Winter 2022 Campus Update

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Jan. 6, 2022

Welcome back to campus. I hope each of you found time for family, friends, and relaxation during the break.

The theme of this academic year is the return of things we once took for granted. Classes are back in person, and athletic and performing arts events once again have spectators. We have enjoyed hosting campus events, including a belated commencement for the Class of 2020, Parents and Family Weekend, and Young Alumni Weekend. The fact that we are here teaching, learning, competing, performing, and socializing with each other is a testament to your collective dedication and creativity. 

Heading into the Winter Term, we are determined to continue doing what we do as well as it can be done, no matter what the universe throws our way. The universe is still pitching a pandemic, but we have proven to be resilient and adaptable. As a vaccinated community, we are in a better position than a year ago. And while the Omicron variant is highly contagious, public health experts have determined it is less likely to lead to serious illness than Delta. We expect to see more positive cases in the coming weeks, but we will manage outbreaks as we have in the past and go about our business to the very best of our ability.

Fall Term Success

Several members of the W&L community have been recognized for outstanding academic and professional achievements in recent months. Six students — Emma Conover '24, Jasmine Gipson '24, Lauren Hayes '23, Abigail Moore '25, Liv Ullmann '25, and Ashley True '23 — were awarded prestigious Gilman Scholarships to participate in study abroad programs and internships around the world. Deborah Miranda, Thomas H. Broadus, Jr. Professor of English emeritus, won the 2021 Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges' H. Hiter Harris III Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. And former deans Suzanne Keen and Nora Demleitner were named president of Scripps College and St. John's College, respectively. Their appointments, along with that of Marc Conner as president of Skidmore College, are a great testament to their individual accomplishments and to W&L's national reputation for developing leaders in higher education.

Our student athletes wrapped up outstanding fall seasons, with field hockey, football, and volleyball claiming ODAC championships and earning automatic berths in NCAA national championship competition. Men's soccer had a historic campaign, going undefeated in the regular season and advancing to the NCAA final four for the first time. Washington and Lee currently ranks ninth out of the more than 400 NCAA Division III institutions in the 2021-22 Director's Cup standings.

On campus, we opened the Harte Center for Teaching and Learning, which has already become a popular center for study and collaboration. Renovations to Elrod Commons, including the new Center for Inclusion and Engagement, are on track to be completed later this year.

Off campus, the university continued to be a positive force in the local community. Our Community Grants Committee made eight fall grants totaling over $25,000 to nonprofit organizations in Lexington and Rockbridge County. The program has awarded more than $700,000 to area nonprofits since its inception in 2008.

Anticipating Winter Term

We hope to be able to enjoy a wide range of activities this term. The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr will be honored with a rich slate of events later this month. The Mudd Center will continue its year-long series on Daily Ethics, including an exhibition in the Staniar Gallery of the mosaic created this fall by our students, faculty, and staff under the guidance of Richmond-based artist Jonathan Lee. Our music, theater, film, and art departments have planned a full schedule. We can look forward to performances by the Repertory Dance Company, the Jazz Ensemble, and the University Orchestra; "Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo;" "Thumbelina," directed by Jemma Levy; the winter choral concert; and this year's Bentley Musical, "All Shook Up." 

Winter sports — basketball, indoor track and field, swimming, and wrestling — are underway. Women’s swimming currently ranks 23rd nationally. Christine Clancy, head coach of women's basketball, set a program record with her 124th win on Dec. 4.

It is frustrating to face yet another pandemic winter, but we have many reasons for pride and gratitude. And it is especially important in this challenging time to remember our shared purpose. What we do here — preparing young people to make positive differences wherever they go — matters. We are good at it and always trying to get better. It’s a full team effort, to which every one of you makes important contributions. I am proud to be part of your team, and I thank you for the hard work, positive attitude, and community spirit that have brought us this far. 

I wish you a happy new year and a good start to the term ahead.