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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Clarke Morrison '12

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Majors: English, Geology

Minor: Classics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Omicron Delta Kappa
  • Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity
  • Team Traveller
  • Former Young Life Leader

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Geology field trip to American Southwest
  • Geology trip to Greece

Post-Graduation Plans: English Teacher

Why did you choose W&L? For the school's commitment to attracting and cultivating true gentlemen and ladies.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Examine yourselves to find your gifts and then cultivate them intensely.


It seems most schools force students to choose one passion to pursue and relegate any others to hobby status. Or, they let students chase after both and scrape the surface in each discipline. Washington and Lee, however, has allowed me to dive deeply into both my passions by filling its classrooms with professors who teach each student as if he or she were the rising scholar in the field. I can say this firsthand as an English and Geology major with a Classics minor who has received such treatment in each department, and certainly not due to my exceptional aptitude in any of them. Rather, W&L professors possess such a strong commitment to the school's liberal arts curriculum that they allow students to pursue their authentic academic interests without tossing some overboard on the path to a degree.

When I first began geology, I made the rocks look smart. The class did not seem to be for me, and I was tempted to blow off my work and pursue my other studies. My professor, though, proved so engaging and encouraging that I could not help but pour everything into the class to try and excel, an exercise that awoke in me a real passion for the subject. Every class has presented some new challenge--I still rival the mineral drawer in performance some times--but with that challenge always came a highly accessible professor eager to help and encourage.

Although I may have been slightly more qualified for my classical studies, I never announced my intentions for the graduate school track or clamored to start a Latin Society on campus. Nevertheless, each of my professors demanded my top performance in his or her own way, insisting upon academic rigor but adopting a professional familiarity that made me wonder if I had somehow ended up in a graduate level class. By creating a classroom setting that was intense yet relaxed, they managed to push performance higher while nurturing genuine passion for the subject.

My English professors provided the living examples for the career I am pursuing. Their poise, eloquence and humility inspired me inside and outside the classroom. What made their classes truly unique, however, was the depth of the education they provided through their traditional lessons but also through the model of their professional lives. By witnessing the academic community they cultivated with each other and their attempts to bring students into their scholarly discussion, I got a picture of what a truly excellent college atmosphere looks like.

You don't take classes at W&L, you take professors. And when that happens, you gain far more than a strictly academic education. If my time here has taught me one thing, it is how to truly cultivate my natural abilities while celebrating those of my peers--a quality I learned because my professors modeled it in their relationships with their students and with each other. In doing so, they have created a learning environment like no other, one that grows the mind as well as the heart.