from The Bridge: Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue
John Ebner '91 and Bruce and Julie Thomas P'12 believe so strongly in the Washington Term Program that they are supporting it with their donations.
The program, directed by William Connelly, the John K. Boardman Professor of Politics, combines the practical experience of an internship with academic studies and lectures to enhance students' understanding of national politics and governance. One of the goals of the Honor Our Past, Build Our Future Campaign is to raise $500,000 for the Washington Term Endowment to ensure continued support for the program.
John Ebner names a highlight of his student years at W&L as completing an internship in the White House Office of Communications shortly after President George H.W. Bush took office. He found the behind-the- scenes view of politics at work awe-inspiring.
"This was an extraordinary experience for me," says Ebner. "It's something I hope will be available to future W&L students. I am glad to be a small part of helping the Washington Term Program move forward."
Ebner, who credits W&L as a significant and positive influence in his personal and professional life, contributed a $125,000 challenge gift to kick-start fund-raising for the endowment, in part to honor Connelly- a professor Ebner describes as a dedicated scholar and teacher.
"Professor Connelly embodies what I think is the best of that profession," Ebner says. "He's a scholar who's not only passionate about his field of study but also deeply con- cerned about making sure his students get the most out of their education. He wasn't buried in a cubbyhole somewhere studying politics-he was out there actively encouraging his students' engagement in the learning process."
As parents of recent graduate Maggie Thomas '12, Bruce and Julie Thomas agree. They think that grateful parents should invest in the University to ensure the continuation of programs that have made a difference for their children. Accordingly, the couple donated $50,000 to the endowment fund in hopes of perpetuating it for generations to come.
"We felt that Washington and Lee was a place that gave us, and gave our daughter, Maggie, more than our money's worth," says Thomas, senior vice president of MeadWestvaco Corp. "The Washington Term Program is truly exemplary of everything that W&L stands for and everything the University does. It's uniquely Washington and Lee."
For her 2010 internship, Maggie worked in the office of U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor, then the minority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. Her six-week placement coincided with the national health-care debate, making the experience an exciting opportunity filled with timely lessons about the inner workings of national politics.
"It was probably the most high-profile, high-energy legislative event of the past four years," says Thomas. "It was a remarkable time. The six weeks she spent in Washington, D.C., influenced Maggie tremendously." As Maggie continues her studies at Georgetown Law School, the Thomases are convinced that her experience at W&L has prepared her to reach her full potential.
"W&L was exactly the right school for my daughter," Thomas says. "She emerged from the four-year experience a very different and quite remarkable young lady. And we owe that in large part to people like Professor Connelly and to opportunities such as the Washington Term Program."