Although she recycled at home, Valerie Cushman wouldn’t have classified herself as a staunch environmentalist when she joined W&L in October 2007 as executive assistant to the president. One of her duties, however, is helping President Ruscio structure the new University Sustainability Committee. The committee, which met for the first time in September, will create a strategic plan to guide the University in achieving the goals of the Talloires Declaration and the President’s Climate Commitment. “Assisting President Ruscio with these efforts has helped me grow personally in my interest in the environment,” said Cushman.
Cushman came to Lexington from Randolph College (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman’s College), in Lynchburg, Va., where she was special assistant to the president, director of athletics and chair of physical education. “It makes sense that I’m enjoying this aspect of my job,” she said, “as one of the things I’m most proud of at Randolph College was gathering a large group of student athletes to give something back to the Lynchburg community.”
Cushman was inspired to organize a watershed clean-up effort in downtown Lynchburg after reading Earl Swift’s Journey on the James: Three Weeks Through the Heart of Virginia, about the reporter’s trek down the James River in Virginia. She enlisted about 85 athletes and coaches to spend a day cleaning up a section of the river, and she found the positive response of her students to volunteering to be as invigorating and rewarding as any victory on the field.
“What we’re doing here at Washington and Lee is the right thing to do,” said Cushman. “We should be role modeling for our community and our students. We have something to be gained from ensuring that our students think about the communities in which they live, and teaching them and learning from them about how we all can make a difference in protecting our environment.”