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The Day Liz Came to Town

When news broke Wednesday of the death of actress Elizabeth Taylor, no doubt some members of the Washington and Lee community recalled her visit to Lexington and W&L in November 1976. That visit centered on the Founders’ Day speech that her then-fiance, W&L alumnus Sen. John W. Warner ’49, gave at neighboring Virginia Military Institute.

Although the festivities at VMI were what brought the couple to Lexington, Sen. Warner (he wasn’t yet a senator but was weighing the possibility of a run) told audiences that he had wanted to bring his future wife to see his alma mater, something that the senator’s own father, a 1903 graduate of W&L, had done with his fiancee. The couple stayed in Lee House, toured the campus, and, after fulfilling the various duties at VMI, went to the old Troubadour Theatre, where the actress served as guest lecturer for a drama seminar.

In the January 1977 Washington and Lee alumni magazine, Bob Keefe ’68, news director and associate editor, described the visit in the magazine’s lead story. It was accompanied by Sally Mann’s photographs, which appear here. Bob’s story began with several of the newspaper headlines that accompanied stories about the visit, including this one: “Fans Agog, Cynics Converted.”

Cynics? What cynics?