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Meet the Johnsons: Harry Lustig ’17

“I came to W&L for the education, and I received so much more. W&L fuels the desire for a lifetime of integrity, honor, leadership, and learning.”

Meet Harry Lustig ‘17, a scholar-explorer who’s hiked everywhere from the Blue Ridge to Alaska.

Q: How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

I first read about the scholarship on the University’s website and later heard more details during my first college visit in high school. I learned as much as I could about the scholarship because I knew that I would not be able to attend W&L without it.

Q: Were you considering other colleges when you applied to W&L?

I wanted to be in Virginia, so I was seriously considering the University of Virginia as well.

Q: Why did you ultimately choose W&L?  

Washington and Lee was always my first choice, so the decision was rather easy once awarded the scholarship. The University’s rich history and its iconic columns were impressive; however, it was the students, faculty, and administrators I met on the very first visit that made me want to return. The “let’s get down to work” attitude solidified my feeling that W&L was right for me. When I further explored the direction of my academic path, it made perfect sense to combine environmental studies with geology and business administration – something that would have been near impossible at a larger university. I knew that the academic and extracurricular diversity at W&L would make for an ideal blend of growth opportunities for me.

Q: How has the Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity – or on academics?

I came to W&L for the education, and I received so much more. W&L fuels the desire for a lifetime of integrity, honor, leadership, and learning. W&L’s mission is not fulfilled unless it captures this essence within its students and uses all its resources to guide the direction of their lives. There was no one class, no one professor, no one club that told me to lead my life in one way. It was the seemingly effortless combination of viewpoints, experiences, and relationships that created the growth environment that is characteristic of W&L.

Q: What is your favorite story about your W&L experience – if you had to pick one

The summer after my first year, a buddy and I received W&L’s Kendrick Scholarship, which funds outdoor trips involving introspection and exploration. We used the money to fund a cross-country road trip to hike the 210-mile John Muir Trail in the High Sierras of California. I’ll carry that experience with me forever, and we have the Kendrick Fund to thank!

Harry Lustig on the John Muir Trail

Q: Do you have a mentor on campus? Faculty, staff, or another student?

My “all-purpose” mentor would have to be James Dick, W&L’s Director of Outdoor Education. You get to know someone very well after hiking in the wilderness for extended Outing Club trips! James has always been supportive, intuitive, and uplifting. Not every University is blessed with someone as spirited and genuine as James. His “zaniness” is contagious and his impact on the students is unbounded. James is not only my mentor; he is a true friend.

Q: What extra-curricular are you involved in right now that you are extra passionate about? Club, sports, off-campus organizations, service organization, work study?

I have had the unique opportunity to help develop and manage a leadership program for the University called the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program. The program is founded on the idea that there is no cookie cutter leader – different leadership strategies work for different people in different situations. The program is designed to facilitate the development of personal awareness and practical leadership skills through experiential and service-learning initiatives. It was also a natural fit for me to become involved in the Outing Club. Through the club, I have led pre-orientation trips for first-year students, hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and explored many western National Parks. As a participant and a Key Staff, I have been able to camp, hike, paddle, and raft all around the Appalachian Mountains.

Q: What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

I smile when friends from other schools talk about our traditions here at W&L. Some scoff at Fancy Dress, Mock Convention, and the speaking tradition, calling them lame or overdone. But, these are the things we W&L students have all come to cherish… it is our own not-so-secret society that can take the best from the “old-school” traditions and dovetail them with present sensibilities.  

Q: If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to “first day on campus” you?

Prioritize friends, family, and experiences. Get out there as much as possible, and do cool things with new people. In James Dick’s words, “Enjoy college. It goes fast!” Above all else, be grateful for it all.

Q: If someone asked you “why choose W&L” – what is the one reason you would tell them?

Opportunities are everywhere, and if you are conscious of your commitments, they will help you develop into your best self in a place where you will always feel at home.

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

A little more about Harry

Hometown:
Virginia Beach, VA

Majors:
Business Administration and Geology – with an Environmental Studies minor

Extracurricular involvement:
Key Staff, Outing Club
– Team Manager, LEAD Program
– Appalachian Adventure Pre-O Trip Leader
– Venture Club Member

Off-Campus activities/involvement:
Volunteer Emergency Medical Technician
– Frequent hiking treks, rafting trips, and surfing/snowboarding adventures
– Extended Outing Club trips to Peru, Utah, and Arizona

Why did you choose your major?
When it came time to choose my major, I realized that almost every class I had taken out of personal interest fit the requirements for the Business, Geology, and Environmental Studies tracks. The decision was easy!

What professor has inspired you?
I met Dr. Lisa Greer during a campus visit my Senior year in high school. She invited me for a tour of the geology department, and her enthusiasm for her field work sparked my interest. Since then, Dr. Greer has been my valued academic advisor, and I even had the chance to conduct coral research with her in Belize. I remain grateful for her continued guidance and support.

What’s your personal motto?
“Get out there”

What’s your favorite song right now?
“Get Down On It” by Kool & the Gang. It has been my morning alarm tone since high school, and it starts every day on a rockin’ note!

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
Blue Phoenix Café, hands down. You can’t go wrong with any menu item, and their commitment to their ingredients, customers, and community is unparalleled. Get on over there.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
It’s near impossible to take advantage of every opportunity at W&L in four years, but make a plan and choose your activities wisely. Allow time for participation across departments, and fit in time for at least a few crazy adventures per term. And yes, you do have time.

Post-Graduation Plans:

Following a capstone Outing Club trek in Alaska, I will begin a position in investment banking in Richmond, VA. In the future, I will not be bound to geography or discipline, but I will continue to pursue passions in environmental work and sustainable resource development.

Favorite W&L Memory:
Coordinating Outing Club sunrise-sunset hikes in the Spring and at the start of each exam week. I’ll always remember soaking in the rays of first light while whipping up some mountain-top pancakes with good friends.

Favorite Class:
GEOL 105B: Coral Reefs – Past, Present, and Future. Swim, dive, study, repeat daily for two weeks in Belize. This was fieldwork in heaven with great people.

Favorite W&L Event:
As a participant my first year and a leader in subsequent years, the Pre-Orientation Appalachian Adventure hiking trips set the stage for the school year in the best way possible – with muddy hiking boots, clear minds, and lots and lots of zany memories with new friends. Can’t beat it.

Favorite Campus Landmark:

The Amphitheater – a constant reminder of the first warm spring days when students come out from hibernation and study under the sun.

What’s your passion?
The Outdoors. 80s Hits. Classic Rock. Mountain & Water Sports. Good Food. A Good Adventure… Combine for maximum result.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I danced for the W&L Dance Company my first year. I had attempted to encourage some friends to try out for the Dance Company with me, but they all backed out last minute. After some uncomfortable spins and painful twirls, I shockingly made the Company. I learned new skills and made some lifelong friendships along the way. As a complete newbie, it was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had at W&L, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Why did you choose W&L?
Location & Feel. As a wee boy scout, I had ventured up into the Blue Ridge Mountains to hike quite a bit, and I fell in love with the mountains around Lexington. When I toured W&L, I learned about the Outing Club, academic rigor, and the student life, and I knew it was the place for me.