W&L Recognizes Student Leaders in Annual Leadership Excellence Awards The Leadership Excellence Awards give recognition and thanks to nominated students and organizations for their many efforts that contribute to making W&L the special place that it is.
The Leadership Excellence Awards (LEAD) is an annual banquet that recognizes the many individual and group accomplishments that have occurred within the past year. For the last two academic years, Washington and Lee University has celebrated incredible student leadership and achievements in a virtual format. This year on March 24, the banquet was held in person.
“From the moment the 2022 Leadership Excellence Awards kicked off, an exciting and vibrant energy filled the room,” said Leah Beard, director of leadership development and student engagement at W&L. “Meaningful conversations at the reception allowed all in attendance to reconnect and reminisce on the previous academic year, setting the stage for an extraordinary and inspiring awards presentation.”
A student committee oversees the LEAD banquet, and there is a selection committee for each award tasked with identifying a winner from the nominees. Every year, the award list is reviewed to ensure the event covers the many types of leadership occurring on campus. This year’s Leadership Excellence Awards Committee included Catherine Xia ’23, Hannah Grace Galbreath ’23, Jillian Gallardo ’23, Christian Pinto ’24, Emma Poole ’24 and Ben Bankston ’25.
During the ceremony, 27 awards were presented to students from across campus who have been change-makers and shining leadership examples.
Tahri Phillips ’23 won the Edward Lee Pinney Prize and the G. Holbrook Barber Scholarship Award. The Pinney Prize is awarded to an undergraduate student who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to individual scholarship and the nurturing of intellectual life at W&L. The Barber Scholarship honors a rising senior who manifests superior qualities of helpfulness and friendliness to fellow students, public spirit, scholarship and personal character.
“Ever since my first few days at W&L, I have wanted to make the community around me one that is more positive, welcoming and inclusive,” said Phillips. “I’ve tried to model the community that I want to see here by embracing change, pushing my peers and professors to think differently, and by asking hard questions of myself and others. Earning these two awards was an affirmation that my character and scholarship make W&L a better place and that I have stayed in line with my mission here. It is encouraging to feel seen and valued in this way, and I’m so grateful to have been nominated for and to have received these awards.”
The Emerging Leader of the Year award recognizes a first-year student passionate about leadership education and its practice. This year, Trip Wright ’25 was acknowledged for his innovative ideas and high level of commitment to empowering other student leaders.
“What meant the most to me was realizing that this award was peer-nominated,” said Wright. “Knowing that in the short time I have been a member of the W&L community, my friends, classmates and professors have viewed me as a leader was inspiring.”
Estrella Burks-Parra received the John W. Elrod Unsung General Award, which recognizes a student who has contributed in ways often not seen by the larger community and brought both depth and breadth to the university. She was also awarded the Lenfest Center Award: Excellence in Arts Management, which recognizes an outstanding student who has demonstrated leadership and dedication in helping carry out the center’s mission.
“Receiving the awards was such an incredible and surreal experience,” said Burks-Parra. “Being surrounded by the school’s top leaders and change-makers and getting to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments together was extremely inspiring and rewarding. Earning these awards meant realizing things had come full circle from when I first got to W&L and learned from so many student leaders I admired. I am now an upperclassman who can exemplify leadership and help underclassmen grow into similar leadership roles.”
Reflection is a crucial aspect of leadership, and Beard recognized that in her thoughts about the student’s accomplishments.
“I hope the ceremony served as an opportunity for us all to reflect on, and be inspired by, the amazing endeavors our student leaders and others have spearheaded to make our campus better than when they first found it,” said Beard. “I also hope these efforts allow us to appreciate and celebrate the hard work, commitment and compassion that has come to fruition.”
Read more about the LEAD awards on the W&L website here.
If you know a W&L member who has done great, accolade-worthy things, tell us about them! Nominate them for an accolade.