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Washington and Lee University

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Tough Year, Encouraging Results

By George P. Carras

George Carras, director of corporate and foundation relations and faculty grant support, oversees the university's grant seeking. Holding a doctorate from Oxford University, he has had a wide variety of other positions in higher education, including associate provost, faculty member, college dean, development director and sponsored-research director. Carras continues to pursue research and writing about early Christianity and ancient Judaism in the classical world. During summer 2009, he was a research scholar at Princeton University and guest of the religion and classics departments working on the project "Flavian Josephus in Flavian Rome."

Despite difficult financial times for foundations, the 2008-09 Washington and Lee academic and fiscal years were highlighted by significant grants for high-priority undertakings: $1 million from the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation toward the considerable cost of renovating the University's historic Colonnade; completion of more than $1 million in corporate and foundation fund raising to remake the main floor of the central library; an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant of $650,000 to further strengthen our distinctive Spring Term; $200,000 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to increase flexibility in faculty careers; and $129,000 from Mellon, by way of the Associated Colleges of the South, for a post-doctoral fellow in environmental studies, following a $600,000 Mellon grant the previous year to expand that subject area. In addition, we experienced a sharp rise in faculty grants and fellowships, including several believed to be first-time awards for W&L faculty from prestigious national organizations.

From the Old to the New

This is my 13th year at W&L, and I have seen in this relatively short period a variety of upgrades, renovations and new construction on campus. The work includes Reid Hall, home to the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications; Elrod Commons, the living room of the University; and Wilson Hall, where the departments of art and music are headquartered. These improvements embrace the new world of learning, communication and electronic inquiry. New life in old buildings fits well at an institution such as W&L where there is tradition, a historic presence, a significant past and vision, as our motto reminds us, to be mindful of the future.

As one involved in the planning and grant seeking for the upgrade of James Graham Leyburn Library, with my colleague George Graves, associate director, I am pleased that the project has come to a successful conclusion: a spacious, inviting, useful, comfortable, technologically fit facility offering ready access to librarians and technical professionals - and the vast and growing amounts of knowledge and information, print and, increasingly, electronic. Most important, the library is becoming the center of academic life again.

A second major renovation project, Newcomb Hall in the landmark Colonnade, is under way, thanks in part to a Getty Foundation planning grant. Newcomb is the first of several similar buildings - including Washington Hall, the University's oldest, named for its early benefactor George Washington--to be restored and subtly modernized, preserving internal architectural details and all exterior appearances. Newcomb's art gallery will be restored as part of a suite of seminar rooms and faculty offices. The glass roof lantern will be re-opened and restored, and seminar rooms will feature the original vaulted ceilings, receiving natural light from the roof lantern. This restoration will reveal the beauty of the original structure and provide an appealing space for teaching and learning in classrooms, seminar and group-study rooms. Because the Colonnade has not changed much since its last renovation in 1936, we all look forward to the newly renovated and restored Newcomb Hall, built in 1881--none more than students and faculty in the history, anthropology and sociology departments, who will be the fortunate occupants.

Faculty Grants

Congratulations to all faculty members who submitted proposals for grants and fellowships. Submissions doubled, and, even better, the number of awards tripled from the year before.

Several notable ones: Scott Johnson (Classics) had four awards but was able to accept only two, at least for now - a Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship and a grant from the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, part of Harvard University; Theresa Braunschneider (English) received an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship; Ted DeLaney (History) was chosen for a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities fellowship; Tim Lubin (Religion) accepted two awards, a Fulbright to India and an American Philosophical Society (Mellon Foundation) Sabbatical Fellowship. In science and math, we have three new awards, including two National Science Foundation grants, to Lisa Alty (Chemistry) and Mark Carey (History); Katherine Crowley (Mathematics) was named a Congressional Fellow by the American Mathematical Society, allowing her to spend a year advising federal lawmakers.

To assist faculty, our office conducted four briefing sessions over the past year in addition to the many one-on-one conversations between our staff and professors. Besides the orientation at which staff presents basic information for new faculty in the fall, the events were the following: a panel featuring faculty who are seasoned and successful grants seekers--Associate Professors Sascha Goluboff (Sociology and Anthropology), Tim Lubin (Religion) and David Peterson (History)--that presented tips on crafting proposals; a "speed read" critique of proposals in progress by two other faculty members with impressive records of snaring grants--Professors Suzanne Keen (English) and Krzysztof Jasiewicz (Sociology and Anthropology)--who offered candid assessments; and a briefing for faculty in science, math and engineering emphasizing federal grants programs receiving large infusions of economic-stimulus dollars (notably those of the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health) among other opportunities for support from outside the University.

Tighter Foundation Funding

Like colleges and universities, foundations depend on endowments to generate income--and those endowments have shrunk dramatically, by as much as half initially, depending on investments. As a result, grants generally are smaller and fewer, and will be for years to come as foundations attempt to rebuild their endowments and cut expenses such as personnel. Meanwhile, competition for grants continues to intensify, especially as institutions of higher education look for ways to compensate for the loss of their own endowment dollars.

Confident that the economy and endowments will recoup their losses eventually, we in the grants office know that in the short term we must continue to strive to identify the best fit between sources of funding and what they are willing to support at W&L. We plan to stay connected to past funders, and to identify new ones. Most foundations are still making grants, some foundations were savvier or luckier than others, and the federal government, through the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health among other avenues, is increasing the number of grants as part of the overall effort to stimulate the economy. We're heartened that our faculty and fellow administrators are aggressively seeking outside support with an impressive variety of strong ideas and compelling projects.

Top representatives of two major foundations and a corporation visited Washington and Lee University this past year.

The E. A. Morris Charitable Foundation's John Thomas, president and executive director, and Barry Morgan, vice president and treasurer, met with students and faculty to learn more about how the foundation's support benefits the University. That support includes summer stipends for student researchers and a scholarship. Discussion occurred on the potential for assistance with the Colonnade Renovation.

Ingrid Saunders Jones, a Coca-Cola senior vice president who chairs the company's foundation, delivered a public lecture on corporate responsibility and philanthropy. While on campus, she met with students and faculty. Alumni Dana Bolden and Jackson Kelly, both executives at Coca-Cola and members of our Corporate and Foundation Relations Advisory Board, were instrumental in arranging the visit, which included Bolden.

John Allison, chairman of BB&T, gave a public lecture and was briefed on the Williams School's plans to establish a center on entrepreneurship and leadership under the direction of the newly appointed Johnson Professor Jeff Shay and Dean Larry Peppers. Alumnus Walter Roberston, president and CEO of BB&T's Scott & Stringfellow investment advisers and a member of the Advisory Board, provided a big assist in bringing Mr. Allison to Lexington.

Visits also have been made to some of the largest national foundations, including Mellon (Spring Term revitalization), Carnegie (Islamic studies), Hearst (first-generation students), Rockefeller Brothers (energy studies), Max Kade (German studies), Booth Ferris (library renovation), Ford and Teagle (both for learning assessment). Other visits were to Cafritz (poverty studies) and the Royal Bank of Canada (internships).