Archive for August, 2011

Hard Times in Vermont

When blues guitarist and singer Scott Ainslie, of the Class of 1974, saw the normally eight-inch-deep Whetstone Brook in his hometown of Brattleboro, Vt., transformed into a raging torrent as Hurricane Irene passed through on Sunday, he got out his video camera and recorded some remarkable images. Then  Scott added his own recording of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times, Come Again No More” from his CD, “Jealous Moon.”

The result is a moving video that Scott has uploaded to YouTube as an appeal for donations to the local Red Cross to assist in recovery efforts in Vermont. (You can use this link to the American Red Cross of Vermont and The New Hampshire Valley for information on how to help.)

Scott is also working on a benefit concert for affected families and businesses in the area.

Watch the video below:

Rebecca Makkai on NPR

Rebecca Makkai '99

In June we blogged about Rebecca Makkai, of the Class of 1999, whose first novel, The Borrower, has been widely praised. But it was one of Rebecca’s short stories that landed her a spot on a recent edition of NPR’s “This American Life.”

As part of the program’s show on Gossip, Rebecca reads a portion of one of her short stories, “The November Story,” which first appeared in its longer version in “Crazyhorse,” a literary journal. You can read the original story in “Crazyhorse” here. And you can listen to Rebecca read her story on “This American Life” or download the show as a podcast by going here.

“The November Story” is part of Rebecca’s collection in progress, which she has tentatively titled Music for Wartime.

Rebecca’s website features links to many of the reviews of The Borrower from The Daily Mail, the Washington Times, Marie Claire and The Daily Beast, among others.

Booked Up with Bill Buice ’61

Bill Buice, of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1961, and his wife, Stuart, were the subject of a nice recent profile in their local paper, the Shelter Island (N.Y.) Reporter, this summer. The focus is their mutual love of books.

Bill '61 and Stuart Buice. Carol Galligan photo for the Shelter Island Reporter.

The Buices, who live in Shelter Island Heights, N.Y., are both natives of North Carolina. They met while she was an undergrad at Duke and he was a law student. On their first date, says the article, they went to a book auction.

As young marrieds in New York City in the mid-1960s, they frequented the bookstores on Fourth Avenue. Both of them became collectors of books. Stuart favored the Bloomsbury Group, Bill the English Romantics. Bill became involved with the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association and the Grolier Club, which promotes the art of the book.

Two years ago, the Buices spoke to the Friends of the W&L Library. The apt title of the talk was “Two Collectors, One Library—Can This Marriage Be Saved?”

Given such a provenance, you might think that that the Buices would shun e-readers. Not so, Bill told the Shelter Island newspaper. “I owned one of the first e-books,” he said. “I thought it was like Gutenberg. I thought there was a new Gutenberg out there. He changed the world and e-publishing might very well do the same thing and in fact it is. It’s revolutionizing the way people obtain knowledge and how they read.”

New Book for Suzanne LaFleur ’05

Suzanne LaFleur, of the Class of 2005, has just published her second novel, Eight Keys, with Wendy Lamb Books, a division of Random House. It tells the story of best friends Elise, who’s lost her parents, and Franklin. As the publisher describes it, “There’s always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor. When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish. Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn.”

Suzanne LaFleur '05

Publisher’s Weekly gave Eight Keys a starred review: “LaFleur . . . writes with uncommon sensitivity to the fraught period between childhood and the teenage years, when friendships balance on a razor’s edge and nothing feels certain. The heart of the story lies in the layered relationships and characters that give the novel its powerful sense of realism.”

This is Suzanne’s second novel for Wendy Lamb Books. Her first, Love, Aubrey, is about another orphaned girl and “the healing powers of friendship, love, and memory.” On its 2009 publication, Booklist said, “LaFleur proves she is an author to watch.”

On her website, Suzanne tells how, as a child, she started composing and telling stories even before she knew how to write. She decided then that she wanted to write stories for other children, and at W&L she continued on that path by double-majoring in English and European history. She obtained an M.F.A. in writing for children from the New School. Her brother, Alex, begins his junior year at W&L this fall.

Out of Retirement

Mike Neer

Mike Neer’s retirement lasted 16 months. The former Washington and Lee basketball Hall of Famer, a member of the Class of 1970, is headed back to the hardwood this winter as the new head coach at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

In April 2010, Mike stepped down after 34 years as the coach at the University of Rochester, where his teams won a national NCAA Division III title in 1990 and he had compiled the ninth best record among active Division III coaches.

As a story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle noted, Mike admitted when he retired that he wasn’t completely sure of the decision. Then he went through a season away from the game. That only made it worse.

In an interview with Rochester sports writer Jim Mandelaro after the Hobart announcement, Mike described what it was like last winter when he visited practices run by some of his former assistant coaches who are now leading programs at Allegheny College, Rhodes Island and Villanova. “”They’d invite me to practices, and I was like the grandparent holding the baby,” Mike said. “It felt good, and then I got to hand it back.” He also called getting the call from Hobart to return to the bench “Santa in the chimney in August.”

At the 2011 National Association of Basketball Coaches, Mike received the NABC’s Outstanding Service Award.

Jack Vardaman ’62 Qualifies for U.S. Senior Amateur Championship

Jack Vardaman (Photo by Mannie Garcia/USGA)

Jack Vardaman, of the Class of 1962, is going to have to postpone his induction into Washington and Lee’s Athletic Hall of Fame. But he has a perfectly good excuse.

Jack was scheduled to be among the four inductees during the Hall of Fame weekend Sept. 9-10. He was to be honored for his four-year career on the Generals’ golf team, which included a Virginia State Intercollegiate Championship during his freshman year.

But then Jack went and won another tournament. Last weekend he shot a 72 at the Greenbrier’s Meadow Course to win U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier status. That enables him to play in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, which will be played Sept. 10-15 at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., just outside Richmond. And that, of course, conflicts with the Hall of Fame induction. The Senior Amateur is open to players who have reached their 55th birthday prior to the start of the championship and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4. This will be Jack’s fourth appearance in the tournament.

Before he gets to Richmond, Jack has some business to complete this week at the Homestead, where he is competing in the 64th Virginia Senior Amateur Championship. This morning (Wednesday, Aug. 24), Jack opened match play as the sixth-seeded player in the round of 32 after shooting an even-par 142 during two qualifying rounds of stroke play. He won his first two matches before losing, 1-up, in the quarterfinals.

At the USGA Senior Amateur, Jack, 71, was the oldest player in the field. He shot a three-over-par 147 in the two rounds of stroke play, finishing in a tie for 21st and earning a spot in the match play. After winning his first match in 19 holes, Jack lost in the round of 32.

Jack, a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, was ranked as one of the 10 best senior amateur golfers in the United States in 2001 by Golf Digest. Jack will be inducted into the W&L Hall of Fame along with the Class of 2012 — provided he’s not in another championship.