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W&L Honors Graduates at Commencement Exercises June 5

Washington and Lee University celebrated its undergraduate commencement on Thursday, June 5, on its historic Front Lawn in front of Lee Chapel. Sunny skies greeted 431 graduates of the Class of 2008 as family, friends and the University community celebrated their accomplishments.

Graduating senior Jordan Campbell, vice president of the Executive Committee of the student body, addressed the audience. He emphasized the dedication of the faculty, noting that organizations often rank W&L in the top 10 of universities with the most accessible faculty. He also spoke of the importance of the honor system, and quoted W&L alumnus Sen. John Warner, who once told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the W&L honor system had been a guiding light for him.

The ceremony concluded with remarks by W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio, who spoke about the necessity of civility and respect for others, and the continuing relevance of those virtues to today’s generation.

“You will soon be leaving a community that cares about virtues—civility being one of them, but integrity, humility and tolerance are others that readily come to mind. You will be entering a world that seems to care less about them. You will be tempted to discount their importance or relevance,” said Ruscio. “You go forth into this world with a conscience formed at least in part by your experience at Washington and Lee,” Ruscio noted.

“You go forth convinced that character counts. I encourage you to tap into that reservoir of moral awareness that you filled during your time here—and I encourage you to find ways to continually replenish it.”

Present on the podium with Ruscio were trustees Kimberly Duchossois and Sarah Nash Sylvester, and trustee emeritus J. Hardin Marion. Also on the podium were William C. Datz, coordinator of religious life; Jordan Campbell, class of 2008 and vice president of the Student Executive Committee; Robert D. Straughan, associate dean of the Ernest Williams II School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; Larry C. Peppers, dean of the Ernest Williams II School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; Janet Ikeda, associate dean of the college; Hank Dobin, dean of the college; Dawn A. Watkins, vice president of student affairs and dean of students; Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the School of Law; Elizabeth Knapp, associate dean of the college; D. Scott Dittman, university registrar; and Brian E. Richardson, university marshal. Ethnic students composed 12.3 percent of Washington and Lee’s Class of 2008, a record for the college. Another record was set with 63 percent of students spending time abroad, either on approved study or some other significant experience.

Valedictorian of the Class of 2008 is Jameson Graber, a double major in mathematics and physics from Arlington, Texas. He is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, president of one of the black Greek-letter fraternities, Phi Beta Sigma, and president of W&L Students for Life. He won a Goldwater Fellowship as a junior.

One student, Matthew W. Harrison, from Sherrill’s Ford, N.C., completed three majors in geology, history, and accounting and business administration, matching a record set in 2007.

Among this year’s outstanding graduates are students receiving special honors and highly competitive scholarships:

  • Jameson Graber, from Arlington, Texas, was class valedictorian. He is a double major in mathematics and physics. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and is active in the Reformed University Fellowship, Washington and Lee Students for Life (president for two years), Joyful Noise gospel choir, Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and University Chamber Singers. After graduation, Graber will start a Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Virginia, funded by a Jefferson Fellowship.
  • Two members of the senior class received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion for seniors who “excel in high ideals of living, in spiritual qualities, and in generous and disinterested service to others,” said President Ruscio. The 2008 recipients are Alice Shih, from Austin, Texas, and Dane Boston, from Dunedin, Fla. Boston also received the Edward Lee Pinney Prize, awarded by the Student Affairs Committee for extraordinary commitment to personal scholarship and to the nurturing of intellectual life at Washington and Lee.
  • Three graduates won Fulbright Fellowships to study and work abroad for a year, beginning this summer. Emma Elizabeth Axt, a Romance languages/journalism and mass communications major from Edina, Minn., will teach English in France. Deborah Anne Newell, a German literature and medieval and Renaissance studies major from Troy, Mich., will teach English to teenagers in Germany. Laura Nugent, a double major in economics and medieval and Renaissance studies from West Grove, Pa., will study the architecture of churches in Moldavia built between 1488-1609 with a history professor at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania.
  • Mary Dryden Childs, a business journalism major from Charlottesville, Va., is one of 50 recipients nationally of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Her project will take her to Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Japan, Morocco, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates to explore the topography of a land through portraiture.
  • Neil Richard Sheaffer, a Russian area studies and European history major from Plantation, Fla., was selected by the Executive Committee of the student body to received the Frank J. Gilliam Award, as the student who has made the most valuable contribution to student affairs in more than one field.
  • Timothy James McGlaston, a biology major from Attleboro, Mass., received the National Collegiate Athletic Association Postgraduate Scholarship.