My W&L: Lindsey Purpura ’15
“A large part of my personal growth has stemmed from my involvement with W&L athletics.”
I remember my introduction to field hockey clearly. We were at my grandparents’ house, a home situated on a lagoon with a gravel yard and concrete driveway. There was little room for non-water-related sports, yet my big sister and two cousins made their best effort to practice field hockey on the paved cul-de-sac in front of the house. I watched them, confused as to why they wanted to stand on the black tar when the pool was only ten feet away, and offended that those strange wooden sticks could keep their attention better than I could. I went to my first field hockey camp the following summer. Maybe it was a classic case of copy-my-big-sister, maybe I wanted to master the sport that took their attention from me and the pool that summer day — I’ll never know exactly what drove me to pick up field hockey, but given the experiences and opportunities that my involvement with the sport has afforded me, I’ll never regret that decision.
After almost ten years of playing field hockey, I knew it would influence my college decision. I aimed to attend a school that would allow me to continue playing the sport I love while pursuing my academic interests in a rigorous setting. I was introduced to W&L when my sister started at VMI, and decided to take a tour when I visited for family weekend because… why not?
I had virtually no background knowledge of the university, but knew when I saw a student drop his backpack in Canaan Green and continue walking without a second thought that I wanted to attend W&L. Fast-forward five years, and I know that I made the correct decision for my future when I decided to come here. What I love most about W&L is our sense of community and the investment that every community member puts into each other. I credit the people I have met along the way for the personal growth I have experienced in the last four years.
I couldn’t list all of the people who have made my experience at W&L what it has been, but a large part of my personal growth has stemmed from my involvement with W&L athletics. I owe much of this growth to my coach, Wendy Orrison, who pushed me to be a more vocal leader and take more responsibility for my actions on the field. This lesson is one that has readily transferred to my life off the field. Outside of field hockey, my involvement with the Generals Leadership Academy helped prepare me to be a captain as well as a more effective communicator, team member and group contributor. Being involved with GLA allowed me to interact with leaders across all of our teams on campus and build relationships with other coaches, namely Coach Abell and Coach Diamond O’Brien, who never forgot to wish us luck in our games or ask how they went. This was a very unique athletic experience that allowed for growth beyond my team affiliation, and one that I will carry into my future after college athletics.
My involvement with W&L athletics also led to the relationships that many athletes cherish — our relationships with the men behind the scenes who give selflessly to our programs, namely Baner, Tommy and Eddie. All three of these men have shown me the true meaning of dedication and the importance of building relationships with the people who are the foundation of a program. Any athlete can recall a preseason speech from Baner and knows how passionate he is about his family here at W&L. This mentality is one that Baner has instilled in me, and I will never forget. Graduating from W&L is bittersweet. I know I am prepared for the next phase of my life, but will miss being able to walk across campus and see the faces of people who have helped me grow into the person I am today — the people who have come to be my W&L family.
My field hockey career, then, starts and ends with family. It started with my sister and two cousins on a hot summer day, and ends here in Lexington with a much larger and non-biological family. I believe that almost every Washington and Lee student has a comparable experience in which their involvement on campus helps to build their W&L family. Talk to any student and I’m sure they can tell you where their W&L family stems from. Mine stems from athletics, and for that, I am grateful to those strange wooden sticks that stole the attention that summer day.
Hometown: Yarmouth, Maine
- Varsity Field Hockey, Captain
- Generals Leadership Academy, Graduate of 2014
- Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology
- R.E. Lee Summer Research Scholar
- JubiLee a capella group
- Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority
- Rho Gamma Recruitment Advisor
- Fancy Dress Steering Committee
- Spring 2014 & 2015 Lexington Youth Lacrosse Coach
Post-Graduation Plans: Starting this July, I will pursue my Ph.D. in Cognition, Perception, and Cognitive Neuroscience at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Favorite W&L Memory: The field hockey preseason trip this year. We traveled to Memphis, Tennessee and played four games in five days. It was a really special experience to spend that time with the team focused on our opening games before classes even started. We got to spend a lot of quality time together, and we toured St. Jude’s Children Hospital and the National Civil Rights Museum. It was a busy, exhausting trip, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Favorite Class: Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination with Dr. Woodzicka. The class was a small seminar class with mostly psychology majors and some poverty minors. I loved the class not only for the content and discussions we had, but also because of the professor. Dr. Woodzicka is incredibly passionate about her research and she spreads her passion to her students. Plus, she’s hilarious.
Favorite W&L Activity: Call me crazy, but when I look back at the past four years some of my fondest memories are of preseason. Coming back to Lexington for preseason, seeing all of my teammates, and meeting the incoming players was always one of the most exciting times of the year. The following two weeks of fitness tests, two-a-days, and ice baths were exhausting and painful but one of the greatest bonding experiences between a group of twenty individuals you can ever have. I’ll definitely be missing my teammates this coming August when I know they are taking the field in the hot and humid Virginia weather.
Favorite Campus Landmark: The field hockey turf field. That is where my W&L experience started when I was a junior in high school attending our summer clinic. The view from the field is something we frequently comment on at practice and a point of pride when we host games. That view, particularly, Washington’s statue silhouetted against the Blue Ridge Mountains is part of what made me fall in love with W&L. Besides, with the amount of blood I have left on that field, it’s practically part of me.
Why did you choose W&L? My journey to W&L was somewhat different from most. My family ties in Lexington are actually all to VMI with my aunt having grown up in Lexington and on post and my uncle having attended VMI. I hadn’t even heard of W&L until my sister chose to attend VMI my sophomore year of high school. I decided to tour campus when I was down visiting my sister for family weekend at VMI and knew I wanted to attend W&L after one visit.
What professor has inspired you? Dr. Whiting. I didn’t know Dr. Whiting when I chose to switch to a psychology major, but luckily signed up for his intro class out of interest and knew immediately that I wanted to pursue research similar to his own. The majority of my research experience is from my work in his Attention Lab and I will be joining an Attention Lab at UCSB as I pursue my Ph.D. Dr. Whiting was an instrumental guide as I navigated the graduate school application process and I owe a large part of my success to his guidance and support.
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Don’t be afraid to change your mind. I remember the day that I called home to tell my parents that I was switching my major. The entire decision process lasted roughly ten minutes and I felt immediate relief and excitement to pursue a field that I truly wanted to dive into and learn as much as I could about. I am beyond excited for my potential future in research and can only imagine the reaction my freshmen year self would have if you told me what I would be doing post-graduation.