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Family Gift Establishes Endowed Director for Environmental Studies Kathelen and Daniel Amos made the gift in memory of her son, John Kyle Spencer, a 2013 graduate of W&L. Professor Robert Humston will be the new director.

Professor Robert Humston

“It is easy to become overwhelmed by the damage history has inflicted on our landscapes. In his time at W&L, John learned about the ways we can work to conserve, protect and restore our natural systems, but he always saw the beauty and the potential first. ”

~ Professor Robert Humston

Washington and Lee University is expanding its popular interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program thanks to a generous gift from Kathelen V. Amos and Daniel P. Amos, in memory of her son, John Kyle Spencer, a 2013 graduate of W&L.

John Spencer ’13

The Amoses’ gift establishes a new tenure-track faculty position in the Environmental Studies Program, as well as the position of John Kyle Spencer Endowed Director for Environmental Studies. It will be held by Robert Humston, the current chair of the department and a mentor to Spencer during his time as a student. It is the first endowed directorship for an existing interdisciplinary program at W&L.

“This gift represents a marvelous opportunity for W&L to strengthen and support one of our most robust interdisciplinary programs,” said Provost Marc Conner. “The addition of a tenure-track faculty position and an endowed directorship strengthens the program, defines the leadership, and creates additional coursework, advising and research opportunities in an area in which our students have demonstrated profound and increasing interest.

“The gift also recognizes Robert Humston’s signal influence on John, and the family’s gratitude for his dedication to teaching and his support of W&L students,” Conner continued. “Thanks to this new endowment, faculty in Environmental Studies will have greater capacity to extend that kind of dedication to future generations of students.”

Spencer, who majored in both philosophy and environmental studies, died unexpectedly in January 2016. At the time of his death, he was a graduate student in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. He received his M.S. in ecology posthumously, in December 2016.

“It is easy to become overwhelmed by the damage history has inflicted on our landscapes,” said Humston. “In his time at W&L, John learned about the ways we can work to conserve, protect and restore our natural systems, but he always saw the beauty and the potential first. He sought to spend his life showing others that it is still possible for us to repair our relationship with the earth.

“I was very lucky to have known John and to connect with him during his time on campus,” Humston continued. “This endowment is a celebration of his experience at W&L and in environmental studies, and a gift to the students following in his footsteps. I am honored to have a role in that.”

The new endowment is one of two gifts to W&L that honor Spencer’s memory. Following his death, Spencer’s father, Tracy, established the John Spencer ’13 Memorial Fund for a permanent physical memorial to his son on campus. The fund, supported by over 50 family members, friends and classmates, underwrote the cost of a memorial plaque and an American beech tree from Spencer’s family farm, Sugar Hill Farm, in Yatesville, Georgia. The tree was planted on the front lawn of campus, near Newcomb Hall, in March.