Leading Lives of Consequence Hardin Marion ’55, ’58L and Carter Chandler ’23 discuss their W&L experiences.
This is the first installment in a six-part series where alumni and current students have candid discussions about the similarities and differences of their time at Washington and Lee. Watch their full conversation.
Why did you want to attend W&L?
Marion: I never looked anywhere else. I received a scholarship from W&L at my high school graduation. It was for only $100, and tuition then was about $400 a semester. That put me in touch with Dean Frank Gilliam, a legend in his time. He was then Dean of Admissions and Dean of Students; it’s taken a couple of hundred people to replace him at W&L today. Dean Gilliam helped me with the admissions process and saw to it that I received a full-tuition Menkemeller Memorial Scholarship.
Chandler: My first impression of the school came when I was dragged along on one of my older brother’s college trips. I remember finding the campus pretty, but not much else stuck with me. Later on, once I visited W&L on my own college search, I saw that W&L was exactly the sort of place I ought to be. I was able to join a class for a day and see firsthand the sort of individual attention students receive from their professors. Furthermore, the sense of trust and friendliness on campus was a significant draw. W&L eventually came to represent a place where I knew I would not become a face in the sea of people in a massive lecture hall. Instead, it would be a place where whatever academic goals and aspirations I had for myself I could pursue freely and fully. Once I figured that out, the decision essentially made itself.
What was one of your most memorable experiences at W&L?
Marion: I stayed for Law School, and in 1956 I served as secretary of the Mock Convention. Alben Barkley, former Vice President of the U.S. under Truman and a newly-elected U.S. Senator from Kentucky, was invited to give the keynote address. Doremus Gymnasium was decorated as the site of the Democratic Convention. As secretary, I was seated on the platform. Barkley gave a rip-snorting, fire-breathing sort of speech and then had a heart attack as he reached his conclusion. His final words were, “I would rather be a servant in the House of the Lord than sit in the seats of the mighty.” (I have since concluded that that sentence was his interpretation of a verse in one of the Psalms.) His arm swept away the radio microphones on the podium, and he collapsed right behind me. I held his head in my hands as he breathed his last three breaths.
Chandler: Too many memorable experiences come to mind, but overall, the time I have worked in the university’s Writing Center has been particularly formative to my development. I began as a tutor during my sophomore year working entirely online due to Covid, but I have worked my way to becoming the center’s head tutor, working each week in our fantastic new physical space in Leyburn Library. The opportunity to work with students across all disciplines on their writing projects has proved both personally fulfilling as well as a great way to improve my own writing. It has exposed me to new and different aspects of W&L’s community and allowed me to collaborate with some of our campus’s most intelligent and enthusiastic students.
What professor made a lasting impression and why?
Marion: Dr. Marshall Fishwick was my favorite professor. He was young and a great lecturer. With our all-male student body at that time, he could be bawdy at times, and he poked fun at students who brought their women’s college dates to his Saturday morning classes. He taught a freshman-year European history course, a sophomore-year sociology course, a junior-year fine arts course and a senior-year humanities course. I took them all, and loved the experience, except for the fact that Dr. Fishwick had me “pegged” as a C student, and I had to work to convince him that I should be receiving Bs.
Chandler: Dr. Nathaniel Goldberg started out as my professor in an introductory European philosophy class my first year and has since become my major advisor, my thesis advisor, and a huge driver of my intellectual development over the past four years. From the very beginning, Dr. Goldberg took a serious interest in my growth as a reader and writer of philosophy. I’ll never forget when I asked a question that Dr. Goldberg found to be particularly insightful during class discussions during my freshman year. Instead of simply saying, “Good question,” and moving on, he said “That’s a great question, Carter. Write an Honors thesis on it.” I had never considered writing a thesis. I was completely unsure of my major, but moments like this, where Dr. Goldberg showed a genuine interest in my personal development, were a force in helping me to become the student I am proud to be today. He has always been accessible and encouraging. He’s helped me to see so much in philosophy that I never would have without his influence. Three years have passed, and I am currently writing a thesis that began as a project in one of Dr. Goldberg’s philosophy of language classes.
How did W&L prepare you for your career and/or life?
Marion: I was the youngest member of my class, and I grew up at W&L. I learned to think, speak in public, and express myself in class. I learned to write persuasively. I learned to relate to my classmates and other colleagues. All of that led me to set out upon a career as an attorney, with a side interest in politics. Life has been very good for me, and it began here at W&L. I came here as a scholarship student, and I have been able since then to see my name and that of my wife engraved upon the honored benefactors’ wall in Washington Hall.
Chandler: A goal in my choice of majors was to do as much as I could to fully embrace the liberal arts education. I study cognitive and behavioral science (CBSC) and philosophy, and in doing so I have scrutinized the forces that make up our culture in ways that I never would have previously imagined. I’m grateful for the way in which my education has uprooted my worldview and re-formed it repeatedly.
I believe interpersonal communication is at the forefront of my W&L education, and I am confident this skill will serve me well, regardless of my future endeavors. Whether it’s the work I’ve done with the Honor System, as a tutor in our Writing Center, or simply communicating with professors and administrators, my ability to collaborate with others has grown over the course of my time at W&L.
Furthermore, large-scale projects such as my philosophy thesis and CBSC capstone have greatly improved my ability to be self-motivated. I recognize that, in life, I will often be faced with challenges for which there aren’t constant due dates and scaffolding, so I am grateful to have grown to a point where such challenges don’t intimidate me.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about attending W&L?
Marion: W&L has always been a fine school, from my time as a student until now, but it is much better today than in the 1950s. The biggest positive change has been the admission of women. The student body is terrific from top to bottom. The professors are terrific, and they demonstrate the care they have for educating students. It has the country’s best honor system. It has the country’s best mock convention every four years, a schedule that conveniently allows every student the opportunity to participate in one. W&L has encouraged me to play an active role as an alumnus. It has also allowed me to audit classes in my retirement, ever since I moved back here 22 years ago.
Chandler: I would urge anyone considering our school to expose themselves to as much of it as they can. The Shenandoah Valley is a fantastic place to be a college student. I would also urge prospective students not to undervalue the intangible aspects of the W&L experience, like the opportunity for lasting and personal relationships with professors.
Something that President Dudley said in a convocation address once has stuck with me through my four years at W&L, and I would love to have heard it before arriving here. “W&L is the type of place where the overwhelming majority of those associated with it are convinced that it’s the greatest place on earth.” Not much more can be said for a school than that.
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