Fall 2023 Campus Update

To: W&L Faculty, Staff, and Students
From: President Will Dudley
Date: August 31, 2023

The end of August is a time of anticipation and transition on campus. Summer programs wind down, vacations fade into pleasant memories, students return to Lexington, and we all prepare to resume the familiar and cherished rhythms of the academic year.

The arrival of the newest members of our community brings a rising tide of energy and enthusiasm. We recently welcomed 504 first-year undergraduates, 3 transfers, and 125 first-year law students. They are joined by 46 new faculty members and 86 new staff, who are excited to teach, mentor, and support our students.

Fall Academy, our annual two-week professional development program for faculty and staff, showcases the astonishing variety of expertise at Washington and Lee. The enthusiasm for learning from each other in the service of our educational mission is palpable and inspiring.

Recent Accomplishments

The entering undergraduate and law classes extend our success in attracting an exceptionally talented and increasingly diverse student body. The demand for a W&L education is greater than ever, as reflected in the number and quality of applications, and in the percentage of students who accept our offers of admission. The excellence of our teaching is evident in the success of our students after graduation, winning fellowships that place us among the top-producing liberal arts institutions for Rhodes, Fulbright, Gilman, and Boren Scholars, and among the top law schools for federal clerkships and employment in the legal profession.

We are making steady progress on important initiatives in our Strategic Plan, including most recently the launch of the DeLaney Center, the expansion of undergraduate orientation trips to the entire first-year class, the creation of a new Path to Public Interest Program in the Law School, and the completion of a large-scale solar power project that puts us substantially closer to our goal of carbon neutrality.

We also continue to invest in the facilities that serve our students, faculty, and staff. This fall term marks the reopening of dining venues in Elrod Commons, the auditorium and galleries in University Chapel, and the field hockey turf, all of which have undergone substantial renovations. Davis Hall has been demolished and Baker Hall is coming down, making way for the new Williams School building, which will open in the fall of 2025.

All of this is possible thanks to the extraordinary generosity of alumni and friends of Washington and Lee. Last year we achieved the second-highest fundraising total in the history of the university, with $73.9 million contributed to support our institutional priorities. We are fortunate to work at a school with resources commensurate to our educational ambitions.

Initiatives for 2023-24

This year we will continue working toward becoming need-blind in undergraduate admissions, which will ensure that we can admit the most talented students every time. We also seek to establish additional law scholarships to provide greater access to an outstanding legal education. And we are striving to offer every student the opportunity to take part in co-curricular and summer programs that make up the full W&L experience.

In February, we plan to break ground on the Lindley Center for Student Wellness, which will open in the fall of 2025. And we are fundraising in earnest for the Admissions and Financial Aid Center, the Museum of Institutional History, and the renovation of Huntley Hall.

February will also bring the 28th edition of Mock Convention, one of Washington and Lee's most storied traditions. Our students — who organize and run the entire event — endeavor to predict the candidate who will be nominated for President by the party currently not in the White House. Since its inception in 1908, W&L students have correctly predicted the nominee an impressive 74 percent of the time. We are justifiably proud of Mock Convention, which engages so many of our students with the political process, and which has brought many distinguished speakers, representing a wide variety of perspectives, to our campus over the years.

Many of our faculty are also actively engaged in ensuring that all members of the Washington and Lee community feel comfortable expressing themselves freely and conversing respectfully with those who hold differing views. This summer, a cohort of 13 W&L faculty members participated in a program on "Facilitating Constructive Dialogue in a Challenging World" with colleagues from the University of Richmond and Hendrix College. This collaboration, funded by a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South, brought professors together to discuss how to create classroom environments that equip students to have good conversations on difficult subjects. The participating faculty members will share their experiences in this program with other interested faculty members on Sept. 13.

Leadership Transitions

We are fortunate to have strong and experienced leadership at Washington and Lee, but the team is always evolving, and this year is no exception.

Sidney Evans, who has given an extraordinary 23 years of service to W&L — including the past 12 as our vice president of student affairs and dean of students — will retire at the end of this academic year. Sidney's many accomplishments include the development of upper-division housing in the Village, the renovation of Elrod Commons and creation of the Center for Inclusion and Engagement, the establishment of the Women's Leadership Summit, and the expansion of the Leading Edge orientation program and mental health resources for our students. She has also led critical campus committees, serving as co-chair of our 2018 Strategic Planning process and the Residential and Social Life Working Group, as chair of our Emergency Management Executive Team, and as chair of the search committees for the Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid (2014-15) and the General Counsel (2021). In her exceptionally demanding role, Sidney has put students first at every opportunity, and she will be greatly missed. Provost Lena Hill will chair the search for Sidney's successor, which is underway.

Lynn Rainville, who has served as the inaugural executive director of institutional history and museums since 2019, will transition from that role at the end of this month. She will continue her work on behalf of the university as a professor of anthropology, supervising student projects during the upcoming term. Over the last four years, Lynn has led W&L's Office of Institutional History. She has built an outstanding program based on rigorous research and community engagement. She has successfully incorporated institutional history and museums into new areas of the curriculum and incorporated W&L's history into orientation programs for new students and employees. Lynn has mentored dozens of students, collected oral histories, developed historical resources like campus walking tours, and laid essential groundwork for the forthcoming museum of institutional history. Plans regarding the search for Lynn's successor will be announced later this year.

Please join me in thanking Sidney and Lynn for their many contributions to Washington and Lee.


We will formally kick off the academic year with Convocation on Thursday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m. Howard Pickett, associate professor of ethics and poverty studies, will give the featured address, with dinner to follow on Cannan Green. I hope you will join me at this event.

I look forward to seeing all of you around campus and to a productive and successful year.