Archive for September, 2011

Jumping Grasshoppers

Ben Absher and Susie Giampalmo, both of the Class of 2012, make their presentation in Boston.

When Washington and Lee engineering professor Jon Erickson introduced a new bioengineering course last fall, he said he wanted to show the students how many “beautiful problems at the intersection of biology, physics and engineering can be tackled using a synergy of ideas and techniques.”

His students started out studying the structure and function of the grasshopper’s nervous and muscular systems, then they learned how to build electronics components to interface with them. They implanted an electrode into grasshoppers’ abdomens to tap into the central nervous system. Then, with the right key strokes on the computer, the students cause the grasshoppers to jump.

As it turned out, the project had, ahem, legs. Last month, Jon and two of his students, seniors Susie Giampalmo and Ben Absher, went to Boston for the 33rd IEEE — Engineering in Medicine and Biology conference. Susie and Ben gave an oral presentation on their cyborg grasshopper research, which they continued during the summer.

Watch the video below for a story about the research:

Life of an Oyster

The liner notes on David Klabo’s CD, Life of an Oyster, describe the music as “a kaleidoscope of a journey through different moments when we are falling in and then falling out of love.”

David, a 1989 alumnus of Washington and Lee, goes on to list some of his favorite musicians, writers and songwriters, who make “subtle and not so subtle appearances” in the music. They include everyone from The Police to Miles Davis, Buddy Holly to Oscar Wilde.

In the liner notes, David refers to a Homecoming weekend in either 1987 or 1988, when he and Scott Hamilton, of the Class of 1990, didn’t have dates and spent the weekend in the basement of the Sigma Nu house recording an instrumental that they called “Homecoming Weekend.” Scott plays drums, does some engineering and co-produces several of the tracks.

You can learn more about the CD, listen to some of the songs, and buy it on David’s website, which includes a blog where he discusses the music’s creation: There’s also a Facebook page to connect with him and his music.


Students, faculty and staff gathered on the Front Lawn facing Lee Chapel at 9 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, to observe a silent vigil.

On the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, members of the Washington and Lee community will once again gather in front of Lee Chapel on Sunday morning for a prayer vigil. On this coming Tuesday, Sept. 13, a panel of faculty will examine the attacks 10 years later.

Members of this year’s entering class were about eight years old on Sept. 11, 2001. They, like all their fellow students, will have their own memories and, perhaps, personal connections.

At Washington and Lee, we remember two alumni who were killed — Cmdr. Robert Allen Schlegel, of the Class of 1985, died at the Pentagon, and James A. Gadiel, of the Class of 2000, died at the World Trade Center. Profiles of both men can be found on the Remember: September 11, 2011 website. Robert’s profile is here; Jamie’s is here. Both profiles include guest books.

A sign erected on Sept. 11, 2001, in front of the Chi Psi house recognizes the fraternity's fallen brother.

Additionally, we know of these other losses that were reported in the W&L Alumni Magazine — Chris Edwards, of the Class of 1999, lost an aunt, and Jonah Glick, of the Class of 1990, lost a brother. We are now aware that there were others, too. As this blog reported yesterday, Paul Arpaia, of the Class of 1985, lost a cousin. The magazine reported that a current student lost a parent, but the family requested anonymity.

On the day of the attacks, Acting President Larry Boetsch, of the Class of 1969, sent a message to the campus that concluded: “The world in which we live now is different from the one to which we awoke this morning.”

And we continue to remember.

Personal Reflections on 9/11 by Paul Arpaia ’85

Paul Arpaia '85

Paul Arpaia, a 1985 Washington and Lee graduate, represented the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows earlier this month as part of an Italian-American delegation that traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, to meet Afghan families of the victims of terrorism and war and the representatives of Afghan civil and international organizations working in the country.

Paul is an award-winning associate professor of history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches modern Italian and German history.

On Sept. 11, 2011, Paul’s cousin, Kathy Mazza was a captain for the New York Port Authority police force. She died at the World Trade Center carrying a person on a stretcher down a flight of stairs in the North Tower.  Paul is one of 200 members of Peaceful Tomorrow from 31 states and seven foreign countries.  The organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace.

On the Peaceful Tomorrows’ website, Paul writes a moving essay about his cousin and the profound influence that she had on his life. Asked by DemocracyNow about the trip that he made to Afghanistan, Paul said: “I’m coming for two reasons, mainly. The first is to bring a declaration of solidarity and support for Afghanistan and for the people who, like ourselves, have lost members, family members, in this war on terrorism. The second reason I am coming is, on this 10th anniversary, to have people look at Afghanistan, not just New York, to think about how we can help. And so, I’ve been asking people here in Kabul, ‘How can we help?'”

Paul won the Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies at the American Academy in Rome for 2007–2008. Since 1999, he has been the editor of H-Italy, one of the many networks that make up H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences OnLine

Brand New Websites on

Two popular destinations on the Washington and Lee website have undergone facelifts in recent weeks through the work of W&L’s web communications team.

WLUR-FM unveiled its new site in the summer. In addition to links to the weekly schedule and to a list of WLUR’s Top 30 Albums, the site offers listeners several different ways to log in to WLUR on the Internet. The “Listen Now” page provides links to Windows Media Player, Quicktime, and iTunes and Winamp connections. In addition, users of smartphones or tablets are directed to the TuneIn Radio app, which allows users to stream WLUR on their mobile devices.

Earlier this month the new Campus Life site went live. The site is organized around eight different areas of campus life, ranging from Housing and Dining to Community Services to Health and Safety. One of the key features is a new blog to which members of the Student Affairs staff are contributing. Not only can you read the blogs on the website, but you can subscribe by RSS or e-mail. There is also a Twitterstream, featuring tweets from various W&L Twitter accounts.

Be sure to check out both new websites.

Ike Smith ’57, ’60L Honored by W.Va. Chamber

Isaac N. Smith Jr. '57, '60L from his days on the W&L Board of Trustees (1980-1991)

Congratulations to Isaac N. “Ike” Smith Jr., of the Classes of 1957 undergraduate and 1960 law, who was one of six West Virginia business leaders inducted into the inaugural class of  the new West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame.

Announcement of the induction, part of the West Virginia Chamber’s 75th anniversary, was made during the organizaiton’s annual meeting and Business Summit at the Greenbrier earlier this month.

Ike is the former president and CEO of Charleston-based Kanawha Banking & Trust Co. and Intermountain Bancshares. He has served as chairman of the West Virginia Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce and as a district governor for Rotary International.

Ike, a trustee emeritus of Washington and Lee University, also managed four family land companies: Kanawha City Company, West Virginia Coal land Company, Kanawha Company, and Roxalana Land Company, the operation of which caused him to be named in The State Journal’s 1997 Who’s Who in West Virginia Business. These four companies merged to form a new company, Kanawha-Roxalana Company, and Ike is president and CEO.

It Works for Charlie Sweet ’65

Charlie Sweet, of the Class of 1965, has just co-authored the seventh book in the “It Works for Me” series that he has written with Hal Blythe, a colleague at Eastern Kentucky University. This latest edition is titled It Works for Me Creatively. The books all offer shared tips for teaching. Some of the other titles in the series are It Works for Me As a Scholar-Teacher and It Works for Me Online. They are all part of The New Forums Better Teaching series.

This book is designed to demonstrate that “everyone possesses creative talent, though it may be latent in some and difficult to bring out in others.  It’s not just a talent possessed by artists and engineers, mind you, but everyone.”

Charlie is Foundation Professor and Co-Director of Eastern Kentucky’s Teaching & Learning Center, which he helped establish along with his co-author. The Teaching & Learning Center offers EKU faculty development activities, including one-on-one consultations, small-group workshops, learning communities, guest lectures, university-wide forums, and Center-sponsored conference trips. One of the popular programs is the Faculty Consultation Program, which includes peer classroom observation.

A member of the Eastern Kentucky faculty since 1970, Charlie taught in the English and Theatre Department. In 2005, he won the Acorn Award presented by the Kentucky Advocates for Higher Education to the professor who best demonstrates excellence in service and commitment to students.