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Boetsch Addresses Opening Assembly of W&L Reunions

Facing a future that is increasingly complex and moving with often incomprehensible speed, today’s generation of college students must be prepared both to compete and to collaborate on a global scale.

That was the message that Laurent Boetsch, director of international education at Washington and Lee University, delivered as the keynote speaker at the University’s annual Alumni Weekend on Thursday, May 2, in Lee Chapel. The event features reunions for eight classes, including those celebrating their 50th reunion (Class of 1963) and 25th reunion (Class of 1988).

Also at the opening assembly, W&L’s Alpha Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, inducted seven new undergraduate members and recognized two honorary initiates — Peter J. Abitante, a 1978 W&L graduate and special assistant to the commissioner of the National Football League, and Steven G. McAllister, W&L treasurer and vice president for finance.

In his keynote address, Boetsch, a member of W&L’s Class of 1969, discussed W&L’s new global studies initiative, telling the alumni that “we are on the cusp of major societal transformation” on a global scale.

“When you or I sat in a classroom up in Payne Hall or fumbled around a lab over in Howe Hall, we were basically competing with our classmates from Houston or Long Island or Richmond or Memphis,” he said. “Today’s students in classrooms and labs in Lexington are competing with their peers in Moscow and Mumbai, Beijing and Amsterdam.

“The challenges that they confront will not be resolved by any one genius, any single discipline or any nation acting alone. Not only must our students learn to compete on a global scale, they also need to know how to collaborate with people who think, act, speak and view the world differently — and we must prepare them to do so.”

Explaining how the University has recently developed a blueprint for global studies, Boetsch said that the committee that created the new initiative concluded, first, that every international opportunity students have — from internships to study abroad to a trip to Italy with a musical group — is valuable but does not necessarily have the same value. The second conclusion, he said, was that regardless of the international experience, students can profit only if they are prepared to ask the right questions before they leave, are encouraged to immerse themselves when they are there, and have opportunities to articulate what they have learned when they return.

“It is essential that our students understand how time abroad fully complements their work and their lives on campus,” he said, “and we encourage them to build from one experience to the next with the goal of acquiring inter-cultural competence.”

Among the ways in which the University is now striving to make this work, Boetsch said, are changing the advising process from a single study-abroad advisor to include faculty, alumni and other students. In addition, those students who return from study abroad are invited to present poster sessions, photo essays and class presentations. Alumni who live and work abroad are now helping students to talk about their experiences in ways that will helpful in seeking employment.

“In short, we are using the breadth of our resources to integrate, not separate, a valuable global learning tool,” Boetsch said. “With what we hope to accomplish through our global learning initiative, we are confident that W&L students will be uniquely distinguished and will leave here among the most well-educated men and women . . . in the world.”

The ODK inductions were held prior to Boetsch’s keynote. The honorary initiates:

  • Peter J. Abitante, Tenafly, N.J., joined the NFL in 1978 as an assistant in the public relations department following a summer internship prior to his senior year at W&L. He moved into his current role in 2006, shortly after Roger Goodell was selected commissioner. Prior to that, he had held various positions in the league’s public relations department, including director of information for the American Football Conference and senior director of international public affairs, where he was the NFL’s primary contact for international media around the world. He also served as the league’s military liaison and helped lead five USO-sponsored player tours to Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2000, Abitante joined the board of the Boomer Esiason Foundation to assist in its mission of serving individuals with cystic fibrosis while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure.
  • Steve McAllister, treasurer and vice president for finance at W&L since 2002, received a B.A. in economics with a second major in business administration from Roanoke College in 1986 and an M.B.A. from Lynchburg College in 1997. He began his career at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in 1986, where he served as assistant to the director of business affairs and later as director of budget. From 1991–1993, he held the position of business manager. McAllister joined Washington and Lee as assistant treasurer in 1993. He later served as director of budgets and financial planning (1998–2000) and associate vice president for finance (2000–2002). He is co-chair of the University’s Budget Advisory Committee and serves on numerous other University committees. In addition, he is a past treasurer and president of Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity, former treasurer of Yellow Brick Road Childcare, and a former treasurer and president of the Lexington Downtown Development Association. He serves as president of the Rockbridge Regional Library Foundation and as treasurer of the Lexington/Rockbridge Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2010, he was a finalist for the Virginia Business Small Business CFO Award.

The juniors who were tapped into membership: Jennifer Bulley, an economics major from Gainesville, Ga.; William Michael Fulwider, an East Asian languages and literature major from Columbus, Va.; Caroline Hodges Gill, an economics major from Charlotte, N.C.; Nathan A. Kelly, a politics and economics double major from McKean, Pa.; Meredith Nicole Roberts, a psychology major from Sequim, Wash.; Angelica Tillander, an American history and politics double major from Mount Prospect, Ill.; and Greta Bradford Witter, an economics major from Houston.

ODK also presented the Rupert Latture Award, which recognizes the sophomore with the most leadership potential, to Katherine H. LeMasters, a global politics and economics double major from Abilene, Texas. It gave the James G. Leyburn Award, for community or campus leaders who provide exemplary service, to the Boxerwood Education Association.

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Jeffery G. Hanna
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