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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Greg Barton '13

Hometown: New York, New York

Majors: Studio Art (Sculpture), Art History

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Varsity Football Team
  • 2013 Class Representative to the Executive Committee
  • Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity
  • Omicron Delta Kappa

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Intern: Yoshii Gallery, 20th Century & Contemporary Art, New York, NY, Summer 2012
  • Intern: SLO Architecture, New York, NY, Summer 2011

Post-Graduation Plans: I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Greece in order to study the influence of Archaic Greek art on contemporary Greek artists.

Favorite W&L Memory: Winning the ODAC championship on Wilson Field, not once, but twice!

Favorite Class: Art Since 1945 with Professor Pamela Simpson

Favorite W&L Event: Parents Weekend, both the game and the events.

Favorite Campus Landmark: I would have to say Wilson Field, mainly because I have spent the majority of my time there during my four years.

How have you spent your summers? The main focus of my summers during my time at W&L has been training for each upcoming football season. I have also interned with an architectural firm and a modern art gallery, both of which are in New York City.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? There is nothing wrong with "spreading yourself thin" and participating in anything that you have ever been interested in. In my case, I knew that this would be my last real opportunity to play football, so being a member of the team was incredibly important. In addition, the being part of a committee that is centered on an honor system offered a unique opportunity for me to try something completely different, which I found was a great fit for me. W&L has a lot to offer-- just make sure that you don't take any of it for granted!

What do you wish you'd known before you came to campus? That sleep is more valuable than anything else.

I arrived at Washington and Lee University in August 2009 as a skinny football player from New York City with an interest in pursing the visual arts. When I first started thinking about college, I thought I would stay closer to home, but I decided to attend W&L because of the combination of excellent academics, great weather and a few parting words given to me by one of the coaches on my last recruiting visit. I had struggled during the college process to find a school that would satisfy my two passions, football and the arts, and I asked the coach how he felt professors and coaches at W&L would feel about my "varied" interests. He paused, smiled at me and said, "Greg, at other schools, you are going to come in and have to prove that you are a great kid and a great student. At W&L, there is no need to prove this because everyone at this university knows that every student is a great kid and great student. You wouldn't be here if you weren't." That is really where my W&L experience began. When classes finally began and the football season was well underway, I realized that everything that my coach had told me had been true. Not only does my major advisor attend every football game, but my coaches and teammates have also really taken an interest in my artwork. 

Although I came in as a skinny, football-playing artist from New York City, my coaches and my professors have encouraged me to achieve so much more than I ever could have imagined. Moving from my high school football program to a top division three team was not an easy feat. My freshman year was spent working with my position coach, a former W&L player, in order to gain the weight and strength that I needed to be able to play at this level. My coach understood the rigors of the university and was able to convey to me what I needed to do to succeed with regards not just to athletics, but also academics and life at W&L in general. His one-on-one attention eventually gave me the opportunity to be a three-year starter at defensive end for the Generals. It is relationships such as this that truly make W&L a special place, one that does not limit you to one area, but pushes you to expand your horizons.

With respect to my interest in the arts, I actually came to the University with an interest in pursuing architecture. I spoke with the late Professor Pamela Simpson about which classes would be beneficial to me and she encouraged me to take sculpture. I had always loved to construct things, which probably was the reason I wanted to pursue architecture in the first place, but I had not made the connection until that moment. Professor Simpson's advice was so monumental, that it dictated the next three years of my college life in the best way possible. I loved taking sculpture classes and eventually chose the medium as the concentration for my major. The next year, I had the pleasure of taking Professor Simpson's Art Since 1945 class. It should not have come as a surprise to that Professor Simpson would be able to sway me a second time. I was absolutely enthralled with her class and would eventually go on to become an art history major as well. It is connections like the one I made with Professor Simpson that makes W&L such a unique environment. The professors here always have your best interest in mind and will push so hard for you to succeed in whatever area you choose to pursue.

It took me a little while to really understand how and why every professor and coach was so dedicated to helping me succeed at W&L. Coming from New York City, I was used to high levels of competition where you felt as though everyone was fighting for one spot. I have come to realize and appreciate that what makes W&L so unique is the Honor System which flows through the minds of every professor, coach, staff member and student at this university.  Our Honor System is not just about cheating, lying and stealing...it is about a commitment to an honorable way of life, no matter who or where you are. Although the students are technically the only members of the community "held" to the system, everyone here takes it to another level. Because of the mutual level of respect between every person at W&L, which is facilitated by the honor system, each student is given the opportunity to succeed and everyone around them--coaches, professors and other students--are cheering for them on the sidelines.