The Columns

‘The Quality of the People’ Swimmer, computer coder, and Speaking Tradition advocate Will McMurtry ’18 chose W&L over nine other schools, in large part because of its community.

— by on September 13th, 2017

“College is the ideal time to go out of your comfort zone, and I think that’s something we should remind ourselves of constantly, not just the first weeks of school.”

Swimmer, computer coder, and Speaking Tradition advocate, Will McMurtry ’18 finds that putting yourself out of your comfort zone helps you grow.

Q. How did you first hear about the Johnson Scholarship?

My brother-in-law played against W&L in football in Lexington. He told me that he wished he had looked into the school when he went to college and recommended that I check it out. After doing some investigation about the school, I recognized how great of an opportunity the Johnson Scholarship is.

Q. Were you considering any other colleges when you applied for the scholarship?

I became really excited about W&L when I visited campus for the Johnson Scholars weekend. I applied to more than 10 schools, including top-ranked universities, and was accepted into all of them. I found that W&L offered the perfect combination of what I was looking for, and the scholarship was just a bonus.

Q. Why did you ultimately choose W&L?

There are a lot of good colleges with nice campuses, strong academics and a unique character. I felt that W&L went beyond that with its student body. All the students I met on my visit seemed like they genuinely enjoyed going here. Everyone has something unique about them, whether it be a special talent or an interesting story, that makes you look at them in a completely different light. Additionally, the professors here are very engaged with their students and their success.

Q. How has Johnson affected your views on leadership and integrity – or on academics?

I have learned that leadership takes on many different forms. Some situations make strong, vocal leadership necessary; others require a more nuanced approach. Part of being a leader is recognizing what approach you need to take.

Society often teaches that integrity comes at a cost, that maybe if you weren’t honest you could make your life easier in some way. I have found this to be the furthest thing from the truth. Integrity is the most efficient and productive way, for both you and others, to conduct yourself.

Q. What is your favorite story about your W&L experience – if you had to pick one?

This past summer, I interned with a congressman in Washington, D.C. Every single time I wore something with the W&L logo, I’d have a stranger say something to me about it. One of these times was at the line for the Dunkin’ Donuts in the house office buildings. The line was moving very slowly because the cash register was not taking credit cards. I ended up speaking with a former W&L law student for about 20 minutes. When we reached the end of the line, I realized I did not have any cash. He ended up buying my coffee and giving me his business card. This was the first time I had actually experienced the strong relationship the alumni have with W&L.

Q. Do you have a mentor on campus?

I don’t have a mentor per se, but I am very reliant on my peers. I’d like to give some shouts out to Tommy Thetford, Noah Schammel, Jack Baird, Chase Leeby, Jake Burns, and many others.

Q. What extracurricular are you involved in right now that you are extra-passionate about?

Being a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Programming class was a great experience. It’s fun to watch the First-Year students grow and develop their skills throughout the semester as they find a genuine interest in the subject. Professor Lambert had to miss a lab session last semester to attend a conference, leaving me and the other TA to run the lab ourselves. It was a difficult process, but the students really showed their independence.

Q. What is your favorite campus tradition or piece of history?

The Speaking Tradition can be awkward at times, but I believe it brings a lot to our campus. I was visiting a friend over winter break and, as we were walking around the campus, I greeted a student who was walking past us. He completely ignored me and seemed really taken aback. We often overlook the cordial atmosphere that the Speaking Tradition brings us.

Q. If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to first-day-on-campus you?

I think that during the first few weeks of school, it’s important to reassure yourself that everyone else is as nervous as you are and to trust that things will work out in the end. College is the ideal time to go out of your comfort zone, and I think that’s something we should remind ourselves of constantly, not just in the first weeks of school.

Q. If someone asked you “why choose W&L” – what is the one reason you would tell them?

I would want to emphasize the quality of the people who make up Washington and Lee. The campus, academic reputation, social life and facilities are all secondary to the people you are actually interacting with on a daily basis. I visited a lot of colleges during the application process, and W&L offered, by far, the most down-to-earth, compelling and motivated student body.