Washington and Lee University: Wikis


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Washington and Lee University
W&L Crest.png
Motto Non Incautus Futuri (Latin)
Motto in English "Not Unmindful of the Future."
Established 1749
Type Private
Endowment US $897.1 million[1]
President Kenneth Patrick Ruscio
Faculty 255
Students 2,200
Undergraduates 1,780
Postgraduates 400
Location Lexington, Virginia, USA
Campus National Historic Landmark, Rural, 325 acres (1.32 km2)
Former names Augusta Academy (1749–1776)
Liberty Hall (1776–1780)
Washington Academy (1796–1870)
Colors Royal Blue and White
Nickname "The Generals"
Athletics NCAA Division III, ODAC
Website www.wlu.edu
W&L Logo.png

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia, United States.

The classical school from which Washington and Lee descended was established in 1749 as Augusta Academy[2], about 20 miles (32 km) north of its present location.[2] In 1776 it was renamed Liberty Hall in a burst of revolutionary fervor.[2] The academy moved to Lexington in 1780, when it was chartered as Liberty Hall Academy, and built its first facility near town in 1782.

In 1796, George Washington endowed the academy with the largest gift ever given to an educational institution at that time: $20,000 in stock[2]. The gift rescued Liberty Hall from near-certain insolvency. In gratitude, the trustees changed the school's name to Washington Academy; in 1813 it was chartered as Washington College.[2] Dividends from Washington's gift continue to pay about $1.87 a year toward the cost of each student's education. Robert E. Lee was its president after the Civil War in 1865 until his death in 1870, after which the school was renamed Washington and Lee University.[2]

Washington and Lee's motto is Non incautus futuri, meaning "Not unmindful of the future." It is an adaptation of the Lee family motto.[2]

One quarter of W&L's undergraduates participate in varsity athletics, three quarters in club or intramural programs. There are more than 120 student organizations and publications, and approximately 80 percent of undergraduates belong to fraternities or sororities.[3]

W&L is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South.[4]



The row of brick buildings that form the Colonnade, which traces to 1824, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.[5] Separately, the Lee Chapel is also a National Historic Landmark.[6]

The noted British writer John Cowper Powys once called W&L the "most beautiful college campus in America". The poet and dramatist John Drinkwater remarked, "If this scene were set down in the middle of Europe, the whole continent would flock to see it!"

Since the '70s, the university has invested massively in upgrading and expanding its academic, residential, athletic, research, arts and extracurricular facilities. The new facilities include an undergraduate library, gymnasium, art/music/theater complex, dorms, student center, student activities pavilion and tennis pavilion, as well as renovation of the journalism and commerce buildings and renovation of every fraternity house and construction of several sorority houses. Lewis Hall, the 30-year-old home of the law school, as well as athletic fields and the antebellum Historic Front Campus buildings, are all currently undergoing major renovation.

In 1977, The New Yorker published a cartoon showing a family in a car in front of the Washington and Lee campus. The caption was: "The College of Your Choice".


Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia

Today the university has about 1,780 undergraduate students and 400 in the School of Law. Both the undergraduate and law schools are in the top 25 rankings of U.S. News and World Report (2007) for national liberal arts colleges and law schools, respectively. The undergraduate school as of 2010 is ranked #14.[7]

The admissions rate for the class of 2012 was 15.1%, a record-high selectivity for the university.[8]

Washington and Lee is divided into three schools: (1) The College, where all undergraduates begin their studies, encompassing the liberal arts, humanities and hard sciences, with notable interest among students in pre-health and pre-law studies; (2) the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, which offers majors in accounting, business administration, economics, politics, and public accounting; and (3) the School of Law, which offers Juris Doctor and Master of Laws degrees.

More than 1,100 undergraduate courses are offered. There are no graduate or teaching assistants; every course is taught by a faculty member.[9] The undergraduate library has more than 700,000 volumes (and a vast electronic network). The law library has more than 400,000 volumes as well as extensive electronic resources.

Washington and Lee offers 42 undergraduate majors (including interdisciplinary majors in neuroscience, medieval and Renaissance studies, and Russian studies) and additional interdisciplinary programs in African-American studies, East Asian studies, environmental studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, poverty and human capability studies (Shepherd Program), and women's studies.

Princeton Review's 2006 edition of The Best 357 Colleges ranked W&L highly in its for "Best Overall Academic Experience," "Professors Get High Marks," and "Professor Accessibility". In the 2007 edition, Washington and Lee was ranked 4th in "Professors Get High Marks" and 6th in "Professor Accessibility". Combining academics with an active social culture, Washington and Lee ranked 14th in "Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates".[10]

The undergraduate calendar is an unusual three-term system with 12-week fall and winter terms followed by a four-week spring term. The spring-term courses include topical, often unique, seminars, faculty-supervised study abroad, and some domestic and international internships. The law calendar consists of the more traditional early-semester system.


Liberty Hall Academy became a college when it granted its first bachelor of arts degree in 1785[11], making it the ninth oldest institution of higher education in the country.[2] George Washington gave the school its first significant endowment in 1796, $20,000, at the time the largest gift ever given to an educational institution in the United States, and Washington's gift continues to provide nearly $1.87 a year toward every student's tuition.[2] Trustees changed the name of the school to Washington Academy, and later Washington College, to honor him.[2] Among many alumni who have followed in Washington's footsteps by donating generously, Rupert Johnson, a 1962 graduate who is vice chairman of the $600-billion Franklin Templeton investment management firm, gave $100 million to Washington and Lee in June 2007, establishing a merit-based financial aid and curriculum enrichment program.

Liberty Hall is said to have admitted its first African-American student when John Chavis, a free black, enrolled in 1795.[12] Chavis accomplished much in his life including fighting in the American Revolution, studying at both Liberty Hall and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister, and opening a school that instructed white and poor black students in North Carolina. He is believed to be the first black student to have earned a degree in the United States. Washington and Lee enrolled its next African-American student in 1966 in the law school.

The campus took its current architectural form in the 1820s when a local merchant, "Jockey" John Robinson, an uneducated Irish immigrant, donated funds to build a central building. For the dedication celebration in 1824, Robinson supplied a huge barrel of whiskey, which he intended for the dignitaries in attendance. But according to a contemporary history, the rabble broke through the barriers and created pandemonium, which ended only when college officials demolished the whiskey barrel with an ax. A justice of the Virginia State Supreme Court, Christian Compton ('50 undergraduate, '53 law), re-created the episode in 1976 for the dedication of the new law school by having several barrels of Scotch imported (without the unfortunate dénouement).

The Lee years

After the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee turned down several financially tantalizing offers of employment that would merely have traded on his name[13], and instead accepted the post of college president for three reasons: First, he had been superintendent of West Point, so higher education was in his background. Second, and more important, he believed that it was a position in which he could actually make a contribution to the reconciliation of the nation. Third, the Washington family were his in-laws: his wife was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. Lee had long looked on George Washington as a hero and role model, so it is hardly surprising that he welcomed the challenge of leading a college endowed by and named after the first president.

Arguably Lee's finest achievement was transforming a small, not particularly distinguished Latin academy into a forward-looking institution of higher education ("not unmindful of the future"). He established the first school of professional journalism education in the country and he added both a business school and a law school to the college curriculum, under the conviction that those occupations should be intimately and inextricably linked with the liberal arts. That was a radical idea: Journalism and law had always been considered technical crafts, not intellectual endeavors, and business was even worse. Yet Lee's concept has become universally accepted, and today it would seem subversive if anyone suggested that education in journalism, business, and law should be kept separate from the liberal arts and sciences.

Lee was also the father of an Honor System and a speaking tradition at Washington College that continue to the present time. And, ardent about restoring national unity, he successfully recruited students from the north as well as the south.

Lee died on October 12, 1870, after just five years as Washington College president.[14] The school's name was almost immediately changed to link his with Washington's. His son, George Washington Custis Lee, followed as the school's next president.[15] General Lee and much of his family - including his wife, his seven children, and his father, the Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse Harry" Lee - are buried in the Lee Chapel on campus[16], which faces the main row of antebellum college buildings. Robert E. Lee's beloved horse, Traveller, is buried outside, near the wall of the Chapel.[17]

Honor system


Washington and Lee maintains a rigorous honor system that traces directly to Robert E. Lee, who said, "We have but one rule here, and it is that every student must be a gentleman." Students, upon entering the university, vow to act honorably in academic and nonacademic endeavors. The Honor System means that a Washington and Lee student must never lie, cheat, or steal, that they must respect other people, their opinions and their property, and that they must always act like a gentleperson.

The honor system has been run by the Executive Committee of the Student Body since 1905. Any student found guilty of an Honor Violation by his or her peers is subject to a single penalty: expulsion. The Honor System is defined and administered solely by students, and there is no higher review. A formal review, occasionally including referenda, is held every three years to refine the tenets of the Honor System. Students continue to support the Honor System and its single penalty overwhelmingly, and alumni regularly point to the Honor System as one of the distinctive marks they carry with them from their W&L experience.

Washington and Lee's Honor System is distinct from others such as those found at the neighboring Virginia Military Institute and the University of Virginia because it is not codified. That is to say, unlike those others, Washington and Lee's does not have a list of rules that define punishable behavior.

The Honor System encompasses fundamental honesty and integrity. The Honor System condemns only acts that the current student generation views as breaches of the community’s trust, and although dishonorable conduct cannot be codified, lying, cheating and stealing have historically been found to be examples of breaches of the Honor System. No violation of trust is more egregious than another, and no breach is too small to be ignored. Thus, dismissal from the University is the only appropriate sanction for an Honor Violation.

Exams at W&L are ordinarily unproctored and self-scheduled. It is not unusual for professors to assign take-home, closed-book finals with an explicit trust in their students not to cheat.

The Honor System is strongly enforced. In most years, only a very few students withdraw in the face of an honor charge or after investigations and closed hearings conducted by the Executive Committee of the Student Body, the University's elected student government (with the accused counseled by Honor Advocates, usually law students). In recent years, an average of 4-5 students leave each year, with the same number typically leaving from each entering class. Students found guilty in a closed hearing may appeal the verdict to an open hearing before the entire student body, although this option is rarely exercised. If found guilty at an open trial, the student is dismissed from the university permanently.


Alumni of note


The school's teams are known as "The Generals" and compete in NCAA Division III in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. Washington and Lee has 11 men's teams (baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, and wrestling) and 10 women's teams(basketball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, riding, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, and volleyball). Washington and Lee holds two NCAA National Championship titles. In 1988, the men's tennis team won the NCAA Division III National Championship title.[citation needed] In 2007, the women's tennis team claimed the NCAA Division III National Championship title.[citation needed]

Student activities

Every four years, the school sponsors the Washington and Lee Mock Convention for whichever political party (Democratic or Republican) does not hold the Presidency. The Convention has received gavel-to-gavel coverage on C-SPAN and attention from many other national media outlets. The convention has correctly picked the out-of-power nominee for 18 of the past 23 national elections. It has been wrong twice since 1948,[19] including its incorrect choice of Hillary Clinton in 2008. In 1984, the failure of the scoreboard significantly slowed the vote tally process and almost led to a wrong selection.[20] The Washington Post declared Washington and Lee's Mock Convention "one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious mock conventions."[21]

Washington and Lee University has several mysterious societies including the Cadaver Society.


Washington and Lee was all male until 1972, when women were admitted to the law school; the first female undergraduates enrolled in 1985. This anomaly survived as long as it did largely because, within an hour's drive of Washington and Lee, a large number of all-women's colleges existed (and still do): Randolph College in Lynchburg (formerly Randolph-Macon Woman's College), Sweet Briar College, just north of Lynchburg, Hollins University near Roanoke, and Mary Baldwin College in Staunton.

As of 2005, the University is 49% female, 51% male.[22] In 2006, the number of women receiving undergraduate degrees exceeded the number of men for the first time in the school's history.

The University has worked to increase the number of minority faculty and students. Minority students now comprise approximately 10% of the student body.[22]

The university's students have generally been known for conservative politics.[citation needed]

Fraternities and sororities

Greek letter organizations play a major role in Washington and Lee's social scene. The following is a list of active, recognized fraternities and sororities.


Fraternities and Chapter Titles

The Kappa Alpha Order, one of the Lexington Triad, was founded at W&L.[23]

Dormant fraternity chapters at Washington and Lee also include Alpha Tau Omega, Chi Phi, Delta Sigma Phi, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Upsilon, Theta Delta Chi. Kappa Sigma, Psi Upsilon, Phi Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau.


Media and culture

A Washington and Lee art history professor, Pamela Hemenway Simpson, in 1999 wrote the only scholarly book on linoleum, giving it the title Cheap, Quick and Easy.[24] The book also examines other home-design materials once used by the lower classes emulate their betters. More recently, she has become an expert, perhaps the leading academic expert, on butter sculpture.

Photographer Sally Mann got her start at Washington and Lee, photographing the construction of the law school. The photos became the basis of a one-woman exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C..

Washington and Lee is home to a collection of 18th- and 19th-century Chinese and European porcelain, the gift of Euchlin Dalcho Reeves, a 1927 graduate of the law school, and his wife, Louise Herreshoff. In 1967, Mr. Reeves contacted Washington and Lee about making "a small gift," which turned out to be a collection of porcelain so vast that it filled two entire houses which he and his wife owned in Providence, R.I. A number of dirt-covered picture frames, found in the two houses, were put on the van along with the porcelain. Soon it was discovered that the frames actually contained Impressionist-like paintings created by Louise as a young woman in the early days of the century. Mrs. Reeves had, it turned out, been a painter of stupendous talent, certified when in 1976 the Corcoran Gallery in Washington mounted a posthumous one-woman exhibition of her works. Their story is helped by the fact that he ("Boy") was almost 30 years younger than she ("Dol").

The world's first recorded streaker — George William Crump — was a student at Washington College, in 1804. He later became a Congressman as well as America's ambassador to Chile.


Before it morphed into a swing, Dixieland and bluegrass standard, "The Washington and Lee Swing" was one of the most well known — and widely borrowed — football marches ever written, according to Robert Lissauer's Encyclopedia of Popular Music in America. Schools and colleges from Tulane to Slippery Rock copied it (sometimes with attribution). It was written in 1910 by Mark W. Sheafe, '06, Clarence A. (Tod) Robbins, '11, and Thornton W. Allen, '13. It has been recorded by virtually every important jazz and swing musician, including Glenn Miller (with Tex Beneke on vocals), Louis Armstrong, Kay Kyser, Hal Kemp and the Dukes of Dixieland. "The Swing" was a trademark of the New Orleans showman Pete Fountain. The trumpeter Red Nichols played it (and Danny Kaye pretended to play it) in the 1959 movie The Five Pennies. (Here is an audio excerpt from a 1944 recording by Jan Garber, a prominent dance-band leader of the era. Here is an exuberant instrumental version by a group called the Dixie Boys, which YouTube dates to 2006.)

The "Swing" was parodied in "The Dummy Song" by Ray Brown and Lew Henderson.[25] "Dummy" was recorded by NRBQ, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Glenn Miller's vocal jazz group, the Modernaires, among many others, and was used in the movie You've Got Mail.

Washington and Lee in fiction

  • Professor Lawrence Edward Watkin's 1940 novel Geese in the Forum is an allegory about campus politics (the geese were the faculty).
  • In 1949, The Hero, by Millard Lampell, who did not attend Washington and Lee, was published; it told the story of a New Jersey boy who went south to attend Jackson University in Geneva, Virginia, and found epic difficulty in balancing academics, athletics and a social life. The book is dedicated to Richard Pinck, '41, who played football in the days when Washington and Lee competed in Division I and went to bowl games (or at least to one, the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day in 1951, before a cheating scandal in the early 1950s caused the university to abandon subsidized athletics). Lampell adapted his own book for the movies in 1950; it became Saturday’s Hero, starring John Derek and Donna Reed.
  • In 1986, the French novelist and film director Philippe Labro, of the class of 1958, wrote L'Étudiant étranger (The Foreign Student), for which he won Europe’s Prix Interallié. It was both a coming-of-age novel and a love letter to American popular culture of the 1950s – Buicks and Jack Kerouac and, far from least, girls of all classes and races. In 1994 the novel was made into an English-language movie with Marco Hofschneider playing Labro. The movie sank without making either a critical or financial impact.
  • The protagonist in the 2004 coming-of-age novel American Blue Blood, by William C. Codington, attended W&L and recounts scenes from his days there in the 1970s. The protagonist introduces himself as follows: "I, Thomas Williamson Lightfoot, was in college in Lexington, Virginia, and my roommate...."
  • In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 series, the Confederate States of America wins the American Civil War, and during the Second Great War the Confederacy bases its atomic bomb program at "Washington University" in Lexington, Virginia.
  • Tom Wolfe, who is a Washington and Lee alumnus, based his novel "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (published 2004) on a fictional woman experiencing college life at Duke University (referred to as "Dupont University"). In this novel, Wolfe chronicles college sports, fraternities, keggers, coeds, and sex—all through the eyes of Simmons, a bright and beautiful freshman.
  • Washington and Lee English professor Laura Brodie published The Widow's Season in 2009. Her book tells the story of a middle-aged woman who is struggling with the disappearance of her husband, fictional Washington and Lee infirmary physician David McConnell.


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j http://www.wlu.edu/x22.xml
  3. ^ Greek Life:: Washington and Lee University
  4. ^ http://www.myplan.com/education/db/ug/ug_6.php?id=234207
  5. ^ http://www.wlu.edu/x8.xml
  6. ^ http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/vamainstreet/was.HTM
  7. ^ USNews.com: America's Best Colleges 2009: Liberal Arts Colleges: Top Schools
  8. ^ W&L Admissions Home:: Washington and Lee University
  9. ^ Departments and Programs:: Washington and Lee University
  10. ^ Washington and Lee University
  11. ^ http://www.braintrack.com/college/u/washington-and-lee-university
  12. ^ http://www.wlu.edu/x9651.xml
  13. ^ http://dsuka.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=29
  14. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Lee&GSfn=Robert&GSmn=Edward&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=in&GSob=n&GRid=615&
  15. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_Washington_and_Lee_University
  16. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=641527
  17. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GScid=641527&GRid=3082&
  18. ^ Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963. 
  19. ^ US News and World Report, "Campus Pundits' Winning Record," January 28, 2008
  20. ^ W&L Mock Convention 2008 Official Site
  21. ^ Washington Post, 1996
  22. ^ a b http://ir.wlu.edu/studata/demographics_fall_05.doc
  23. ^ Welcome to Kappa Alpha Order, Zeta Zeta Chapter
  24. ^ Cheap, Quick and Easy
  25. ^ who also wrote "Birth of the Blues," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries." "You're the Cream in My Coffee" and "Keep Your Skirts Down, Mary Ann"

External links

Coordinates: 37°47′11.7″N 79°26′39.3″W / 37.786583°N 79.44425°W / 37.786583; -79.44425

Simple English

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia, United States.


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