Update on the Board's Work

To: The W&L Community
From: Rector Mike McAlevey '86
Date: August 25, 2021
Re: Update on Board's Work

As we look forward to the start of the new academic year, I write to update you on the progress made this summer by the university and the Board of Trustees in furtherance of the board’s decisions announced in June.

In the June announcement, we confirmed what W&L has always stood for, including free and critical inquiry, civil discourse, developing students with honor and integrity and preparing graduates for responsible leadership, engaged citizenship and service to others. In keeping with these values, we committed to continue building a more diverse community, enhancing inclusion for everyone at W&L, supporting the professional success of our students and employees, and strengthening the board's composition and work. We have taken important actions already to advance these commitments.

  • On July 14, we announced the addition of Betsy Pakenas '94 and Jonathan Wortham '04 to the Board of Trustees.
  • On July 27, the university announced the creation of the DeLaney Center, a new interdisciplinary academic hub for teaching and research on Southern race relations, culture and politics.
  • Today I am pleased to share that trustee William Toles '92, '95L has agreed to chair our new board committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. We expect to constitute the committee at our October meeting.
  • Additionally, we are considering options for the new design of the university diploma, which we expect to finalize in October.

At the time of the June announcement, we amended the University Bylaws to change the name of Lee Chapel to University Chapel. The board is in the process of selecting an architectural firm that specializes in historic restoration projects to propose a plan for separating the 1868 auditorium and 1883 annex containing the Lee memorial sculpture into two distinct spaces. Burt Pinnock, a Richmond, Virginia-based architect who specializes in design solutions for spaces with historical and cultural significance, will consult with the firm on the project. We anticipate that this renovation will be completed by the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year. Although the renovation work will take some time to complete, we nonetheless expect the chapel auditorium to reopen to the campus community in early September 2021 for orientation events, and to the public in mid-September 2021. 

In keeping with our commitment to restore the chapel auditorium's original, unadorned design, we have begun relocating portraits, plaques and artifacts. Portraits and some plaques will be moved to the Chapel Galleries located beneath the chapel auditorium, where we already present the history of the building, the university and the relationship to our namesakes. We plan to improve the galleries with a new exhibit to display prominently the 1796 Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington and the 1866 J. Reid portrait of Robert E. Lee. We expect that new exhibit to open later this fall. Once the new University Museum is completed, it will be home to all of our most important portraits, plaques and artifacts and tell the many stories of the university's history more completely.

The board will continue to update you as we implement the commitments that we announced in June. In the meantime, I wish you all a healthy and successful start to the academic year.