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W&L Honors Three with Distinguished Alumni Awards

Washington and Lee honored three alumni, who had distinguished careers serving on the faculty of their alma mater, by giving them Distinguished Alumni Awards during the University’s annual Five-Star Festival earlier this month.

The recipients:

  • Lewis G. John, of the Class of 1958, professor of politics emeritus;
  • Andrew W. McThenia Jr., Classes of 1958 and 1963L, professor of law emeritus;
  • Edgar W. Spencer, Class of 1953, professor of geology emeritus.

The awards came as part of the three-day festival during which alumni who graduated prior to 1963 returned to campus. The 60th (Class of 1953) and 55th (Class of 1958) reunion classes had special celebrations within the festival.

Following his graduation from Washington and Lee, Lewis G. John served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, studied as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Edinburgh, and earned his master’s degree as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Princeton. He received a Ph.D. from Syracuse. He worked in the Admissions Office at W&L for a time and, in 1968, began a 21-year tenure as dean of students. He began teaching politics full time in 1991 and served the University for more than 40 years. W&L recognized him for “a lifetime of skillful senior administration leadership, classroom teaching, community contributions, and his support of Washington and Lee.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree from W&L in 1958, Andrew W. (Uncas) McThenia graduated in 1963 from the School of Law, where he belonged to the Order of the Coif and served as editor in chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review. He worked in private practice before embarking on a 35-year career teaching in the Law School. He taught 29 different courses and led W&L’s clinical programs for women inmates at the Federal Prison in Alderson, W.Va., and with black lung victims in southern West Virginia. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles, received an honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary, and was named an Outstanding Faculty Member by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. W&L recognized him for “a lifetime of achievements in law, teaching, and for his singular contributions to those less fortunate.”

Edgar Spencer received a B.S. from W&L and a Ph.D. in structural geology from Columbia University. He returned to teach geology at his alma mater in 1957 and, over his 54-year tenure, was known as “Dr. Rock” to generations of students. He is the author of several college textbooks on geology, earth science, environmental systems and map interpretation. His fields of specialization include mountain belts, environmental geology and fresh-water conservation. In retirement, he has continued to work with local organizations, including the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC). W&L recognized him for “a lifetime of achievements in academic, teaching, community contributions, and his support of and impact on Washington and Lee.”

More than 120 alumni participated in the Five-Star Festival, which was held on the same weekend that the W&L Athletic Hall of Fame inducted new members.

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