Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

W&L Honors Graduates at 220th Commencement Exercises June 7

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Lexington, Virginia • June 7, 2007

Washington and Lee University celebrated its 220th undergraduate commencement on Thursday, June 7, on its historic Front Lawn in front of Lee Chapel. Sunny skies greeted 415 graduates of the Class of 2007 as family, friends and the University community gathered to celebrate their accomplishments.

Graduation-related events, award ceremonies and receptions began June 6, with a baccalaureate service led by William C. "Burr" Datz, director of leadership development and coordinator of religious life. Professor Alexandra R. Brown, Jessie Ball duPont professor of religion, gave the keynote address.

The commencement ceremony began Thursday at 10:00 a.m. with remarks by President Kenneth P. Ruscio and graduating senior Rob Rain, immediate past president of the Executive Committee of the student body. Ruscio spoke about the qualities of a good leader, and how he is proud of W&L's commitment to leadership.

"At the core of Washington and Lee's leadership is integrity. And we can begin to understand integrity through this one basic principle: our capacity for leadership expands as we focus on others instead of ourselves. Properly defined, properly distinguished from the mere use of power, leadership is about making the lives of others better," said Ruscio.

"At Washington and Lee, you have acquired two necessary traits that will enable you to be leaders with integrity," Ruscio noted. "One is empathy. Walking a mile in another's shoes is good moral advice. It is also good leadership advice."

Present on the podium with Ruscio were trustees: Robert Balantine, Hagood Ellison, C. Douglas Fuge, William B. Hill, John Robinson IV, Robert E. Huntley (trustee emeritus and past university president) and J. Hardin Marion, (trustee emeritus). Also in attendance on the podium were Brian C. Murchison, acting dean of the School of Law, H. Thomas Williams, Jr., provost, Dawn A. Watkins, dean of student affairs, Janet Ikeda, associate dean of the college, Scott Dittman, university registrar, and Brian E. Richardson, university marshall.

Washington and Lee University's Class of 2007 had the highest percentage of ethnic students ever at 13 percent. Among this year's outstanding graduates are students receiving special honors and highly competitive scholarships:

  • Sergey Kvasnyuk, from Moscow, Russia, was class valedictorian. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and is active in Washington and Lee Student Consulting and the Williams Investment Society.
  • Two members of the senior class received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion. This prestigious award is bestowed on seniors who "excel at high ideals of living, in spiritual qualities, and in generous and disinterested service to others," says President Ruscio. The recipients of the award for 2007 are Meghan Joss and Sam Wilmoth.
  • An impressive five graduates won Fulbright Fellowships covering their expenses to study and work abroad for a year beginning this summer. The number confirms W&L's recent designation by the Fulbright Program as one of the top 25 Fulbright-producing liberal arts colleges in the country, and one of only two in the South. Nadia Prinz, a Classics and German major from Luxembourg, will spend nine months in Germany, where she will teach English at an secondary school. Nadia has been speaking German since birth, due to her Austrian father. Richard Kyle, a double major in German and European History from Upper St. Clair, Pa., will teach English at a German high school for the 2007-2008 school year, and hopes to be a positive ambassador for the United States. He also hopes to improve his understanding of German society. Liane Carlson, a religion major from rural New York, will travel to Germany, where she will study the ways in which human suffering is perceived. She will pursue her Ph.D. after her Fulbright year. Emily Sberna, a Romance language major from Cincinnati, Ohio, plans to teach English in Spain and to experience all the culture she can while there. Will Townes, a biology and environmental studies major, will research rainforests in the Philippines. He hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology.
  • Ben Long, an American history major from Frankford, W.Va., will travel to Argentina, China, India, South Africa, Switzerland and Turkey to research cattle farming practices around the globe. He is the recipient of the Watson Fellowship, an award that finances a year of independent travel and study, outside of the United States.
  • Beth Lidinsky, a biochemistry major from Towson, Md., was selected by W&L's Celebrating Student Success Initiative as the John W. Elrod Unsung General of the Year for her leadership and volunteer service to Washington and Lee.
  • Ellie Hanson '09, a double major in politics and environmental studies, won the Boren Fellowship. The program will fund six months of study in Brazil. The aim of the fellowship is to facilitate research and education in fields promoting U.S. national security.

Cradled between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains in Lexington, Va., Washington and Lee University since 1749 has produced not only superb scholars but also principled leaders with a commitment to civility, service and honor. One of the nation's top fifteen liberal arts colleges and finest law schools, W&L offers a unique convergence of arts and sciences, law, journalism and commerce.

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