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William H. Fishback Jr. ’56, Member Emeritus of Washington and Lee’s Board of Trustees, Dies at 83 Fishback was a member of the Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2010.

William H. Fishback Jr.

William H. Fishback Jr., a member of the Washington and Lee University Board of Trustees from 2000 to 2010, died on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 83. He graduated from Washington and Lee in 1956 with a degree in journalism.

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Fishback grew up in Savannah, Georgia. He was a reporter and editor with the Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch from 1956 to 1966, when he joined the administration of President Edgar F. Shannon Jr. (W&L Class of 1939) at the University of Virginia and embarked upon a distinguished career there. He served as UVA’s chief public relations officer for 25 years, becoming associate vice president of University Relations; a special adviser to President John T. Casteen III; and a special consultant to the university’s first billion-dollar campaign. He retired from the administration in 1995 but continued at UVA as a senior lecturer, conducting courses in newswriting and advising the staffs of the student publications. He retired from the UVA faculty in 2008.

Also at UVA, Fishback served on the founding boards of the Center for Politics and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership. He belonged to the Raven Society, the oldest and most prestigious honorary society at UVA, and received its Raven Award in 2004 for his scholarly pursuits and his dedication to the ideals of UVA.

While a student at W&L, Fishback was a dormitory counselor, the president of Pi Kappa Phi social fraternity, a member of Sigma Delta Chi (Society of Professional Journalists), a member of the Ring-tum Phi staff, and senior class secretary.

Fishback served Washington and Lee as a trustee, as a class agent, as chairman of the Communications Advisory Board, and as a member of the 250th Anniversary Commission. In 1993, along with his wife, Sara, he established the Fishback Program for Visiting Writers in memory of his parents, Margaret Haggin Haupt Fishback and William Hunter Fishback. The program brings outstanding writers to W&L to meet with students and give public lectures.

Fishback also was a former member of the board of trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, the oversight board for the Washington National Cathedral and its schools. He had been a senior warden and member of the vestry of St. Paul’s Memorial Church, Charlottesville, and served on various committees of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. His other board service included the Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce, the Charlottesville/University Symphony, the Tuesday Evening Concert Series and Madison House. He also belonged to Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society founded at W&L.

Fishback is survived by Sara Fishback, his wife of 61 years; a brother, John Randolph Fishback; three children, William Praleau Fishback ’82 (Christine), Jean Fishback Elwood (James) and Sara Fishback Bissett (Peter); and four grandchildren, Will, John and Robert Elwood and Laura Bissett.

A private service will be held at the University of Virginia columbarium. A memorial service will take place on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Paul’s Memorial Church, 1700 University Ave., Charlottesville.

What We Lost: Remembering Vietnam 50 Years Later W&L alumni look back at the Vietnam War and how it changed them.

Walter “Buddy” Nicklin’s training company photo

Three dozen members of the Class of 1967 crowded the stage in Stackhouse Theater on Alumni Weekend this past April. As the audience looked on, retired Navy SEAL Bill Wildrick ’67 thanked each man on stage for his service, presented him with a black-and-gold pin, and gave him a crisp salute.

The occasion commemorated much more than a 50th class reunion for these alumni — it marked a half-century since they were forced to face a future they could not have anticipated as happy-go-lucky teenagers.

“I went to Vietnam as a 22-year-old boy,” said Jim Oram ’67, “and came home as a 24-year-old man. I was a completely different person.”

The United States’ official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Vietnam stretches from 2012 to 2025. Although W&L does not have detailed records of the number of alumni who served, many classes that have already celebrated a 50th reunion, and some that have yet to reach that mark, are likely to include Vietnam veterans.

Dr. William Sledge ’67, a psychiatrist who studied the effects of imprisonment on Air Force POWs during and after Vietnam, took part in a panel discussion with other veterans that preceded the pinning ceremony at W&L in April. Later, he noted that while some veterans still prefer to leave their stories untold, many have grown increasingly comfortable reminiscing as the decades have passed, particularly with their families and one another.

“I think that when you get older, it doesn’t matter whether you have been in a war or not, you start thinking about your life in a different way,” he said. “You particularly want to tell your family about it, you want to revisit it … so you remember stuff, and you value the opportunity to let people listen to it.”

‘What the Hell was Happening’

In the mid-1960s, the conflict in Vietnam was a topic on the nightly news and in classrooms at W&L, but not at parties or on the football field. As Mac Holladay ’67 put it, “I think people were aware. The build-up had started, but it had not reached a fever pitch yet. We just didn’t know very much about it because we were all concentrating on our studies and going on about the future.”

There were a few exceptions: In the basement of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house every night, Alex Jones ’68 and Barry Crosby ’68 used to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the “CBS Evening News.” “Barry and I shared something that not many other people in my fraternity at the time seemed to,” Jones said, “which was a concern and interest in what the hell was happening in Vietnam.”

As the situation escalated, however, plenty of students began to feel anxious. Many had already planned to attend graduate school, get married, or both, which could result in a temporary deferment prior to the draft lottery of 1969; those who hadn’t considered those options began to regard them with greater interest. Still others had medical deferments, and there were a few conscientious objectors.

A percentage of each class joined the ROTC at W&L, including Oram, who followed the advice his father gave him as they drove to Lexington for his freshman year. Participating in ROTC allowed Oram to be commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduation, but that was still no guarantee of safety during Vietnam. He ended up as an Army Ranger commanding a company in the 101st Airborne Division, otherwise known as the “Screaming Eagles.”

In another effort to prevent being drafted and sent straight to the rice paddies as infantrymen, some students applied for officer training programs. Jones, Holladay and Wildrick were accepted to Navy Officer Candidate School, after which Jones became a naval officer, and Holladay became a search-and-rescue pilot. Wildrick, who stood out as a swimmer and runner at W&L, became a Sea Air Land commando before most people had ever heard of a Navy SEAL. (He retired in 2005 as the last active-duty SEAL platoon officer who served in Vietnam.)

Bruce Rider ’66 went through Air Force Officer Training School (OTS), but not before facing a dilemma: He had already started classes at Princeton Theological Seminary when he got the call about his application to OTS. Most of his fellow students at Princeton wanted to stay safely ensconced there, but every generation of Rider’s family, dating back to the Revolutionary War, had served in the military.

“I felt an obligation to be part of the family tradition to serve in the military,” he said. “I did not want to start a career in the ministry just to avoid service.”

It is estimated that 25 percent of the forces in Vietnam were drafted, and that included some W&L alumni. One of those men was Walter “Buddy” Nicklin ’67, who considers himself fortunate because he was sent to Europe to work as a chaplain’s assistant and never made it to Vietnam. On the occasion of his 50th W&L reunion, he wrote an essay for the May 5, 2017, edition of The New York Times, recounting the personal anxiety and moral questioning that the draft created for him.

Barry Crosby, the young man who sat in the glow of that fraternity house TV with Jones as they watched the news, was not so fortunate. Jones was on a U.S. Navy ship in the Gulf of Tonkin when he found out that Crosby had been killed. He was one of 18 W&L alumni who died in Vietnam.

“Whenever I go anywhere near the Vietnam Monument in Washington, I always visit his name,” Jones said. “It was a personal loss that, I think, a lot of the people who knew Barry felt very powerfully.”

Cultural Divide

The Vietnam War was a frustrating and difficult one to fight, in an inhospitable climate with unfamiliar terrain. The cultural divide between Americans and Vietnamese made it harder to distinguish friend from foe. Guerrilla warfare made for a particularly deadly and dirty fight.

Washington and Lee alumni were among the men who put their lives in danger for a war that sometimes felt pointless. They went on intelligence-gathering missions, set up ambushes, marched through jungles pocked with punji pits, and watched comrades impaled on sharpened, feces-covered stakes. They dodged bullets, rescued airmen from downed planes, and had their Jeeps blown up by kids with C-4 explosive.

That’s merely a sampling of the tales they tell, which are usually short on the most troubling details. Of course, it does not begin to encompass the memories that will stay buried in gray matter for the rest of their lives.

Oram starkly summed up the reason so many veterans have kept mum about their service: “There are some things that are too scary to even recall and try to talk about. Some of us might have done stuff we’re not very proud of. When you are secretly scared to death and you are a ranger commando, you aren’t going to tell anybody.”

When these soldiers came home, it was not to the victory parades and hero worship with which World War II veterans were met — it was to a country that was deeply divided over the war, and that offered few support systems. Veterans were alternately spit upon, goaded into fistfights, and ignored.

“Vietnam was full of ambiguity and misunderstanding, and a lot of conflict in the general culture about whether we should be fighting this kind of war,” said Sledge, the psychiatrist. “We didn’t win it, we lost it. And a lot of people lost their lives. There is a bitter sense of loss and ineptitude on our part and on the part of politicians.”

As a result of his experience as an Air Force intelligence officer, Rider went legally blind within a year of coming home. Other fallout from the war included a lost job and a failed marriage, and he remembers feeling incredibly alone.

“This is hard to conceptualize, but something died inside of me,” he said. Although he was proud of his service, he said, “There was this part that was just dark and angry and resentful.”

Most veterans had to come to terms with the U.S. government’s handling of the war, and solidify their own opinions about it, which sometimes changed drastically after they came home. Holladay, who now suffers from peripheral neuropathy and COPD as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange, decided within the last decade to read everything he could find about the war. “I have learned a lot, and I certainly understand that we were misled and lied to, and that if there was a way to win, we did not do that,” he said. “We didn’t try to do that, I don’t believe.”

Some vets also harbor feelings of guilt for reasons they may or may not be able to articulate. “I can tell you that goes all the way up to guys who won the Medal of Honor but feel guilty because they survived and the other guys didn’t,” Oram said. “Others feel guilty because they didn’t get into combat. I’m in the middle: I did what I did and I survived, and I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more.

“That is a common thread that goes all the way back to the beginning of mankind. The only ones who don’t feel guilty are the ones who got killed, and that’s just because they can’t.”

A Desire to Serve

No matter their military branch, service experience, or political leaning, most of the alumni veterans interviewed for this article said that the war, as difficult as it was, spit them out as better people than they had been when they went in. They seem to share a lifelong desire to serve their communities and their country.

Holladay, haunted by an image of naked, hungry children picking over a garbage dump in Indonesia, remembers thinking, “If I can get home safely, I want to try and make sure nobody in my hometown of Memphis is ever looking for something to eat.” He devoted his entire career to community and economic development not only in Memphis, but also across the nation.

Sledge continued his research with POWs and became one of the first psychiatrists to publish on what is now known as post-traumatic growth. Rider is involved in multiple civic activities, including veterans’ organizations, fraternal groups, the historical society, and his local library. Jones is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Wildrick became an instructor who helped to set up reserve SEAL support commands on the East and West coasts, providing the closest link between active and reserve forces in the 30-year history of the Naval Special Warfare Reserve.

Oram has served on the board of directors for the child services organization that arranged his own adoption when he was a baby. He is also an elected supervisor in his township, and is involved in the local veterans’ organization and other nonprofits. “I realize even more, now that I’ve started talking about Vietnam, that my whole life has been building toward this crescendo of service,” he said.

Some of these veterans recognize that if it had not been for the war, they may never have been exposed to diversity. “We are all created equal,” Holladay said. “I relied on people of all colors and shapes and attitudes during my five years of service, and it certainly changed my outlook on diversity and the world.”

“I think the war was a good experience in terms of exposing me to things I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to, and it also politicized me,” Nicklin said. “When I was at W&L, I was more interested in poetry and personal experiences and beautiful sunsets, not really politics. I thought politics was kind of a waste of time and for silly people, but the Vietnam War and being drafted made me understand that politics is always what society is all about.”

Washington and Lee has worked with alumni to create opportunities for Vietnam-era graduates to return to campus and reconnect over their shared experiences. In 2009, the university held a well-attended Alumni College program titled “Vietnam: A Retrospective.” This year’s Alumni Weekend panel discussion, which featured Holladay, Sledge and Oram, along with historian and author George Herring, brought veterans together to reminisce about both the war years and their W&L careers.

“I thought one of the things that was wonderful about our seminar was the opportunity to hear different perspectives and see the interest that we all have in those different perspectives of all the people who served,” Holladay said. “It was personal for each one of us.”

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The Alumni Magazine welcomes additional memories from W&L alumni about the Vietnam War Era, and may publish some of those comments in a future issue or on the website. Whether you went to Vietnam or not — and for any reason — we are interested in hearing about your experience. Please email us at magazine@wlu.edu.

Eight Days in May

Students picket along the Colonnade in May 1970 during “Eight Days in May.”

During the Vietnam Era, college campuses across the country became hot spots of political unrest. Although W&L was not completely insulated from this, its campus did remain relatively quiet — until May 1970. On May 4, Ohio National Guard members shot four unarmed students during a protest of the Vietnam War at Kent State University. Nationwide, campus protests exploded in size and intensity. At W&L, the shootings sparked a week of rallies, meetings and debates remembered today as “Eight Days in May.”

Tuesday, May 5: From 400 to 500 students gather on the lawn in front of Lee Chapel for a rally. Some suggest boycotting classes or calling for the university to close. President Robert E.R. Huntley ’50, ’57L leaves his Law School class to address the crowd, warning against violence and encouraging those with opposing opinions to share them civilly with one another. He receives a standing ovation. That night, the SEC adopts a resolution to call attention to activities planned for the next day, “Freedom Day.”

Wednesday, May 6: While many students attend classes as usual, 30 to 40 picket on the Colonnade for two hours. About 200 students travel to a rally in Charlottesville. The student body president, Marvin “Swede” Henberg ’70, calls for a student assembly on May 8.

Thursday, May 7: Concerned students meet with Huntley to request relief from academic schedules to participate in the student movement. About 100 students gather in the Cockpit, as the University Center tavern was known, for an open forum. This results in a resolution to close the university for the year so students will be free to participate in national events. The faculty declines to cancel classes but allows students to submit a request in writing and receive an incomplete grade until Sept. 30, when the “I” will be replaced by an “F” if work is not completed.

Friday, May 8: About 900 students meet in front of Lee Chapel, where Henberg presents the resolution and invites discussion. The vote is postponed until Monday.

Students gather on the lawn during “Eight Days in May” 1970 to hear student body president Marvin “Swede” Henberg ’70.

Saturday, May 9: Reunion Weekend (and the annual Alumni Association meeting) takes place. Many students travel to Washington for large demonstrations, while others, half-dressed and unshaven, hang around in tents they’ve pitched on campus. Students and alumni engage in constructive discussions about the war, and alumni praise Huntley for his handling of the previous week’s unrest.

Sunday, May 10: Students hold a memorial service in the University Center (now Evans Hall) for the four students killed at Kent State. The SEC endorses the resolution to close W&L but wants students to be able to continue classes if they wish. Debate continues into the evening.

Monday, May 11: Some 78 percent of the student body votes to cancel classes, retroactive to May 6 and through Fall Term. Faculty gather that evening, and many express sympathy for the student viewpoint. Some support university closure, but Huntley refuses, citing obligations to the trustees and university charter to keep the school open. Instead, faculty reiterate their action of May 7, saying students who wish to take incomplete grades must inform them in writing by May 21. Upset students boycott classes.

Tuesday, May 12: Students hold an assembly on the Front Lawn at 8:45 a.m. and read a statement condemning the faculty motion. Huntley holds a student assembly at noon, during which he assures students that ‘lack of agreement” from the faculty and administration does not equal a lack of concern. “I must say I believe you have succeeded in bringing this student body into a sense of community, a sense of willingness to talk, a sense of willingness to share deep conviction, a sense of dedication to something higher than self,” he tells them.

Source: “Washington and Lee University, 1930-2000: Tradition and Transformation” by Blaine A. Brownell ‘66

President Robert Huntley ’50, ’57L looks on from the Colonnade as students
stage a protest.


9.2 million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam Era

2.7 million Americans served in Vietnam (rather than at home or in another theater)

58,220 Americans were killed in the war

18 Washington and Lee University alumni were killed in the war. They were:

William Michael Akers ’58
Charles Christopher Bonnet ’65
William Caspari III ’58
Robert Barry Crosby ’68
Jon Price Evans ’37
Robert Morrow Fortune ’67
Henry Poellnitz Johnston Jr. ’70
Leo John Kelly Jr. ’66
John Peter Luzis Jr. ’70
James Howard Monroe ’66
Thomas Alexander Nalle Jr. ’54
Ronald Oliver Scharnberg ’63
Louis Otey Smith ’58
Jay Webster Stull ’60
Frederick Nicholas Suttle Jr. ’67
Walter Ludman Toy ’63
Scott Mitchell Verner ’65
James Schenler Wood ’63

More Memories from W&L Vietnam Vets:

Mac Holladay ’67 on the dangers of war:

“I had all kinds of experiences. I tied my seaplane up to a palm tree, rescued people from a downed aircraft on two B52 crashes off Guam, which was tragic. I had a fire in my H34 — a crewman we affectionately called Pineapple put it out at great risk to himself. Once, I was trying to rescue a man in a typhoon, and the helicopter turned virtually upside-down. I got shot at a few times. But I certainly was not in harm’s way like [Jim] Oram and the guys on the ground were.”

Dr. William Sledge ’67 on the prisoners of war he met through his research:

“First, I was enormously touched by the humanity of these people and was very proud to be associated with them. Before them, I didn’t think they were anything special, just people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. But these were everyday folks who discovered what they were made of and were proud of it, and I was enormously impressed by them.”

Jim Oram ’67 on fear of dying:

“It never occurred to me that I could be killed. That wasn’t on my radar until I got over there, then it got on my radar pretty quickly. I even said to my wife, ‘You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not going to be killed.’ But once I got there, I didn’t have a fear of dying so much as a fear of letting my soldiers down. And I can’t lie, there was also an element of excitement after every incident. It’s like jumping out of an airplane.”

Bill Wildrick ’67 on his children and the military:

“The kids don’t really ask about Vietnam. They used to love to wear the T-shirts and paraphernalia. I didn’t get any one of them to go into the military. The closest thing was that my daughter was in the Girl Scouts. I talked to her about maybe being an intelligence officer, and she finally said, ‘Look, Dad, I’ve heard your spiel, and I appreciate what you did, and I support you 100 percent, but if I develop an interest, I’ll let you know.’”

Bruce Rider ’66 on war:

“Anybody who is in favor of war has really not been in one. I think we have a responsibility to build peace in our lives where we are. You try to live a better life as a result of warfare and you tend to have fewer strongly held views … most rigid people just don’t have the experience or the appreciation or the empathy that war survivors should have.”

Persistent in Pursuit of Answers Kathryn E. Young '19 got a Reynolds Business Scholarship that allowed her to intern at her hometown newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Kathryn E. Young ’19

Kathryn E. Young ’19
Majors: Journalism and Business Administration

Where did you intern this summer?

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tell us a little bit about that organization:

The Richmond Times-Dispatch is the primary newspaper in Virginia’s capital city. It has the second-largest circulation of any Virginia newspaper.

Describe your job there:

I worked as a business reporting intern. I pitched, researched and wrote stories on business-related happenings in Richmond and its surrounding counties. I wrote 42 articles over the course of my 10 weeks, including two Metro Business cover stories, four Sunday Business cover stories, seven A1 cover stories, and various daily business and metro stories. This internship was made possible by a Reynolds Business Scholarship.

What was the best story or project you worked on?

During my second week as an intern, I took to the skies in an airplane owned by CoStar, a company that focuses on real estate research. I flew above downtown Richmond, as well as surrounding counties, to learn more about the business and how they collect their research. We even flew above my high school, which was very cool. I wrote my first Metro Business cover story about the company. It was a unique experience to see my city from a new angle.

Who did you meet, such as a source, a story subject or a mentor, that made the most vivid impression on you – and why?

Another Sunday business cover story I wrote was about five local entrepreneurs from less fortunate backgrounds who worked for the opportunity to turn their livese around. Two of the five had a history of drug abuse, and another two spent time in prison. All five, thanks to a local nonprofit, are now small business owners. It was inspiring to learn how far they have come as a result of hard work and dedication.

When did you feel the most challenged and how did you meet that challenge?

Trying to work with public relations people from companies proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. At the end of the day, public relations people represent the company; they do not work for the media. As a result, they may not answer all questions, and may not respond in a timely fashion. As a result, I had to learn to be more persistent in my pursuit of answers, and had to learn how to ask the right questions.

Did anything about the location of your internship really excite you?

I am a Richmond native, so I was just really excited to live at home and spend time with my family!

Will this internship impact the direction of your career in any way?

It made me truly realize how much I love writing. I never quite knew what type of journalism was my calling, but I could see myself writing for a newspaper.

How did W&L help to prepare you for this opportunity?

My professors in the journalism department were incredibly helpful coming into this internship. Learning how to write well from Prof. Cumming in Journalism 201 was particularly useful. However, my extra-curricular experiences with the Ring-tum Phi and Rockbridge Report gave an extra boost to my interviewing skills and confidence when interviewing.

Did any particular grant or other funding, besides your personal funding, help pay for this opportunity? Reynolds Business Scholarship

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‘My Time in Thailand’ Shadowing surgeons in Thailand made neuroscience major Emily Ellis '18 even more excited about her chosen career path.

“Students who work or volunteer abroad have greater access to the culture and greater opportunity for meaningful relationships with community members, especially because they arrive with something to offer to the community rather than just something to learn.”

Emily Ellis ’19

Emily Ellis ’18
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Tell us a little bit about your summer opportunity:

I traveled to Thailand this summer and worked as a medical intern for one month. As a medical intern, I assisted with basic medical needs, observed doctor-patient interactions in the outpatient department, and viewed surgical procedures inside the operating rooms. I had a truly global experience, meeting doctors and patients from all over Asia and living with volunteers from 10 different countries. This experience was funded by a Johnson Opportunity Grant.

What did you enjoy most about the location?

My time in Thailand was divided between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Chiang Mai is a city with an incredibly relaxing atmosphere and easygoing pace of life. It is large enough to offer visitors anything they want but small enough for them to navigate. What I love most about Chiang Mai is the kindness and authenticity of the people.

Because of its size, Bangkok is initially intimidating and overwhelming, but the hospitable people and impressive infrastructure make it easier to tackle. After becoming accustomed to the bustling city, it is easy to enjoy everything it has to offer. What I loved most about Bangkok is its innovation, especially in the hospitals.

What did an average day for you look like?

I worked from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. At the hospital, I either completed rounds or observed surgeries. When completing rounds, I met the patients in my assigned department and learned the details of their cases. Sometimes, the patients spoke English well enough to tell me about the case themselves. When I was observing surgeries, the surgeons would explain the case and procedure as the patient was being prepped. Once the surgery began, the nurses helped me find the best view of the procedure. Occasionally, the surgeons asked me to scrub in. The surgeries ranged from 30-minute C-sections to 7-hour open heart or brain surgeries.

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?

I would not have the experience I had without the amazing individuals I encountered in Thailand. I formed lasting friendships with Thai coordinators and medical students as well as volunteers from from all over the world. We were united by our desire to learn about new cultures and found ourselves constantly discussing custom foods, holiday traditions, and current events in our native countries. With this exposure to a variety of new cultures, I improved my ability to identify cultural schemas and attribute cultural differences to these schemas as opposed to viewing one culture as superior to the other.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

It was difficult adjusting to the language barrier. The doctors and nurses had better English than I expected, but they got offended if I corrected their pronunciation or asked them to repeat their sentences. I learned it was usually best to smile and nod, then ask for clarification following the explanation.

There was one time when that was not the best approach. A surgeon was explaining a procedure to his medical students and me. He was speaking in English but suddenly looked at me and started speaking Thai. I simply smiled and nodded, but the surgeon continued repeating the phrase to me. As I continued to smile and nod, a medical student informed me that the surgeon was asking if I had a pen. For the past 30 seconds, I had unknowingly been answering yes but never reached to give him one.

Who has served as a mentor to you this summer, and what is the best thing they taught you?

I had several doctors and nurses serving as my mentors this summer, and while each one provided me with a wealth of medical knowledge, I most appreciate their direction on how to act appropriately in a new culture. By imitating their behavior, I could act professionally, receive more responsibility, and recognize cultural differences in technique and conduct.

What have you learned at W&L that helped you in this endeavor, and what will you bring back to your life on campus?

In addition to the medical background I learned with my W&L curriculum, W&L prepared me for the type of culture I would encounter in Thailand. There is a reason Thailand is called the Land of Smiles. The people are exceptionally friendly and considerate. I could not help but notice the similarities between our warm W&L community and the compassionate communities in Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I particularly valued their willingness to help, their appreciation for my attempt at speaking Thai, and the interest they showed in my story.  I hope to carry the endless smiles and cheerful energy to W&L so that I can become even better acquainted with our community during my last year.

Has this experience impacted your studies or future plans in any way?

Not only did this experience validate my desire to practice medicine, it gave me insight into which departments I want to pursue in the future. As a neuroscience major, I have always considered neurology or neurosurgery, and after observing several complex neurosurgeries, I am even more swayed, but I also have a new love for cardiology after watching two incredible open-heart surgeries.

Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?

Any type of abroad experience can offer opportunities for personal growth and broadened perspectives, but working abroad is unique in that it places students directly alongside foreign community members. As a result, students who work or volunteer abroad have greater access to the culture and greater opportunity for meaningful relationships with community members, especially because they arrive with something to offer to the community rather than just something to learn. If nothing else, working abroad advances future career opportunities by providing individuals with incredible professional experience and perspective.

Describe your summer adventure in one word:


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Related //

Kiki Spiezio ’18 Awarded Clinton Scholarship The William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship will allow Spiezio to attend the American University in Dubai during Winter Term 2018.

“Dubai is the perfect place to inform a lot of my different interests, from urban development to art to wealth inequality to globalization.”

Kiki Spiezio ’18

Katrina “Kiki” Spiezio ’18 is the latest Washington and Lee University student to receive the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship, which will allow her to attend the American University in Dubai (AUD) during Winter Term 2018.

Spiezio is the fourth W&L student to receive a scholarship from the Clinton Presidential Foundation, which has partnered with AUD to provide funding for up to 10 American students per semester. The scholarship covers tuition and housing, and is intended for those with no previous exposure to Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures.

While in Dubai, Spiezio plans to take six classes toward a Certificate in Middle Eastern Studies from AUD. As of the end of Fall Term 2017 at W&L, she has completed degrees in Politics and Business Administration, with minors in Studio Art and Poverty and Human Capability Studies. She will walk in Commencement in May 2018.

“I am so excited to win this scholarship because I have been looking forward to applying for it since the middle of my junior year, and it was one of the major factors in my decision to delay graduation,” Spiezio said. “While I’ve had many short experiences abroad, I’m looking forward to spending a full four months in one place though I will also try to travel some once I get to Dubai. It’s also the perfect place to inform a lot of my different interests, from urban development to art to wealth inequality to globalization.”

Spiezio said she has long been interested in visiting the Middle East and learning more about the culture there. That fascination began with a visit to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C. when she was a sixth grader and expanded as she spent time with Arab and Muslim friends, and read more about the region in the news.

“As a politics and business dual degree candidate, I am also fascinated by Dubai’s unique development story,” she said. “By spending time in Dubai myself, I thought that I would be able to learn more than I ever could from secondary sources.”

Spiezio has been a stand-out student at Washington and Lee, where she has been a Bonner Scholar and co-founder of FLIP, an organization that provides support for first-generation, low-income students. She has also been president of ODK (2016), an Owings Fellow, and a Lead Class Agent for the Class of 2017 (her original class), among many other activities.

In addition, Spiezio was a Summer Research Scholar, studying gerrymandering and voter redistricting with professors Mark Rush and Paul Kuettner, and she is a past recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship, as well as the Gilman Scholarship.

“Kiki is a remarkable young woman who has taken full advantage of everything W&L has to offer and more: academics, student groups, extra-curricular activities, experiences and internships off campus and abroad, and seeking out and applying for fellowships. She is a student leader extraordinaire,” said Professor Gwyn E. Campbell, associate dean of the College. “She richly deserves the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship to the American University in Dubai, where she will gain a significant additional perspective for her future work in public policy.”

Big Stories in the Small City As a general assignment intern at The Roanoke Times, Rachel Hicks '19 learned how to be firm with difficult sources.

“Quite honestly, all I want to do is write, so any form of writing, as long as it’s helping people in some way, is what I want to do.”

Rachel Hicks ’19 (far left) interviews the head chef of a new brewery as part of her summer internship at The Roanoke Times. Photo by Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times.

Hometown: Mableton, Georgia
Major: Journalism
Minor: Russian

Where did you intern this summer?

The Roanoke Times

Tell us a little bit about that organization.

The Roanoke Times is Southwest Virginia’s main newspaper. It’s published by Berkshire Hathaway and began publication in 1886.

Describe your job there.

I was a general assignment reporter and got to write about many topics, from a retired nurse who survived five brain tumors to the Miss Virginia pageant. An Alex Jones Scholarship helped to fund my internship.

What was the best story or project you worked on?

There’s a girl with spinal muscular atrophy who lives in Botetourt County, whose parents are raising money to build an all-access playground in Daleville for children with or without disabilities. Kids with mobility issues will be able to play next to their friends. Also, the little girl with SMA wasn’t supposed to live past the age of two, but she’s eight now, and very content with her life. She’s in third grade at Greenfield Elementary and Skypes into class three times a week.

Who did you meet, such as a source, a story subject or a mentor, that made the most vivid impression on you – and why?

Jeff Sturgeon, a reporter at the Roanoke Times, taught me to stop smiling and laughing every time I talk to people. He showed me how to be direct and pressing when I need information or am on deadline. Now, I understand that even if I’m not pleasing the person I’m trying to get information from, I will help the public by doing something with the information I receive.

When did you feel the most challenged and how did you meet that challenge?

I had to stand my ground to get a public document from Lead Safe Roanoke. They wouldn’t give me the paperwork containing their application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development even though it was by law a public document. I had to read up on the law and educate them that they were obligated to give it to me in the next five days, whether it made their program look bad or not. To be honest, I almost cried, because I’m a people-pleaser and hate upsetting people, but I stuck to the truth and kept my shoulders back and got the information I needed in the end, and I earned respect both from the Lead Safe staff and the reporters at the Times.

Did anything about the location of your internship really excite you, such as the food, architecture, outdoors, etc.?

I got to meet a lot of locals in Roanoke, and they were all sweet, down-to-earth, and outdoorsy. We went hiking several times to the Cascades, and running on the Greenway, which runs alongside the Roanoke River. It was fun to assimilate to the small city, and I could actually see myself living here in the future for a short period of time. If you visit Roanoke, try the new Atlas Chocolate café. It’s quite lovely – they serve coffee drinks, gelato, and have a large assortment of chocolates.

Will this internship impact the direction of your career in any way?

I loved working for news, so I know that I’d be happy working for a paper in the future. Maybe even a newspaper in a smaller city. I always dreamed of writing for a big-city newspaper, but I think I’d be happy working somewhere smaller, too. Quite honestly, all I want to do is write, so any form of writing, as long as it’s helping people in some way, is what I want to do.

How did W&L help to prepare you for this opportunity?

Professor Coddington really prepared me through Journalism 201. That class was stressful, but when it was over I felt like I could write anything under pressure, including the crucial details. People at the paper were surprised by how quickly I was able to draft articles and they were impressed by the content, so thank you, Professor Coddington!

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

The Art of Movement A three-month internship with New York-based artist Taryn Simon presented Sara Dotterer '18 with myriad possibilities for her future career.

“Most of all, W&L encourages you to be a sociable, curious person.”

— Sara Dotterer ’18

Sara Dotterer ’18
Hometown: Richmond, Virginia
Majors: Anthropology and Studio Art

How did you end up in a summer internship with New York artist Taryn Simon?

I knew I wanted to work in New York and explore options in the art world in either a gallery, studio or museum. Last summer, a high school friend worked at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, the gallery that represents Taryn. At Gagosian, he befriended a previous intern of Taryn Simon Projects, and connected me to the studio through her. I sent her studio a letter of interest along with my resume, and then completed a meticulous research assignment to be considered. The assignment asked that I locate the 1981 Presidential Finding signed by Reagan that authorized covert aid to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. I found that the finding did not exist and, instead, discovered other documents that were relevant to this time in Reagan’s presidency. I presented my research in a succinct report, and they invited me to work for the studio for a three-month internship.

So it was a trick question?

It wasn’t necessarily a trick assignment. Taryn investigates and answers seemingly impossible questions; in her work, she pursues the unknown, and in turn, reveals hidden truths. I ended up finding a different document that answered the same question, and found out why it was for a different year.

What was the specific focus of your work with her, and how is it connected to your course of study at W&L?

To my friends and family, I’m often known to misplace everything. I tend to be a generalist, and am often disinterested in perfecting tiny details. But this summer, the focus of my work was precision and investigation. I had to check everything five times over, keep track of every detail in each assignment, and record everything I did. Whether researching or organizing, I learned to investigate and exhaust a problem before coming up with a solution. All of these methods have changed how I work on campus. I appreciate the ways in which this internship has informed a more systematic approach to my own research and artwork. Taryn’s work expanded my view of the possible artistic manifestations of an idea– from photographs to text to performance to book making.

Tell us about an average day on the job, if there was such a thing.

No day was the same at Taryn Simon’s studio. One day I was organizing archival materials, another day I was running books to other artists’ studios (a highlight was touring Cecily Brown’s studio). Throughout the summer, I built a fundamental knowledge of not only the inner workings of a well-established artist’s studio, but also a general overview of the contemporary art world. To be more specific, I experienced the day-to-day happenings within a studio– including getting the mail and disposing of boxes, phone calls and meetings, book editing and photo printing. On a macro scale, I have a better grasp of the fluctuations of the art market; partnerships between galleries and artists; the variety of art fairs that exist internationally; museum commissions; and the realities of being an artist (and specifically, a female artist) in today’s world.

What did you learn about being a female artist in today’s world?

I learned that the top artists are men. When art consultants offer ideas to their clients about the top artists, they first name the top male artists: Koons, Hirst, Basquiat, Pollock, the list goes on. Most exhibitions centered around one artist are by men; galleries often represent more men than women. This makes it increasingly difficult for female artists’ work to be presented at international art fairs such as Art Basel or Frieze. There has been lots of headway in recent years, and I believe artists like Taryn, Yayoi Kusama, Marina Ambravonic, and others are progressing women’s presence in the art world even more.

What did you find most fulfilling about the experience? 

Experiencing life in New York City for three months was the most exciting part of the experience. I worked on my own anthropological/art-based research project with the Leyburn Scholars Program in Anthropology (pedestrian movement as it is influenced by the smartphone) while I was there, and spent every Friday walking through the city with my video camera. I filmed pedestrians all over the city, and discovered so many hidden corners, parks and neighborhoods that way.

At the studio, Taryn’s pieces inspired me to critically analyze a variety of systems that our society has created to navigate the world around us, including systems of power and justice and methods of classification. For example, her series Paperwork and the Will of Capital looks at powerful world leaders through the lens of beautiful and delicate flowers. She photographed flower arrangements present at the signing of many different international treaties and agreements, and paired each photo with a biographical description of the event. I appreciate this newfound interest that I have in considering these systems, and using the systems as a means to satisfy curiosities, dispel anxieties and better understand the complexities of our world.

What was the most challenging aspect of it, and how did you overcome that challenge?

It was intimidating to work for an artist so respected and successful in the international world of art, especially in New York’s competitive and chaotic environment. Another issue was knowing when to ask for help and when to find my own solution. A lot of my assignments were self-designed or self-imposed based on a meeting I had with the studio manager at the start of the summer. I eventually learned to speak up and ask for work, and if I finished early, I left early. It took some time to build confidence, but I think that will be a lot easier in my next work environment.

What did you like most about spending time in New York City?

Every day, I stepped out of my apartment and was instantly invigorated by the energy and people of the city. There is a sort of organized entropy in the choreography of pedestrians of NYC that never failed to entrance me while filming for my research. I rarely ever sat down, and I used every day I wasn’t working to visit museums, parks, libraries, restaurants, concerts and shows. The public art that pervades the city constantly inspired me as I was creating my own art. I can’t wait to be back there!

How did your education at W&L impact your summer adventure?

Most of all, W&L encourages you to be a sociable, curious person. This emphasis on building relationships created more depth in my conversations with the studio managers, and allowed me to hear their personal opinions of working in art world. W&L teaches you to be honest, hardworking, up-front and detail-oriented. I believe all of these characteristics stood out to the studio in comparison to past interns. Privacy is very important at the studio, and it was funny how often I was reminded to keep things to myself, as they had no idea that is a given at W&L. In the copy-editing process for Taryn’s newest book, I caught a few errors that my manager didn’t see after reading the book over and over again. I definitely relied on my business classes in Excel and marketing to do my work in a more efficient manner.

Do you think the internship will change your future plans in any way?

I was hoping to cross a few things off my list in terms of what I wanted to pursue after school. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I think this summer expanded this list. I learned about careers in art production, arts nonprofits, fundraising, branding, landscape architecture, digital marketing and more. I met with a lot of alumni in the arts and marketing, and as of now, my goal is to be back in NYC or abroad after school– but who knows what I will be doing.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

Hitting All the Right Notes An internship at Warner Music Group in Nashville allowed Mary-Michael Teel '18 to marry her two loves: music and communications.

“Our school instills a strong work ethic and drive in students, and I applied that mindset throughout my internship. Whether it’s staying at the office late or going out of your way to help another employee, the little things can show how much you care.”

Mary-Michael Teel ’18

Major: Strategic Communication

Where did you intern this summer?

Warner Music Nashville

Tell us a little bit about that organization:

WMN is the country music division of Warner Music Group, and the label represents artists such as Blake Shelton, Brett Eldredge and Hunter Hayes.

Describe your job there:

I interned in the Publicity Department. The department’s job is to coordinate press for artists, whether it’s print, online or TV. My main roles were compiling press clips and pitching tour press. I also helped with any events that the department coordinated, such as press days or shows at the label.

To compile clips, I looked through online and print outlets and noted any time an artist on our roster was mentioned. I kept track of these clips on spreadsheets separated by artist. Gathering clips is an important way to track the success of Publicity’s efforts. These clip reports are sent to the artists and their teams to show the amount of coverage received.

Pitching tour press was my major project of the summer. I coordinated tour press for all dates of six different artists’ tours. I researched local press outlets and contacts, then pitched and followed up with them to secure interviews, TV appearances and show reviews.

What was the best story or project you worked on?

I enjoyed working at events such as press days because it allowed me to see how publicists interact with reporters and artists at the same time. On press days, reporters come to the label and interview the artist either one-on-one or round-table style. I learned how to coordinate interviews and appropriately treat reporters visiting the label. The most important part of publicity is maintaining relationships with reporters. Through watching the Publicity Department at work and helping at press events at the label, I gained networking skills and insight on proper reporter/publicist etiquette.

Who did you meet, such as a source, a story subject or a mentor, that made the most vivid impression on you – and why?

All the employees at Warner were incredibly kind, supportive and helpful. It was a great experience to be part of a staff of people who are not only passionate about their jobs, but also about the company culture and the people around them. My boss, Victoria, was particularly influential. She and I have similar interests and backgrounds – we both went to small liberal arts schools and led our campus concert committees. She was always willing to answer my questions, not just about publicity, but about the music industry, job searching and networking. She also went out of her way to ask my opinion on things, which I appreciated because I truly felt valued in the department. It was also great to watch and learn from someone who is so talented at her job. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss, and I hope I get the chance to work with her again someday!

When did you feel the most challenged and how did you meet that challenge?

Tour press was the most challenging aspect of my job. I had hundreds of dates and cities to keep track of for the pitching schedule. I also had to coordinate with the outlets and artists’ management teams to nail down the details for interviews and appearances. While I was overwhelmed at first, I eventually developed a system that worked for me. I created a color-coded calendar to keep track of which dates I needed to pitch and follow up with, along with separate spreadsheets for each tour date that included any updates from the outlets. Once I utilized my organizational skills and got into the swing of things, it was much easier to handle.

Did anything about the location of your internship really excite you, such as the food, architecture, outdoors, etc.?

WMN is on Music Row in Nashville, which holds so much history in the music industry. It was amazing to drive to work every day on the same road that so many music legends once walked up and down with their demos, trying to get their big break. Being around that much music and history excited me more than anything.

Will this internship impact the direction of your career in any way?

I’ve always wanted to work in music, and this internship made me even more confident in my career choice. Not only did I learn about music publicity, but I also learned about how the industry works as a whole. This included the roles of other departments at the label and how they collaborate, as well as how labels coordinate with managers and booking agencies. I believe the most valuable takeaway from my internship is a better understanding of the overall industry to help guide me on my career path. I also fell in love with Nashville and hope to move back after graduation!

How did W&L help to prepare you for this opportunity?

Through my classes at W&L, especially those in the journalism school, I have learned how to write and communicate effectively and succinctly. This was especially important in pitching over email or phone, because I only had a few moments to convince someone the artist was worth covering. However, the most important thing I gained from W&L is the motivation to succeed. Our school instills a strong work ethic and drive in students, and I applied that mindset throughout my internship. Whether it’s staying at the office late or going out of your way to help another employee, the little things can show how much you care.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

Better Business in Boston Katrina Lewis' business reporting internship took her to the Boston Business Journal, where she covered real estate news and development.

Katrina Lewis ’19

Katrina Lewis ’19
Major: Business Journalism

Where did you intern this summer?

Boston Business Journal

Tell us a little bit about that organization:

The Boston Business Journal is one of more than 40 American City Business Journals. It covers all kinds of business news happening in Greater Boston, from real estate and banking to health care and technology. The BBJ publishes stories online daily and releases a print edition once a week. This internship was made possible by Reynolds Business Journalism funding.

Describe your job there:

I worked as an editorial intern for the BBJ three days a week for 11 weeks. I wasn’t assigned to cover one specific beat, so I was able to get experience writing about lots of different industries. Most of my time was spent writing stories, but I also got to attend a couple of big company events, including award ceremonies for Best Places to Work and CFOs of the Year.

What was the best story or project you worked on?

The biggest story I worked on was a story discussing the better business movement in Boston. I talked with about a dozen people involved with B Corps and benefit corporations to learn about what their businesses were doing to give back. My story ran as the cover story for our print edition during the second-to-last week of my internship, which was definitely one of the highlights of my internship.

Who did you meet, such as a source, a story subject or a mentor, that made the most vivid impression on you – and why?

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work alongside W&L alumna Catherine Carlock ’10, who is the real estate editor for the BBJ. Catherine was very welcoming and always willing to help, and it was great to be able to talk with her about W&L and all our time spent in Reid Hall. Catherine also noticed that I enjoyed writing real estate stories, so she gave me extra real estate stories to write and included me in what she was working on by letting me accompany her to different meetings and property tours.

When did you feel the most challenged and how did you meet that challenge?

As is often the case when writing stories with multiple sources, the most challenging part was working around sources’ schedules. I had a good deal of experience working with sources from Beat Reporting, but it can still be frustrating waiting on a source without whom you can’t move forward.

What did you enjoy most about the location of your internship?

I live in central Massachusetts, so getting to spend more time in Boston learning about my state capital was a great experience. Boston is also definitely in a boom period right now, so there was never a dull moment in terms of new projects being announced for the city.

Will this internship impact the direction of your career in any way?

I learned that I enjoy writing about residential and commercial real estate, so that’s something I’ll be looking into more as I apply for another internship for this coming summer.

How did W&L help to prepare you for this opportunity?

I completed Beat Reporting right before starting my internship, and that kind of writing and deadline experience helped me to work efficiently when I was juggling several stories. Also, on a more fundamental level, I used what I learned in Intro to Reporting every time I wrote when I was deciding on how to order my story. Lastly, working as one of the news editors for The Ring-tum Phi helped me edit my stories and avoid AP style errors.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

Falling for Filmmaking Working for the documentary filmmaking company Ark Media allowed Claire Hoffert '18 to exercise her research muscles and learn new skills.

“W&L’s education taught me how to learn easily and become an expert at something new.”

Claire Hoffert ’18

Claire Hoffert ’18
Major: Strategic Communication
Minor: Poverty and Human Capability Studies

Where did you intern this summer?

Ark Media

Tell us a little bit about that organization:

Ark Media is a documentary filmmaking company in Brooklyn. It is one of the leading producers of nonfiction content in the U.S., and its documentaries have been honored with every major industry award. Through films like “Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise” and “Oklahoma City,” and the television series “Finding Your Roots,” Ark Media is dedicated to telling stories that are educational and that promote social justice.

Since my internship was largely unpaid, providing only a small daily stipend, I wouldn’t have been able to have this internship without the Johnson Scholarship.

Describe your job there:

I was a pre-production intern on “Finding Your Roots,” where I assisted by researching a few of the episodes, finding compelling stories and assembling production materials. I was a part of almost the whole pre-production process for one guest’s portion of the series, from the start to the second draft of the script.

What was the best story or project you worked on?

While I can’t divulge specifics about episodes that have not yet aired, one of my favorite stories was of a Union captain in the Civil War. He was one of the commanding officers at a Union prison and testified against his superior for brutality against Union deserters. After I found the story through research online, we sent a researcher to the National Archives to find the court transcript. It was a particularly compelling story because a historian we had called said it was very unusual for there to be court trials involving Union prisons, since it was the winning side in the war. Our guest’s ancestor was the first witness in the trial and described the violence in vivid detail.

Who did you meet, such as a source, a story subject or a mentor, that made the most vivid impression on you – and why?

I loved getting to speak with historians and other sources on the phone, and I had many supportive coworkers, but one of the executive producers made the most vivid impression on me. After I asked how she started her career in documentaries, she told me that she didn’t regret it for a second. She said that you’re constantly learning through documentaries and are able to tell compelling stories that have an impact on people.

When did you feel the most challenged and how did you meet that challenge?

One of our guests had an ancestor that went back to the 1600s in North America. We were trying to build up a story on him, but needed the original documents to prove it. Through my research, I knew the documents had existed at one point, but it was difficult to figure out where they would be located and whether we could find them. Through diligent research, I found enough of them to fill out our story.

Did anything about the location of your internship really excite you?

After growing up in a town half the size of Lexington, I’ve always wanted to live in New York. The city has so many great opportunities to experience performers, athletes, chefs, etc. at the top of their game. The second weekend I was there, my friend and I went to a free beach volleyball tournament with Olympic athletes on the Hudson Pier. A few weeks after that, I attended a show with Patti LuPone. We had so many opportunities to experience life in New York beyond our internships.

Will this internship impact the direction of your career in any way?

This internship impacted me because it was a great chance to go through the pre-production process, work with a team and imagine myself in this role. It is such a strong possibility for my career. I’ve learned that I love filmmaking and could see myself branch out in similar areas where I could use this experience.

How did W&L help to prepare you for this opportunity?

W&L helped prepare me by teaching me how to learn and to research thoroughly and accurately. I had to figure out how to navigate different databases in my internship and do research that I wasn’t accustomed to, as well as track down specific types of production materials. For example, I now know much more about sheets of glass than I ever need to know. W&L’s education taught me how to learn easily and become an expert at something new.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.