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ODK Holds Spring Initiation for W&L Honorees University Provost Lena Hill addressed new members of ODK during their spring induction ceremony.

ODK-2024-600x400 ODK Holds Spring Initiation for W&L Honorees

Washington and Lee University’s Alpha Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK), the national leadership honor society, welcomed 51 new members during its spring induction ceremony on March 22.

Lena Hill, University Provost, delivered the keynote address and was inducted as an honorary ODK member. Hill joined Washington and Lee in 2018 as dean of the College and professor of English and Africana studies and was named provost in 2021.

Hill opened her address, titled “Leading with Grace and Understanding,” by remarking on the value W&L places on student leadership, and how every leader has a choice when it comes to selecting a leadership style. “We are all born with natural gifts, but it is up to each of us to determine the leadership traits we cultivate and lean into,” she said, explaining that leadership takes work and is not something you are born knowing how to do. She then set out to “advocate for cultivating grace” as the students develop as leaders and discussed how grace refers not just to a “beauty of movement or expression,” but a mark of character you can nurture and an action you can bestow on others.

And for Hill, “you could not be at a better university [than W&L] to learn to lead with grace,” not only because of the university’s core values of honor and civility, but because those who show grace to others have come to understand the “manifold reality of the human condition,” and this “work of understanding human complexity is the goal of a liberal arts education.” The liberal arts is a distinct educational philosophy because of its emphasis on self-understanding as a means to better comprehend human existence, and W&L takes this mission seriously in its focus on a compassionate and human-centered curriculum.

The type of liberal arts education that W&L embodies helps its students lead with grace, not least of all because of the emphasis on engaging with the ideas of thinkers across many disciplines. Hill offered examples of African American writers who have helped shape her own understanding of human complexity and grace, including Phillis Wheatley, W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr., and by sharing their words with the inductees, made a case for how engaging rich texts helps us understand grace in useful ways.

Hill closed her remarks by inviting the inductees to consider how young people have shaped recent history through their courageous and graceful leadership and encouraged them to be prepared to face consequential challenges with grace and understanding after they leave W&L.

“I urge you to get ready by cultivating grace, and to begin leading with the grace that comes from understanding human complexity,” she said. “For the good of this campus while you are here and for the good of the world after you leave, I exhort you to nurture graceful leadership.”

Following a resounding round of applause, the ceremony continued with the induction of six honorary and 45 student initiates into ODK, representing leaders from across campus and the greater Lexington community.

37 undergraduate students from the Class of 2024 and 2025 were tapped into ODK:

Class of 2024
• Emma Conover
• Jenni Ealer
• Martha Ernest
• Cami Fischmann
• Cole Gershkovich
• Jasmine Gipson
• Duncan Hart
• Catherine Hudson
• Jordan Jontz
• Gabriella Kogan
• John Lee
• Kayla Monaghan
• Jordynn Palethorpe
• Charlotte Peete
• Lily Petsinger
• Emma Robertson
• Elizabeth Sjovold
• Annie Thomas
• Tyler Waldman

Class of 2025
• Kristina Ayers
• Benjamin Bankston
• Janae Darby
• Mariam Drammeh
• Jorge Gomez
• Sophie Huber
• Jana Hulsey
• Avani Kashyap
• Sarah Lathrop
• Caroline Linen
• Emma Malinak
• Charlie Mlcek
• Lizzy Nguyen
• Alexis Park
• Yuchen Qian
• Parker Sparks
• Eli Staubi
• Trip Wright

Eight law school students from the classes of 2024 and 2025 were also tapped into ODK:

Class of 2024
• Julia Farbstein
• Scott Koven
• Artem Volynsky

Class of 2025
• Martin Flores
• Sadie Mapstone
• Jack Perryman
• Gabriella Roberts
• Ryan Scott

The honorary initiates include:

Michelle Drumbl
Drumbl is the Robert O. Bentley Professor of Law and director of the School of Law’s tax clinic. She joined the law school faculty in 2004 and has served as the associate dean of academic affairs since 2023. As director of the tax clinic, Drumbl provides representation for low-income taxpayers in IRS disputes and educational outreach on tax-related matters. Further supporting the community, she is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the earned income tax credit, a major source of financial support for the Rockbridge community. Drumbl has been selfless in her service to the university. She served as interim Dean during the 2021-2022 academic year and has served on, and chaired, a number of law school committees, including her position as a faculty representative to the Board of Trustees and a member of the faculty advisory committee working group to the trustee task force. Drumbl earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Emory University and holds a juris doctorate from George Washington University School of Law. She received her Master of Laws in taxation from New York University School of Law. Prior to coming to W&L, she was an attorney for the Office of Associate Chief Counsel for the IRS.

Lena Hill
Hill is Washington and Lee’s Provost and a professor of English and Africana studies. She arrived at W&L to serve as the dean of the College in 2018 and served in that role until she was appointed to her current position in 2021, where she continues to lead with distinction. Hill is credited with significantly diversifying the faculty at W&L be developing a series of initiatives to promote hiring best practices. She also spearheaded faculty and staff development programs, including the newly established employee resource groups and a mentoring system for new faculty. Hill directed the inclusion of W&L in the national Consortium for Faculty Diversity and instituted the Ted DeLaney postdoctoral program in the College, which has since been expanded to the Williams School. Hill received her bachelor’s degree in English from Howard University and her doctorate from Yale University. Prior to joining W&L’s faculty, she served in multiple roles at the University of Iowa including associate professor of English and African American studies, senior associate to the university president, and interim chief diversity officer and associate vice president. She has also taught at Duke University, Yale University and University of North Carolina.

Jane Stewart
Stewart is the director of sustainability at Washington and Lee University, where her efforts to recommend improvements in campus infrastructure and leadership in student and employee education have resulted in significant reductions in W&L’s campus utility consumption and carbon footprint. She was also instrumental in updating the university’s Climate Action Plan in 2019, identifying interim goals for the next decade that will help keep the university on track to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. As co-chair for the University Sustainability Committee, a position she’s held since 2019, her work has raised awareness of sustainability issues among hundreds of students and employees. Her careful analysis and consensus-building leadership have resulted in significant advances in sustainability initiatives across campus. Stewart earned her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from Columbia University and completed the certificate program in energy innovation and emerging technologies through Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development, with an emphasis on solar cell technology. Since joining W&L in 2006, Stewart has held numerous roles, including assistant director of corporate foundation relations and director of parent giving, and became one of the university’s inaugural energy specialists in 2011. Outside of W&L, she has served as a board member for the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council since 2019 and has been a member of the Virginia Conservation Network since 2020.

Valerie Moliterno
Moliterno is a native of Southern California and moved to Lexington 12 years ago to marry the love of her life, Jim. She has been an active volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, where she served as the treasurer and the chair of the building committee. She currently volunteers with the Rockbridge Area Relief Association, where she has served as a food pantry and HelpLine volunteer, treasurer, and is in her third year as the board president. Moliterno earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for IBM for 29 years, holding various positions in finance, administration and sales, and she ended her career managing a global program to recruit and negotiate partner agreements with smaller technology companies. Moliterno loves to cook and travel, and she and her husband frequently travel internationally.

Eric Spencer
A Lexington native, Spencer is the president and owner of Spencer Home Center in Lexington. He took over the role of president after the untimely death of his father and has nearly tripled the business volume over the past 20 years. Through the business and its employees, Spencer Home Center has been instrumental in supporting various non-profit community organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, and Spencer helped with donating land for the development of Greenhouse Village. In 2009, Spencer helped establish CornerStone Bank, helping to raise the capital to open the bank and serving as a director since its establishment. Over the years, he has served on the board of several local organizations including the Lexington-Rockbridge Chamber of Commerce, Rockbridge Health Center, Ducks Unlimited and the Lexington Golf and Country Club. Spencer received his bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon College and has two daughters with his wife of 28 years, Jaime.

Jennifer Waller
Waller is the national president of Omicron Delta Kappa in Lexington. Prior to her appointment in 2023, she spent a year as the director of special projects for the Association of College and University Housing Officers, International, and a decade as the executive director of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, where her executive leadership led to a greater than 60% increase in the association’s membership. Waller’s experience also includes roles at Texas A&M University, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Texas Tech University and the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Eastern Illinois University, a Master of Education with a focus in higher education administration from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a doctorate in higher education administration from Texas A&M University. Waller is a member of the American Society for Association Executives, the Florida Society of Association Executives and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

In addition, ODK awarded the James G. Leyburn Award, the Rupert Latture Award, the Cheryl M. Hogle Distinguished Service Award and the Circle Leader of the Year Award at the 2024 induction ceremony.

The James G. Leyburn Award, given to a university or local organization that demonstrates outstanding community service, was presented to the Rockbridge Recovery Center. Rockbridge Recovery is a non-profit, peer-run resource center for people who struggle with both mental health and substance use. Committed to assisting others on their recovery journeys, Rockbridge Recovery’s goal is to help community members overcome their burdens and achieve long-term recovery by providing a variety of support groups, counseling and ongoing support. These services, in addition to grief support, life skills assistance, resource assistance and transportation to the center are offered at no charge to community members who need them, dramatically increasing the organization’s impact on the Rockbridge area. Established in 2022, Rockbridge Recovery was founded specifically to provide addiction rehabilitation assistance and has since expanded to address the needs of numerous community groups. In March 2024, the organization plans to open the HOPE House, which will provide full-time housing and support to up to six men struggling with addiction and homelessness.

The Rupert Latture Award recognizes a sophomore who has demonstrated outstanding leadership potential. This year, the award was presented to Daniel Reiter ’26. Reiter is a business administration and theater double major from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. A Bonner Scholar, he is heavily engaged in the Shepherd Program at W&L and is an advocate for Blue Ridge Mile, a student-led program committed to supporting clients in navigating the steps required to obtain or reinstate a driver’s license. Reiter is also a founder of Rockbridge County’s Sensory-Friendly Theatre, Arts & Recreation Camp, which aims to empower neurodivergent youth. On campus, he serves as a resident adviser, the social impact chair for Hillel, and a university ambassador for the admissions office. This spring, he will participate in Washington Term and intern with Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education. Reiter hopes to continue studying the intersectionality between the arts, politics and business.

The Cheryl M. Hogle Distinguished Service Award honors a member of the society who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to ODK through outstanding service. This year, the award was presented to Linda Hooks, professor of economics and head of W&L’s Economics Department. Hooks joined W&L’s faculty in 1993 as an assistant professor before taking on her current role in 2005. She has also served as an active member on the president’s advisory committee, faculty review committee, alcohol task force and faculty executive committee, and as a faculty adviser to ODK. Her research has been published in professional and general-interest publications, including the Journal of Economic History, the Journal of Financial Services Research, and the Review of Financial Economics. Hooks has demonstrated her dedication to her community and ODK by serving as ODK’s national vice president and chair of the mission committee, and she is currently a trustee emerita. She is also a member of the regional advisory board for Truist Bank, volunteers with the local swim team, her church and the local secondary schools, and is a past president of the Virginia Association of Economists. Hooks received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and her master’s degree and doctorate in economics from the University of California, with a focus on monetary economics, international finance and public finance.

The Circle Leader of the Year, given to a student member of the circle who best represents the deals and aspirations of ODK, was presented to Diwesh Kumar ’24. Kumar is from Karachi, Pakistan, and pursuing a double major in math and economics. As the vice president of the Executive Committee (EC) of the Student Body, he administers the recognition and budget policy, managing the finances of the EC, and monitors and advises all recognized student body organizations, and has served on various EC subcommittees, working to ensure regular student programming on campus. Kumar is the adviser of the Williams Investment Society, having previously served as the associate director, where he mentors students on investment techniques, as well as career and professional development. In addition, Kumar is a co-chair for Kathekon, the student group for alumni relations, and he works with the Office of Alumni Engagement as a volunteer for several annual programs, including alumni weekends, Five Star Festival and Say Hey Day. Kumar is also a peer tutor for the university’s Department of Economics and is involved in the Johnson Program and the Center for International Education.

Omicron Delta Kappa was founded in 1914 at W&L by 15 student and faculty leaders. The founders formulated the idea that leadership of exceptional quality and versatility in college should be recognized, that representatives in all phases of college life should cooperate in worthwhile endeavors, and that outstanding students, faculty and administrators should meet on the basis of mutual interest, understanding and helpfulness. Omicron Delta Kappa was the first college honor society of a national scope to honor meritorious leadership and service in extracurricular activities, and to encourage the development of general campus citizenship.