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My W&L: Cory Church ’15

“W&L has given me the resources and experiences that I need to continue my intellectual, professional, and emotional growth outside of Lexington.”

As a recipient of the Questbridge National College Match Scholarship, which awards full scholarships to premier universities to high-achieving students from low-income families, I come from a different socioeconomic background than those of many of my peers. Consequently, upon entering Washington and Lee University, I worried I would feel like an outsider. I could not have been more wrong. W&L has enabled me to grow in ways I never before imagined possible.

When I first registered for classes in the fall of my freshman year, I knew immediately that I planned to major in history. Coming into W&L I already possessed an affinity for the subject, but my time spent in the history department over the years has transformed that affinity into a genuine passion. Many of my fondest memories of W&L center on my time in the history department, and in particular with two professors, with whom I’ve formed truly special relationships. In my freshman year I was lucky enough to take a seminar on the first four American Presidents with Professor Holt Merchant, something of a living legend at W&L. Known for the menacing red pen with which he mercilessly marks student’s papers, Professor Merchant has singlehandedly done more than any other professor to hone my writing abilities. It is largely due to his instruction and knowledge that I now write with greater precision and grace (and without what he refers to as “purple gas”), a marketable skill that will translate seamlessly into my post-grad career path wherever it takes me.

One of the closest and most meaningful relationships that I’ve had the honor and privilege to form at W&L though has been with my academic advisor and mentor, Professor Ted DeLaney. I’ve taken more classes with both Merchant and DeLaney than I can even count anymore, and though it’s meant a heavy workload, I wouldn’t change it for the world. My time spent both in and out of the classroom with Professor DeLaney has enhanced both my intellectual growth, through the development of a passion for African American history, but also, and perhaps most importantly, my emotional and personal growth. I’ve spent countless hours in the offices of Professor DeLaney, whose door is always open, and learned as much from him outside of the classroom as in it. I’ve always felt comfortable talking with him about both academic and personal matters, and he has generously advised me every step of my college career. Both men are not only remarkable professors, but also remarkable human beings and I am proud to call them my mentors.

Though my time in the history department has been one of the true highlights of my college career, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention my job as student web director in the University Store. Having worked in the store part-time the entirety of my college experience and full-time the past two summers, it’s safe to say I’ve enjoyed my time there. The wonderful staff has become a second family to me, and the significant tasks and responsibilities allotted to me have provided me with invaluable professional experience. Some of my favorite memories of W&L come from my experiences in the store, and I can honestly say that one of the most difficult parts about leaving college will be leaving the staff to whom I’ve become so attached.

My favorite writer, William Faulkner, famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Nearing the completion of four unforgettable years at Washington and Lee, I find these words echoing in my mind. The time I’ve spent at W&L has been amazing, the professors I’ve learned from superb, and the relationships I’ve formed lasting and meaningful. Yet, it’s now time to move on. W&L has given me the resources and experiences that I need to continue my intellectual, professional, and emotional growth outside of Lexington. Though it’s undoubtedly bittersweet to leave “a place like no other,” Faulkner’s words ring true; I will carry with me the memories of my time at W&L throughout the rest of my life. For that I am eternally grateful.

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Hometown: Greensboro, North Carolina

Majors: American History and English

Minor: Africana Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Pi Kappa Alpha (Social Chairman)
  • Quest Scholars Chapter
  • Peer Tutor
  • University Store (Student Web Director)

Post-Graduation Plans: Teach For America.

Favorite W&L Memory: My fraternity’s annual formal at Snowshoe in my junior year.

Favorite Class: History 244: Military Leadership in the Civil War with Professor Holt Merchant.

Favorite Campus Landmark: Newcomb Hall

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you? My favorite types of music are hard rock and metal.

What professor has inspired you? It is so difficult to narrow a list of fantastic professors to just one, so I’ll cheat and say both Professor Ted DeLaney and Professor Holt Merchant in the History Department. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t add Dave Coffey, the Operations Manager for the University Store. Though he isn’t a professor in the traditional sense, Dave has been such a mentor to me over the course of my four years at W&L. I wouldn’t be where I am now without the constant guidance and encouragement of these three men.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? As clichéd as it sounds, pursue your passions at W&L, both in and out of the classroom. Don’t let anyone discourage you from doing or studying what you truly love just because small-minded people insist your choices are impractical.