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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Commencement Speakers

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Ruscio | Kaine | Beckley | Strong | Burrow

Kennth P. RuscioKenneth P. Ruscio, President

Kenneth P. Ruscio took office as the 26th president of Washington and Lee University on July 1, 2006. An alumnus of W&L and a distinguished scholar of democratic theory and public policy, President Ruscio previously served as the dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond from 2002 to 2006.

Ruscio earned his B.A. with a major in politics from Washington and Lee in 1976, and a master of public administration (1978) and a Ph.D. in public affairs and public administration (1983), both from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Ruscio held both faculty and staff positions at W&L from 1987 to 2002, including professor of politics, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, and dean of freshmen. A postdoctoral research scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1983 to 1985, he also taught at Worcester Polytechnic Institute from 1985 to 1987 and at Kansas University from 1982 to 1983.

The year after Ruscio became president of W&L, the University launched an ambitious strategic plan emphasizing its commitment to a liberal arts education in the 21st century. The current $500 million capital campaign in support of the plan has so far resulted in substantial gifts for student financial aid, including $100 million for the Johnson Scholarship Program; for faculty support and academic programs, including $66 million from the Lenfest Challenge to improve faculty compensation and $4 million from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd to create the Roger Mudd Center for the Study of Professional Ethics. A $50 million renovation and restoration of the historic Colonnade is well underway, and a new athletic and recreation center, as well as enhancements to campus residences for students, are in the works. The University has also embarked upon initiatives in work-life balance and energy conservation, the latter as part of its commitment to sustainability.

President Ruscio guided the University through a revitalization of the Spring Term, a four-week academic term that offers intensive study for students and creative approaches to teaching for faculty. Also during his tenure, the W&L School of Law has implemented an innovative curriculum that prepares students for a rapidly changing profession.

Ruscio has authored articles, book reviews, essays, and the book, The Leadership Dilemma in Modern Democracy (2004). He has served as national president of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society begun at W&L in 1914 that now has chapters at more than 300 campuses. He has led and served on dozens of academic, professional and civic committees. Ruscio serves on the boards of the George C. Marshall Foundation and of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). In recognition of his scholarly and professional accomplishments, Washington and Lee's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa inducted Ruscio as an alumni member in 2008.

Ruscio is married to Kimberley O'Donnell Ruscio. They have a son, Matthew, who is a 2012 graduate of St. Lawrence University.

Timothy M. Kaine, United States Senator and former Governor of the Commonwealth of VirginiaSen. Tim Kaine

(Law Commencement)

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) grew up in Kansas City and graduated from the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. He began his public-service career when he took a year off from law school to work with Jesuit missionaries in Honduras. Kaine practiced law for 18 years, specializing in representing people who had been denied housing due to their race or disability.

Kaine entered political life in 1994, serving on the Richmond City Council until 2001 as a councilman and mayor. In 2001, he was elected lieutenant governor of Virginia and served for four years with Governor Mark Warner.

In 2005, Kaine was elected Virginia's 70th governor and led the state to national recognition. Virginia was honored as the "Best Managed State in America" (Governing Magazine), the "Best State for Business" (, four years in a row) and the best state to raise a child (Education Week). Virginia maintained its AAA bond rating for fiscal management-one of only seven states to receive the top rating from all three major ratings agencies-and had one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates and highest median incomes. During his term, Kaine also chaired the Southern Governors' Association and the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine has been married for 28 years to Anne Holton. Holton, the daughter of Washington and Lee alumnus and former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton, served as a legal aid lawyer and juvenile court judge before becoming First Lady of Virginia. The Kaines have three children, Nat, Woody and Annella. 

Harlan BeckleyHarlan R. Beckley, Director of the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability and Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion, Washington and Lee University

(Undergraduate Baccalaureate)

Harlan Beckley received a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in economics, from the University of Illinois, and M.A., M.Div., and Ph.D. degrees from Vanderbilt University. His doctoral dissertation in Christian theological ethics was entitled "Economic Justice in a Pluralistic Society: A Study in Christian Social Ethics".

Dr. Beckley has taught in the Religion Department at Washington and Lee University since 1974. He has authored numerous scholarly papers, edited and introduced several volumes, and wrote Passion for Justice: Retrieving the Legacies of Walter Rauschenbusch, John A. Ryan, and Reinhold Niebuhr.

In 1997, Dr. Beckley helped to create and became the first Director of the Shepherd Program, which has since become a multi-institutional consortial effort. In 1999, Dr. Beckley was named the Fletcher Otey Thomas Professor of Religion, and in 2002 he received the state of Virginia's highest award for excellence in education, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award. Dr. Beckley has also served as Vice President and President of the Society of Christian Ethics (1999-2001) and as Acting President of Washington and Lee University (2005-06).

Dr. Beckley is married to the former Deborah Pope. They have three adult children--Benjamin, Jonathan, and Rachel.

Robert A. Strong, Interim Provost and William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics, Washington and Lee University

Robert Strong, interim provost(Undergraduate Commencement)

A 1970 graduate of Kenyon College, Robert Strong served in the U.S. Navy for four years. After leaving the Navy, he earned a Ph.D. in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and began his teaching career at Tulane University, where he won the university award for excellence in academic advising and the student senate's teaching award.

In the fall of 1989, Strong was named head of the politics department at Washington and Lee and served in that capacity for 15 years. After receiving an appointment as the William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics, he worked with colleagues to invite prominent authors to campus for lectures and seminars with faculty and students under the auspices of the William Lyne Wilson II Symposium Fund. He co-chaired a major committee that reviewed the first 10 years of coeducation and another that recommended reforms for undergraduate general education requirements. After 9/11, he taught a special course on terrorism that included lectures by colleagues in sociology, religion and law, as well as a variety of guests from Washington, D.C. Later he taught a course with Frank Settle, professor of chemistry emeritus, on proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

Strong became the first associate provost of the university in 2008 and helped administer two new endowments to support a lecture series and summer grants that fund student internships and off campus experiences.

Strong's research has been focused on foreign policy decisions made by recent American presidents. He has written three books: one on Henry Kissinger, one on Jimmy Carter, and two editions of a collection of case studies that cover the presidential administrations from Truman to George W. Bush. For more than 30 years, he has worked with scholars at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs conducting oral history interviews with elected and appointed officials who have served in the cabinet and in the White House. He has been a visiting scholar at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth and at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. In 1988-89 he was an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and worked in the offices of Congressman Lee Hamilton and Senator Richard Lugar.

His commentary on political events has been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, the Baltimore Sun, the Miami Herald, the Roanoke Times, Huffington Post, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.


Steele BurrowSteele A. Burrow '13, 2012-13 President of the Executive Committee of the Student Body

(Undergraduate Commencement) 

Steele Burrow is a senior politics major from Dallas, Texas. Prior to serving as the President of the Executive Committee, he served as a class representative freshman and sophomore years. In response to a series of articles on academic integrity, The New York Times published his letter to the editor about W&L's Honor System.

On campus, he works as a photographer and writer for inGeneral magazine, contributes to the Washington and Lee Political Review and is a member of the Outing Club and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. During the fall of his junior year, he studied abroad at the American Graduate School in Paris and the Alliance Francaise. In 2011, he earned a Johnson Opportunity Grant to intern with an NGO in Tamil Nadu, India, where he documented the organization's healthcare work for rural villages in tiger reserves. He interned at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2012.

Outside of school, he enjoys traveling, cycling, and fly fishing. He is an avid photographer as well, with images published in The Dallas Morning News, The Guardian, and The New York Times.

He plans to pursue a master's degree in international relations after graduation.