emadian

Elliot EmadianElliot Emadian

Most students will recognize our title hero. At this point in his college career, Elliot, a senior with more extracurriculars under his belt than FoodFlex I have left in my account, probably requires little to no introduction.

Between going to dance rehearsals, being a First-Year RA, working for Traveller, contributing to wluLex, etc., we don’t know when Elliot sleeps (or if he sleeps). Yet somehow, in addition to all that, he’s found the time to write, record, and release his premiere album.

The album is titled “selftalk,” and it hit campus on November 11.

It includes an impressive lineup of 10 original songs (12 on the deluxe version!), written and performed by Elliot himself. The album is being produced under Friday Underground Records (not to be confused with the W&L coffeehouse event Friday Underground). This marks the second student album released under the label, with Ralston Hartness’ Atlas being the first.

The funding for “selftalk” was supplemented by a very successful Kickstarter campaign launched by FUDG Records.

We were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with the ever-elusive Elliot himself to talk about “selftalk.”

Q: Describe this album in one word.


Q: What inspired the album?

My life. Particularly relationships I have with people and how I, as a human, interact with other people.

Q: What’s your favorite song off the album?

“Bridges.” But “Without You” is a close second.

Q: Why?

I wrote it in early 2015 and never touched it again and then came back to it when we needed a tenth track for the album. … I reworked the lyrics and I completely reworked the track and I sent it back to [FUDG Records] and [they] said, “Yes.” When it came back from being mastered it was just at another level. I’m very pleased with it.

Q: Where does the name come from?

The first name I came up with was “soliloquy.” But something about that didn’t feel perfect in regard to the album, so I started looking at other things and self-talk came up, which is a branch of positive psychology. It’s the things you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. And that’s kind of why I write music—as a way to work through things, emotions, life experiences. I hope that comes through in the album.

Q: What did you learn about yourself as an artist through this process?

I had a lot of self-doubt about the songs and the quality and whether it was worth making at all. Austin and Dana [of Friday Underground Records] were really good about pushing me to accept that it was a quality product and worth making and publishing. I think through that I learned that it’s important not to worry about what other people are going to think about it. It’s more important to think about whether this impacts me and if it impacts me, will it impact other people? And if that’s the case, then it’s worth putting out. I shouldn’t try to interpret what other people think about it.

Q: Why should people listen to it?

I think that through the story of the album there’s at least one song that everyone can relate to.

Q: What are you going to do next?

I am still writing. I’m working on finding a new method of writing. It’s been such a long time [since] I’ve written anything that I want to figure out what works best for me. I’m also just enjoying this… I’m excited. My mind is blown that people will be listening to the music I made. I never thought this would happen.

Be sure to keep your ears open…rumor has it that FUDG Records has started talks with yet another student artist for a third album under the label… Who could it be?

In the meantime, you can catch Elliot onstage in the upcoming fall dance concert, hanging out on his hall, running to a math class from the dance studio, at the weekly wluLex team meetings, or at his album’s listening party on November 16th in the atrium of the Center for Global Learning.

Story by Taylor Gulotta ‘17

‘A Better World’ Kara Karcher ’11 is parlaying her studies in poverty and women’s and gender studies into a law career dedicated to helping women and children.

— by on December 13th, 2016

“I started to realize that, although the world was filled with injustices, it was possible to work towards a better world.”

Kara Karcher '11Kara Karcher ’11 with some of her students.

By Kara Karcher ’11

My first exposure to the Shepherd Program at Washington and Lee was through the Washington, D.C. Volunteer Venture program. I knew I wanted to participate in a pre-orientation program in order to get to know some of my classmates before starting classes. Little did I know how much of an impact that small decision would make on my four years as an undergraduate at Washington and Lee as well as my future career trajectory. I remember the professor speaking with our small group during one of the days of our trip, and I made the decision to try out the Poverty 101 class in the fall. I had never thought about issues of poverty from an academic perspective and although my first-year self was very intimidated by the dense reading and the profound conversations going on in our classroom, I knew that I had found something meaningful, and I committed to making the poverty program part of my undergraduate experience.

The class that made all the difference for me was Poverty 102, where I had the opportunity to volunteer inside a preschool classroom that served general education preschool students, as well as students who qualified through some type of intellectual or physical disability. It was a powerful intellectual experience to connect the day-to-day happenings of the preschool classroom I was observing with the theories and scholarly reading that we read and discussed in class. I found that I enjoyed connecting my real-life work with my academic work, and it lent a sense of urgency and importance to all of the studies I was doing as an undergraduate. That summer, I completed my Shepherd Internship at the House of Ruth Legal Clinic in Baltimore, Maryland, an experience I still consider one of the most formative components of my education. The House of Ruth offers legal support to survivors of domestic abuse. I worked firsthand with women from all backgrounds, helping them to apply for protective orders and providing moral support in court hearings. I was passionate about the work I did with House of Ruth, and, as a result, when I returned to campus, a lot of my academic work in the poverty program focused on the unique issues facing women attempting to escape abuse. I also joined the Bonner Program and completed many of my 900 volunteer hours as an advocate at Project Horizon, the local women’s shelter. Just like I had experienced in Poverty 102, I felt passionate about connecting my studies with real life issues that mattered.

My junior year, I discovered the Women’s and Gender Studies minor and took a course at Washington and Lee’s law school on legal theory related to women’s issues, including domestic abuse. As a student, it was eye-opening for me to realize that real world problems like what I had observed at House of Ruth and Project Horizon could be analyzed from an academic and legal perspective. It wasn’t until I discovered my two minors in Poverty and Human Capability Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies that I began to feel that my college studies were driven by a sense of purpose. I started to realize that, although the world was filled with injustices, it was possible to work towards a better world.

After graduation, my work with Teach for America as a bilingual teacher on the border of Texas and Mexico exposed me to another dimension of public interest work. Although working in education is, on the surface, very different than advocating for abuse survivors, for me the motivation comes from the same place. My work to advocate for those who are underrepresented was and continues to be incredibly personal. My academic studies, particularly within the poverty program, internships, volunteer experience, and now work experience have all showed me the different sides of what it looks like to work towards increasing access to justice. Now, I am taking a different step forward and will begin studying at the University of Texas School of Law this fall.  Law school will further enable me to expand my passion for the public interest with the goal of making a meaningful impact on our society. In both my undergraduate work and my work as a bilingual teacher, I have seen the impact our country’s legal systems can have for better or worse on underrepresented populations. I know my journey in law school will enable me to discover the unique role that I will have in increasing access to justice for those who most need it, and I am forever grateful to the Shepherd Poverty Program at Washington and Lee for sparking my journey down this life-changing path.

Karcher graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2011 with a bachelor of arts in politics and minors in poverty and human capability studies and women’s and gender studies. Upon graduating, Kara worked with Teach for America in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas as a bilingual elementary teacher. Upon completing the two-year program, Kara continued to teach in the bilingual classroom for several years and completed her master’s in bilingual education at the University of Texas at Brownsville. Beginning this fall, she will begin her studies at the University of Texas School of Law, where she hopes to specialize in public interest law and continue her work with women and children.

Dedicated to Dickey Ward Briggs ’67 has memorialized his longtime friend, writer James Dickey, with a large donation of Dickey materials to Washington and Lee Special Collections.

— by on December 7th, 2016

“With this collection, or any collection, of Dad’s stuff, what would make him the happiest is if it was used as an inspiration for young writers.”

— Bronwen Dickey

In autumn 1963, at a classy dinner party in the home of then-Washington and Lee University Dean Bill Pusey, acclaimed poet and novelist James Dickey spoke to a first-year student named Ward Briggs for the first time. Briggs will never forget the words that launched a long, meaningful friendship.

From his position of drunken repose on the sofa, Dickey scowled up at Briggs and said, “Who the hell are you?”

As their relationship matured over the next three decades, so did the quality of their interactions. Nevertheless, after Dickey’s death in 1997, Briggs, a retired University of South Carolina Classics professor who graduated from W&L in 1967, found himself contemplating that question as it related to the prolific, passionate and greatly misunderstood 20th-century writer:

Dickey, dear friend, who the hell were you?

“I knew how brilliant he was and what a great and loyal friend he was,” Briggs said, “I just didn’t understand what a poet he was. So I started gathering up as much of his poetry as I could. I wanted an understanding of him as a poet, to see what my friend’s identity really was. Then, as these things came in the mail, I had this feeling that it’s almost like he’s still out there producing wonderful stuff.”

The result of Briggs’ sourcing was a large, eclectic collection of Dickey materials, which Briggs has donated to W&L. From first-edition novels and poetry to film posters from “Deliverance,” the thriller based on Dickey’s 1970 novel, the comprehensive collection is a significant gift.

“Briggs’ collection reveals the intellectual development and the constant experimentation of this iconic American literary figure,” said Tom Camden, head of Special Collections and Archives at W&L. “Any study of major 20th-century American poets must include Dickey, and Briggs’ collection provides the authoritative source for that study.”

Dickey, who grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, is best known for “Deliverance.” But his son, novelist and journalist Christopher Dickey, says his father merely entertained himself by writing novels — he sustained himself by writing poetry. “If you asked him what he really cared about as a writer, it was poetry,” Chris Dickey said.

James Dickey realized his love of poetry while serving as an Army radar operator during World War II. At his request, his mother sent him poetry collections so he could entertain and distract himself during terrifying night missions.

“So he really discovers poetry in the cockpit of this plane when he is scared to death, when his life is in danger,” Briggs said. “It’s an amazing conversion. He just found what he could do.”

Between WWII and the Korean War, during which he served in the U.S. Air Force, Dickey earned degrees in English and philosophy from Vanderbilt University. Later, he taught at Rice University and worked in advertising (the character of Ken Cosgrove on the popular AMC television series “Mad Men” is said to have been partially based on Dickey) before diving fully into poetry.

His “Into the Stone and Other Poems” was published in 1960, followed by “Drowning with Others” in 1962 and “Buckdancer’s Choice” in 1965, which brought a National Book Award for Poetry. From 1966 to 1968, Dickey was U.S. poet laureate (then called “poetry consultant”), after which time he became an English professor and writer-in-residence at USC. Briggs joined the faculty in 1973, shortly after Dickey became a household name with the 1972 film release of “Deliverance.”

The novel, which was published in myriad languages, is considered by many to be one of the best of the 20th century. On Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Novels, “Deliverance” is No. 42, above novels by Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Roth, Updike and other celebrated writers. It made considerable money, landed Dickey on talk shows, and allowed him to hobnob with famous movie stars. Although he would write two more novels and reams of poetry over the next 25 years, nothing in his canon would ever be as well-known as “Deliverance.”

Like many gifted writers, Dickey had a multifaceted and complex existence. That included an intense dependence on alcohol, a tendency to epitomize contradictions, and a famous disdain for the truth. Any study of Dickey’s work is made more complicated and more fascinating because of these quirks.

Said Briggs, “I mean this not as a personal or ethical critique but as an aesthetic observation: He simply didn’t care what the truth was. He cared whether it was a good and entertaining story.” At times, this made for challenging relationships. In his 1998 memoir, “Summer of Deliverance,” Chris Dickey wrote: “Long before ‘Deliverance,’ my father had begun to make himself up. And me. He would not tolerate for a minute the world as it was.”

Dickey’s ability to be competitive and critical was tempered by a deep-seated sensitivity that played out in his poetry, Briggs said, as well as during interactions with strangers, friends and family.

“He certainly did or said his share of wild and crazy things, but as a father he was the most encouraging, attentive, pleasant, conscientious, caring parent you could ever want,” said Bronwen Dickey, his daughter and the youngest of his three children. “He would always stop in the middle of what he was doing to play checkers or watch a nature documentary with me.”

Dickey died at age 73, having lived much longer than many of the poets he admired. Briggs, aware that Dickey’s writings outside “Deliverance” were a mystery to many readers, decided to begin work on the most thorough and accurate edition of Dickey poetry to date. “The Complete Poems of James Dickey,” which contains all 331 poems published during the writer’s career, was released in 2013. Briggs was careful to ensure that each poem was printed the way Dickey intended, since magazines such as the “New Yorker” often altered poems before publishing them.

The donation to W&L is an effort to spread that respect for Dickey’s work to students who may never have read it, or who may be discovering their own love of poetry — as Dickey did in that airplane cockpit many years ago.

“With this collection, or any collection, of Dad’s stuff, what would make him the happiest is if it was used as an inspiration for young writers,” said Bronwen Dickey. “He was a really dedicated teacher, and he was very enthusiastic and encouraging with young writers.”

Chris Dickey said Washington and Lee is a suitable home for his father’s works for a number of reasons.

“My father always loved W&L — loved the campus and its history, liked and respected the people he knew there, and wanted me to go there,” he said. “We paid more than one visit when I was in high school. In the end, I went to the university a bit farther north, and it was my younger brother [Kevin Dickey] who went to W&L— then left to focus on pre-med and medical degrees at Emory. So we have a soft spot for Washington and Lee in our family, and I am delighted that Ward has given us, now, this very tangible connection.”

Virgil Collection Enriches Classics Department

The James Dickey collection is not the only donation recently made to Washington and Lee University by Ward Briggs ’67. Briggs, a retired Classics professor with a specialty in the ancient Roman poet Virgil, has given the university a set of about 600 works on Virgil.

Washington and Lee Classics professor Caleb Dance already has built a fall course, Topics in Advanced Latin Literature, around the collection. In addition, Parrish Preston ’17 is drawing on the resources for his honors thesis.

“I was very impressed with its organization,” Dance said. “It’s a comprehensive collection of teaching texts and close-reading texts, and it includes all of the big names in Virgil scholarship.” When he entered the conversation about the proposed donation, Dance said, “I just remember thinking that this would be a great resource to use with W&L students.”

The library at University of South Carolina at Columbia, where Briggs is Carolina Distinguished Professor of Classics and Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Humanities Emeritus, wanted the collection. But Briggs said he believes that W&L, being a liberal arts school, is likely to get more use out of it.

The collection is currently housed in Dance’s office, but it will soon be catalogued and shelved in Leyburn Library’s Special Collections.

Liz Tarry, AdLib Co-Chair “It’s been exciting to serve in this role and see others get interested in the advertising field, as well as having the opportunity to spend time and plan with several fabulous members of the Williams School staff.”

— by on December 6th, 2016

“Meeting W&L alumni from the marketing and advertising fields has been incredibly rewarding.”

Liz TarryLiz Tarry

What first interested you in Adlib? How did you first get involved?

I got involved in the AdLib Conference after taking AdClass from Professor Bower. That class was instrumental in fostering my love for the advertising/communications world, and just generally in teaching me plenty of valuable skills. Last year’s conference was, for me, an affirmation of my interest in marketing and advertising, and in the speakers that returned I found a convergence of several of my personal interests, including art, design and history.

What is your current role in the organization, and what are some of the challenges and rewards you’ve found in that role?

Being Co-Chair of the AdLib Conference means that Camille and I also serve as AdClass advisors and spend a lot of time mentoring students in the class, as well as in a planning capacity to prepare for the National Student Advertising Competition in March. It’s been exciting to serve in this role and see others get interested in the advertising field, as well as having the opportunity to spend time and plan with several fabulous members of the Williams School staff.

If you share the role, how do you and your counterpart divide the responsibilities?

Camille and I work very well together – we share common leadership roles in several other organizations, so we’ve learned to be a good team. I’ve found that consistent communication has been the most important lesson we’ve learned in planning the AdLib Conference, but otherwise, Camille is an incredibly talented designer and she makes working together super easy.

How would you characterize your experience in one word? Why?

Adaptive. The media world is changing so rapidly and encompasses so many different disciplines (analytics, computer science, social media, art, sociology, etc.) that it takes a concentrated effort to keep up with what’s happening and apply that to our planning.

What has been the most rewarding experience with this organization?

Meeting W&L alumni from the marketing and advertising fields has been incredibly rewarding. Going through the unique experience of AdClass creates a meaningful bond and having the opportunity to connect with these alumni when they return for the AdLib Conference has been invaluable in fostering support for the advertising field at W&L.

What has been the most challenging experience?

Embracing failure has been the most challenging, but also the most lasting lesson I’ll take from this experience. Creating an advertising campaign was a daily lesson in learning from failure, and planning the AdLib Conference has been difficult in generating interest and awareness among students of the possibility of a career in the marketing/advertising field.

What have you learned about leadership in this role, and what other lessons will you take with you going forward?

Positivity and constant communication is imperative for success in leadership, and that’s something we’ve absolutely learned throughout this process, but otherwise I believe that leadership, as one quote puts it, is taking more than your share of the blame and less than your share of the credit.

What advice would you give to students who may be interested in getting involved?

I’d love to tell students that in the advertising world, everyone has something to offer. Whether you’re a math or an art history major, it’s a field that requires different types of knowledge. A group of solely business majors can’t fully understand the entire consumer population and produce an effective integrated campaign. That’s a myth whose time has come.

Meet the 2017 AdLib Leadership Team The 2017 AdLib Conference is scheduled to take place March 2-3.

— by on December 6th, 2016

The 2016 AdLib leadership team consists of Camille LeJeune, Liz Tarry and Isabelle White.The 2016 AdLib leadership team consists of Camille LeJeune, Liz Tarry and Isabelle White.

Washington and Lee University’s AdLib Conference was founded in 2011 to bring alumni in the marketing and advertising fields back to campus, where they can offer real-world advice, trends and lessons to current students.

The 2017 AdLib Conference is scheduled to take place March 2-3, and although the guest alumni have not yet been announced (look for that information after the turn of the year), the student leaders involved in organizing the conference have been hard at work for a long time.

Co-leaders Liz Tarry and Camille LeJeune say the work has been difficult at times, but the project has also been very exciting and rewarding so far. Alongside the co-chairs, Isabelle White has been in charge of media and brand strategy for the conference.

“The work we put in all of this semester and next culminates into the two days that will be the AdLib conference, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out,” White said.

To read more about Tarry, LeJeune and White, click on their individual Q&As below.