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Ruscio Addresses Opening Assembly at Alumni Reunions

Ken Ruscio, president of Washington and Lee, gave the keynote talk at the university’s annual Alumni Reunion Weekend Opening Assembly on April 28, in Lee Chapel. He spoke on “A Timeless Trust.”

The event was the kickoff for the weekend, which featured reunions for eight classes, including those celebrating their 50th reunion (Class of 1966) and 25th reunion (Class of 1991). It also included the induction by W&L’s Alpha Circle of ODK, the national leadership honor society, of seven new undergraduate members, and the recognition of four honorary initiates.

Ruscio described the numerous ways that Washington and Lee has changed in the years since members of the Class of 1966 graduated a half-century ago. And, he observed, there are bound to be countless more changes between now and the Class of 2020’s 50th reunion in 2070. “Sometimes,” he said, “respect for tradition requires change.”

What has not changed, he said, is the university’s dedication to a particular kind of education. “In this day and age, a commitment to the development of character has become a rare and distinguishing feature of a college,” he said. “It puts us in an increasingly lonely corner of higher education. We have not abandoned that mission, as have many others have, either implicitly or explicitly. We continue to embrace it.”

Ruscio was honored at the assembly by the Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Foundation,  whose president, Russ Chambliss ’74, unveiled the Kenneth P. Ruscio Endowed Fund to provide graduate and professional school scholarships to members of W&L’s Alpha Circle, and other resources for the chapter. Chambliss applauded Ruscio’s leadership of both ODK and Washington and Lee, and his efforts to bring the organization’s national offices back to Lexington, Va. “I would like to say thank you, Ken. Thank you for your service to W&L, for all that you’ve done for ODK … and for your exemplary service in helping today’s campus leaders become tomorrow’s community leaders.”

Video of the opening assembly including ODK initiation and Ruscio’s talk is available online. The text of his talk is also available on the President’s website.

The ODK inductions were held prior to Ruscio’s keynote. The honorary initiates:

Theodore Jon Ellestad served for 24 years as the city manager of Lexington, Virginia. Under his leadership, the Lexington city government upgraded the water system, reorganized fire and emergency services, and unified with other local governments for an emergency dispatch center, a senior center and a tourism office. He served on the boards of the Rockbridge Regional Jail, the Rockbridge Regional Emergency Communications Center, the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Detention Center, the Shenandoah Valley Partnership and the Community Services Board. In community service, Ellestad has served on the boards of the Rockbridge Area Recreation Organization (RARO) and the Valley Program for the Aging. He is a charter member of the Kendal at Lexington retirement community board and treasurer of the Miller’s House Museum board. He is a member of the Lexington Sunrise Rotary Club, where he has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow. Ellestad has coached youth sports and served as a collegiate swim official. He received a bachelor of arts from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in urban affairs from the University of Delaware. Ellestad has five children and four grandchildren and lives in Lexington.

Elizabeth Pryor Knapp ’90 is the associate provost, the director of the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity and a professor of geology at Washington and Lee. She is the chair of the Special Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L, the University Sustainability Committee, and the Community Engagement and Service Learning Advisory Committee, and the co-chair of the University Committee on Inclusiveness and Campus Climate. She previously served as the senior assistant to the president and as the associate dean of the College. She has been on the faculty at W&L since 1997, teaching geochemistry and hydrogeology, with particular interest in the geology of Hawaii and rock-weathering processes. She received her bachelor of science in geology from Washington and Lee and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia. Knapp has been a board member of the Rockbridge SPCA, the Rockbridge County Public Service Authority, the Community Foundation for Rockbridge, Bath and Alleghany, the VMI Research Labs Board, and Nature Camp Foundation, and a member of the vestry of the R.E. Lee Episcopal Church. She and her husband, Chuck Smith, have two teenagers — Jenner and Charlie.

Schuyler Rideout ’91 is an accomplished illustrator, event planner and fundraiser. She earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art, with mentors Professor Pam Simpson and Professor Kathleen Olsen. Her senior art portfolio included paintings and drawings based on campus architecture. She worked for the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Gallery of Art. She worked for Turner Broadcasting for 15 years as head of the event marketing department, planning major events such as trade shows, client events and Super Bowl events. For the Atlanta Humane Society, she as managed the fundraising event program. In 2010, Rideout enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to study illustration. She returned to Atlanta to establish a studio that specializes in watercolors. Her inspiration includes Georgia O’Keeffe, Oscar de la Renta and the orchids in Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens. Rideout serves as a W&L class agent. As a student, she was a founding member of the W&L chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma and served as its social chair. She also was involved with several committees for Fancy Dress, with Kathekon and with the Student Activity Board.

Anderson Dodd Smith ’66 is Regents Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Smith recently retired as senior vice provost of academic affairs at Georgia Tech. Prior to becoming senior vice provost, he served as vice provost of undergraduate studies, the associate dean in the College of Sciences and chair of the School of Psychology. Smith received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in Psychology at the University of Virginia and was made an honorary alumnus of Georgia Tech. His research interests are in cognitive aging, and he has written or co-edited more than 75 articles and books, with funding from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health for over 30 years. At Georgia Tech, he won both the Sigma Xi Sustained Research Award and the Outstanding Teacher Award. In 1997, the Division of Adult Development and Aging of the American Psychological Association (APA) recognized him with the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. In 2011, he received the Award for the Advancement of Psychology of Aging from the APA. He has served on the National Advisory Council on Aging. He has been elected a fellow with the Association for Psychological Science and the Gerontological Society. He was an affiliate scientist at the Yerkes National Primate Center at Emory University. In his community, Smith has served on the boards of the Northside Shepherd’s Senior Citizen Center, Meals on Wheels Atlanta, Saint Anne’s Terrace Retirement Community and Zoo Atlanta. At Washington and Lee, Smith was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and the Glee Club. He and his wife have two daughters and four granddaughters.

The juniors who were tapped into membership in ODK are Elena Ray Diller, a sociology and anthropology major with a double minor in poverty and human capability studies and women’s gender and sexuality studies from Rome, Georgia; Brooke Rose Donnelly, an accounting and business administration major from Kennesaw, Georgia; Melina Lauryn Knabe, a neuroscience major with a minor in philosophy from Berlin, Germany; Harry Raab Lustig III, a business administration and geology double major with a minor in environmental studies from Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ashley Kenimer Oakes, a business administration and Spanish double major from Spartanburg, South Carolina; Kathryn Suzanne Sarfert, a neuroscience and Spanish double major from Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Harrison James Westgarth, a Spanish and biology double major from McKinney, Texas.

ODK also presented the Rupert Latture Award, which recognizes the sophomore with the most leadership potential, to Kassie Ann Scott, an English major with a minor in poverty and human capability studies from Pennsville, New Jersey. It gave the James G. Leyburn Award for community or campus leaders who provide exemplary service to The Refugee Working Group, a local group dedicated to resettling refugee families in Lexington to combat the global refugee crisis.