Archive for March, 2011

Talking Science

Washington and Lee President Ken Ruscio makes a point at a New York dinner on science and science policy. (Photo by Diane Bondareff)

Washington and Lee President Ken Ruscio joined the presidents of Arizona State University, the University of Pennsylvania and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, plus several internationally renowned scientists, including physicist Freeman Dyson, for a wide-ranging discussion of current scientific issues with members of the national media this week.

Hosted by Arizona State President Michael Crow at the Penn Club in New York, the session was an on-the-record event that drew representatives from the New York Times, NBC, Newsweek, Nature and Scientific American, among others.

The Japanese nuclear crisis was a primary topic. One of the journalists present, Robert Bazell, from NBC, had just returned from two weeks in Japan, allowing him to offer first-person insights.

Among other topics was governmental support for scientific research and the need to improve science instruction in K-12 education. On that topic, President Ruscio referred to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant that supports W&L’s efforts to provide training for teachers in Rockbridge County.


University presidents, scientists and journalists at the Arizona State National Education Dinner. (Photo by Diane Bondareff)

Local Hero

Mary Cromer '06L

The Sierra Club has singled out as a legal hero Mary Cromer, a 2006 Washington and Lee Law graduate, for her work as a staff attorney for the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. The ACLC, a small, non-profit law firm, is dedicated to protecting coalfield communities and the environment from destructive coal-mining practices in central Appalachia.

Formerly a clerk for the Honorable Glen Conrad of the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and an associate attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Mary has represented individuals and families who have lost their well water because of nearby coal mining, and has fought pollution from coal mining under national environmental laws.

According to the Sierra Club, Mary is representing the Sierra Club and an organization called Kentuckians for the Commonwealth in a challenge to a large mountaintop-removal coal mine just upstream from one of Kentucky’s best rafting destinations. Her case is challenging what she contends is the state’s inadequate analysis of cumulative impacts of mining on the Russell Fork River and its tributaries.

W&L Alumna Gets Leadership Role with Genome Project

Laura Lyman Rodriguez '91

Laura Lyman Rodriguez '91

In February, the lead story in Nature magazine examined the past, present and future of genomic research, laying out a “course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside.” This week, a Washington and Lee alumna takes on a major role in that future. Laura Lyman Rodriguez, of the Class of 1991, will lead the Office of Policy, Communications and Education at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

According to a news release announcing her appointment, Laura will “oversee development of the institute’s policy positions on the ethical, legal and social implications of human genome research.” In addition, she will communicate information about NHGRI’s genomic research programs, track and analyze legislation and develop NHGRI’s education and community outreach programs.

In describing her new role, Laura said, “We need to find common pathways to integrate genomic information and medicine into society so that it truly benefits the individual while also supporting scientific advances. We have a real sense of urgency because we’re talking about information that is unique and intrinsic to the individual. It’s about who you are at the most basic level.”

After receiving her B.S. with honors in biology, Laura earned a Ph.D. in cell biology at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After graduating from Baylor, she served as administrative director at the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, where she became interested in clinical research policy.

She then served as a Congressional Science Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where she worked with Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.) on his National Science Policy Report and K-12 math and science education. She also spent time in the Office of Public Affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Before joining NHGRI in late 2002, she worked at the National Academies, Institute of Medicine, where she directed the work of a committee examining the federal system for protecting human research participants.

Laura was special advisor to the director of NHGRI from 2003 through 2007, was named the senior advisor to the director for research policy in 2008 and was later appointed to be the deputy director for the Office of Policy, Communications and Education.

Teaching Manners

David McLeod

Former W&L tennis captain David McLeod '88 now runs Social, Inc., in Augusta, Ga. (Photo by Michael Holahan, Augusta Chronicle)

As captain of Washington and Lee’s 1988 national championship tennis team, David McLeod, of the Class of 1988, was a competitor whose name is etched in the Generals’ record books for career singles wins (70, tied for 6th) and doubles (59 with Bobby Matthews, 1st). He and his teammates were the first alumni to be inducted as a team into the Washington and Lee Athletic Hall of Fame.

Today, David is carrying on a tradition that has been part of his hometown of Augusta, Ga., for more than three-quarters of a century. He runs Social, Inc., which teaches etiquette and dance to local pre-teens and teenagers.

Sunday’s Augusta Chronicle featured a story about David and Social, Inc., which has more than 2,000 students from 6th to 11th graders participating in a variety of classes, ranging from a manners and life-skills class to several levels of dance instruction.

The tradition began in 1935 but disappeared when the founder retired. David’s mother, Dorothy, restarted and eventually expanded it in the 1970s. When his mother retired four years ago, it was David’s turn. After graduating from W&L and coaching tennis for the Generals and at Davidson, David got his M.B.A. at Vanderbilt.

As he told the Augusta Chronicle, it was while he was at Vanderbilt that David saw Social as a possible future:  “It never dawned on me that I would be doing this until I was in business school and I came back. I saw what it had developed into and saw the older students and how the program had really positively impacted them. I just thought it was amazing. I loved playing tennis and I loved teaching, but I saw in Social a way that I could impact more.”

A View from Jerusalem

Shiri Yadlin '12

Shiri Yadlin, a junior at Washington and Lee from Irvine, Calif., has been spending the current semester studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Shiri is  majoring in global politics and religion at W&L and is active in the Bonner Leader Program; Volunteer Venture, which is part of the Leading Edge Pre-Orientation program; and the Shepherd Alliance. She had a Shepherd internship in Washington, D.C., last summer.

Since she arrived in Israel in mid-January, Shiri has been blogging about her experiences — from the orientation program to the intensive Hebrew learning program called Ulpan to the four courses she’s taking (Modern Hebrew, Orthodox Judaism in Modern Times, Foreign Policy in Israel and Radical Coexistence in Judaism).

At one point, she remarked on how nice it was that everyone knew how to pronounce her name correctly: “It’s kind of fun to watch the Israelis I meet struggle with names like Alyssa or Jackie but then hear my name and say “Oh that one’s easy”. That certainly doesn’t happen every day back home.”

Shiri’s most recent blog entry, posted Thursday, was especially poignant. Titled “Not the post I was planning to write,” she talks about the bus stop bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday that injured 50 and killed a Scottish Bible translator named Mary Jean Gardner.

Although Shiri was nowhere near the bombing, she soon discovered that the woman who was killed was actually in her class. “All of sudden this attack that I was beginning to cope with and get past, took on a whole new meaning. Now it’s personal, close to my heart, and much more of a reality.” She goes on to write that while she certainly recognized the history of violence in Jerusalem, she has never felt unsafe there, including riding the bus around the city. She adds: “While I still don’t think I’m in any kind of real danger, having this happen so close and in a place so familiar is a chilling experience.”

But there is much more in Shiri’s post itself worth reading, especially as she explains how the university has responded and the attitudes that she sees in the people.

Of course, everyone at W&L sends best wishes for her continued safety. If you do get to Shiri’s blog, be sure to read more than just the most recent one to get a flavor for the range of her experiences thus far.

The Day Liz Came to Town

Elizabeth Taylor on the W&L campus in 1976.

When news broke Wednesday of the death of actress Elizabeth Taylor, no doubt some members of the Washington and Lee community recalled her visit to Lexington and W&L in November 1976. That visit centered on the Founders’ Day speech that her then-fiance, W&L alumnus Sen. John W. Warner ’49, gave at neighboring Virginia Military Institute.

Although the festivities at VMI were what brought the couple to Lexington, Sen. Warner (he wasn’t yet a senator but was weighing the possibility of a run) told audiences that he had wanted to bring his future wife to see his alma mater, something that the senator’s own father, a 1903 graduate of W&L, had done with his fiancee. The couple stayed in Lee House, toured the campus, and, after fulfilling the various duties at VMI, went to the old Troubadour Theatre, where the actress served as guest lecturer for a drama seminar.

In the January 1977 Washington and Lee alumni magazine, Bob Keefe ’68, news director and associate editor, described the visit in the magazine’s lead story. It was accompanied by Sally Mann’s photographs, which appear here. Bob’s story began with several of the newspaper headlines that accompanied stories about the visit, including this one: “Fans Agog, Cynics Converted.”

Cynics? What cynics?

Left, Sen. John W. Warner and Elizabeth Taylor on the Colonnade; right, W&L President Robert E.R. Huntley leads a tour.