Spring 2023 Update An update from President Will Dudley to W&L students, faculty and staff.
Springtime is a season of celebration on campus. Every week from March to May offers new reasons to gather: admitted student days, alumni reunions, the employee recognition banquet, senior capstone presentations, arts performances, athletic competitions, retirement receptions, and commencement ceremonies, including this morning’s. It was gratifying to be back on campus in the last few weeks to confer degrees on our graduates and to cheer for our lacrosse teams in the NCAA tournament contests here at home.
Spring is also a time of reflection, when we look back with pride on all we have accomplished over the course of the year. And what a year it has been.
Our faculty continued to offer our students an unparalleled education, including distinctive experiential opportunities like the Spring Term courses in Ireland, Greece, Ghana, Japan, Morocco, Austria, and the Czech Republic, and community-based learning courses that engage students with regional partners, including the Augusta Correctional Center, Rockbridge Area Relief Association, and Kendal. They also provided our law students with invaluable professional experience in our legal clinics, where students assist eligible individuals with housing and employment matters, tax and immigration issues, criminal and civil matters, and advocate for disabled coal miners and their widows.
While devoting themselves to our students, our faculty also distinguished themselves by publishing in peer-reviewed journals and winning prestigious grants, examples of which include a Fulbright for David Baluarte (Law), National Endowment for the Humanities Grants for Melissa Kerin (Art History) and Barton Myers (History), a National Science Foundation Grant for Nadia Ayoub and Natalia Toporikova (Biology), a Samuel H. Kress Foundation Grant for George Bent (Art History), and an ACS Mellon Academic Leadership Fellowship for Dayo Abah (Journalism). They are also leaders in their professions: Johanna Bond was appointed Dean of Rutgers Law School, Melanie Wilson was named President-Elect of the American Association of Law Schools, and Neils-Hugo Blunch was chosen President-Elect of the Virginia Association of Economists.
Our students displayed their impressive original research at the Science, Society, and the Arts conference, with project presentations, poster sessions, and colloquia on topics including history, neuroscience, poverty studies, literature, agriculture, and economics. They staged outstanding artistic performances, including “BEEHIVE – The 60s Musical,” concerts by the University Singers, the Jazz Ensemble, and the Wind Ensemble, and the first collaboration between W&L Dance and the Rockbridge Symphony. And our athletes brought home conference titles in 11 sports, with 10 teams and 13 individuals going on to represent W&L in NCAA competition.
Our students also continued to demonstrate that an outstanding liberal arts education is the best preparation for post-graduate success. 93% of undergraduates in the Class of 2022 were employed or enrolled in postgraduate studies six months after graduation, and nearly 97% of the Law Class of 2022 are working in JD-required or preferred positions.
Tahri Phillips became our third Rhodes Scholar in seven years – the most among national liberal arts colleges in that span – and W&L was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars for the fifth straight year. Fourteen undergraduate students won Fulbright Scholarships this spring, nearly tying last year’s record of 15, which was the second-highest number among all liberal arts colleges. We were also recently named a top producer of Gilman Scholars, with 10 students winning these awards in 2023.
The quality of the education we provide is also reflected in the enthusiasm for W&L among prospective students, alumni, and parents. The last two years have seen more undergraduate applications to Washington and Lee than ever before, and an unprecedented percentage of applicants have accepted our offers of admission. The academic credentials of our incoming law classes are the strongest they have been in at least a decade. And our student body continues to become increasingly diverse.
We welcomed over 940 alumni and guests from the classes of 1973-2008 back to campus earlier this month to celebrate Alumni Weekend. This year’s reunion classes raised more than $1.4 million for the 2022-23 Annual Fund and committed a total of $5.3 million in gifts and pledges, setting numerous records along the way. The generosity of our reunion classes, combined with outstanding support for the Parents Fund from current and past parents, adds to what has been a very successful fundraising year and helps us to advance the many important initiatives in our strategic plan.
We also hosted an exciting variety of speakers on campus in the past few months, including ice cream entrepreneurs Ben (Cohen) and Jerry (Greenfield), former Vice President Mike Pence and FOX News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier, bestselling author Amor Towles, and the Honorable J. Michael Luttig ’76, who discussed his prominent role in the Congressional investigation of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
As we head into summer, I congratulate you on a successful school year and thank you for everything you bring to Washington and Lee. This is a special place because of your energy and enthusiasm, your hard work and dedication, and your daily contributions in service of our mission and in support of each other. I am personally grateful for the generosity and compassion you have shown to me these past few months.
I look forward to celebrating the end of yet another remarkable academic year with you today. And I hope that the summer provides you with ample opportunities for restoration, exploration, inspiration, and some plain old well-deserved fun.