The Columns

Meet the Johnsons: Harry Lustig ’17

— by on February 2nd, 2017

“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.