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Main article: "List of Presidents of Washington and Lee University

The school is governed by a Board of Trustees that has a maximum of 34 members.[25]

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.


Washington and Lee was essentially all male until 1972, when women were admitted to the "law school; the first female undergraduates enrolled in 1985.

As of 2006, the University's undergraduate population was equally divided between men and women.[26] In 2014–15, the number of women enrolled in the undergraduate programs is 49 percent women, 51 percent men. The law school population is currently 45 percent women, 55 percent men.

In 1795, the first known "Black person was admitted to the school, John Chavis, who became a teacher and "Presbyterian minister. Athletic exclusion was manifest in the early 20th century, when the school forced "Rutgers to sit out star African American football player, "Paul Robeson, for a 1916 football game and later forfeited a 1923 game when "Washington and Jefferson refused to comply with a similar demand.[27] Walter Blake and Carl Linwood Smothers became the first African-American students to graduate from Washington and Lee University in 1972, the same year women were first admitted. The University has worked to increase the number of minority faculty and students.[28] As of 2014–15, minority students now comprise approximately 16 percent of the undergraduate student body and 24.4 percent of the law school student body. The undergraduate class of 2019 contains 10.5% domestic students of color.[29]

Honor system[edit]

Iconic buildings of Washington and Lee University. From left to right: Newcomb Hall, Payne Hall, Washington Hall (center), Robinson Hall, Tucker Hall.

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."[30] Students, upon entering the university, vow to act honorably in all academic and nonacademic endeavors.

The honor system is administered by students through the Executive Committee of the Student Body (and has been since 1905).[31] Any student found guilty of an Honor Violation by his or her peers is subject to a single sanction: expulsion.[32] The honor system is defined solely by students, and there is an appeal process. Appeals are heard by juries composed of students drawn randomly by the University Registrar. A formal assessment of the honor system's "White Book",[33] occasionally including referenda, is held every three years to review the tenets of the honor system. Overwhelmingly, students continue to support the honor system and its single sanction, and they and alumni point to the honor system as one of the distinctive marks they carry with them from their W&L experience.[34]

Washington and Lee's honor system does not have a list of rules that define punishable behavior—beyond the traditional guide of the offenses lying, cheating or stealing. 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.[35]


The honor system is strongly enforced. In most years, only a 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, often law students). In recent years, four or five students have left each year.["citation needed] 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.[34]

Separately from the student-run honor system, the Student Judicial Council and the Student-Faculty Hearing Board hear allegations of student misconduct.[36]

Academics and reputation[edit]

Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia
"University rankings
"Forbes[37] 28
"Liberal arts colleges
"U.S. News & World Report[38] 11
"Washington Monthly[39] 7

Today (2017) the university has about 1,800 undergraduate students and 330 in the School of Law. In the 2017 "U.S. News & World Report rankings, the undergraduate college is 11th among national liberal arts colleges[40] and the law school is tied for 28th nationally among all law schools.[41] The 2016 "Forbes magazine college rankings place W&L 28th.[42] "Kiplinger's Personal Finance had the college atop its 2016 list of the 300 best college values,[43] one spot above its number two ranking in the 2015 list.[43] In 2015, "The Economist ranked Washington and Lee first among all undergraduate institutions in the United States in terms of the positive gap between its students' actual median earnings ten years from graduation and what the publication's statistical model would suggest. Of its findings, the newspaper wrote that "No other college combines the intimate academic setting and broad curriculum of a LAC [liberal arts college] with a potent old-boy network."[44]

W&L reported that the selectivity rate for the entering Class of 2016 was 18 percent. However, this figure included 1,000 incomplete applications, and a Washington Post article in 2013 questioned whether W&L's method for reporting this figure was in accordance with federal standards and how other schools report the selectivity rate. This controversy caused W&L to change its methodology for reporting this figure.[45] More recently, W&L reported a 24% selectivity rate for the Class of 2019.[29] The average combined score on the math and verbal sections of the SAT is 1,393 (of a possible 1,600). The average score on the ACT is 32.[29]

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. With no graduate program, every course is taught by a faculty member.[46] The university libraries contain more than 700,000 volumes (and a vast electronic network). The law library has an additional 400,000 volumes as well as extensive electronic resources.

Washington and Lee offers 40 undergraduate majors (including interdisciplinary majors in "neuroscience, "medieval and "Renaissance studies, and "Russian area studies) and 29 minors, including interdisciplinary programs in "Africana studies, "East Asian studies, "environmental studies, "Latin American and Caribbean studies, "poverty and human capability studies (Shepherd Program), and women's, gender, and sexuality studies.

Though the university has refused since 2003 to submit data to Princeton Review, the 2006 edition of The Best 357 Colleges ranked W&L highly for "Best Overall Academic Experience," "Professors Get High Marks," and "Professor Accessibility". In the 2007 edition, Washington and Lee was ranked fourth in "Professors Get High Marks" and sixth in "Professor Accessibility". Combining academics with an active social culture, Washington and Lee ranked 14th in "Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates".[47]

Washington and Lee University is accredited by the "Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[48]

Washington and Lee University serves as the host for the "Virginia Governor's School for Foreign Language as part of the annual Summer Residential Governor's Schools.

Brick sign at entrance, Washington and Lee

Student life[edit]


Washington and Lee Generals

The school's teams are known as "The Generals" and compete in "NCAA "Division III in the "Old Dominion Athletic Conference and the "Centennial Conference for wrestling. 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, golf, lacrosse, riding, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, and volleyball). Washington and Lee holds two NCAA National Championship team titles. In 1988, the men's tennis team won the NCAA Division III National Championship title and holds 35 ODAC championships. In 2007, the women's tennis team claimed the NCAA Division III National Championship title. In 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015, the Generals football team won the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship. In 2009, the Generals baseball team won the ODAC championship.[49]

Student activities[edit]


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,[50] 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.[51] The Washington Post declared Washington and Lee's Mock Convention "one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious mock conventions."[52]

The university hosts the Fancy Dress Ball, a 105-year-old formal black-tie event. Each year, the Fancy Dress Ball has a theme and has a rumored budget of over $80,000.[53]

W&L also follows the "speaking tradition" which traces its history to Robert E. Lee. Under this tradition, students are suggested to greet one another upon passing on campus. This tradition is not enforced.[53]

Washington and Lee University has several mysterious societies including the "Cadaver Society, the "Sigma Society, and the Mongolian Minks.

Fraternities and sororities[edit]

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.


The Kappa Alpha Order, one of the "Lexington Triad, was founded at W&L.[54] "Alpha Tau Omega and "Sigma Nu, the other two members of the Triad, were founded at neighboring "VMI and instituted early chapters at W&L.

Dormant fraternity chapters at Washington and Lee also include "Alpha Chi Rho, "Alpha Tau Omega, "Chi Phi, "Delta Sigma Phi, "Delta Tau Delta, "Delta Upsilon, "Theta Delta Chi. "Phi Kappa Sigma, "Psi Upsilon, "Phi Epsilon Pi, "Phi Kappa Psi, "Sigma Alpha Epsilon, "Sigma Phi Epsilon, "Saint Anthony Hall, and "Zeta Beta Tau.["citation needed]


Media and culture[edit]

The eminent photographer "Sally Mann got her start at Washington and Lee, photographing the construction of the law school while a university employee. The photos eventually became the basis of a one-woman exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Secretariat, who holds the record for the fastest time in the Kentucky Derby and winner of the Triple Crown in 1973, wore royal blue and white (as vividly shown in the 2010 Disney movie) because his owner, Christopher Chenery, was a graduate and trustee of Washington and Lee.

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.[56] The book also examines other home-design materials once used by the lower classes to emulate their betters. More recently, she has become an expert on "butter sculpture.

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, 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, Rhode Island. 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 Herreshoff as a young woman in the early days of the century. In 1976 the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., mounted a posthumous one-woman exhibition of Herreshoff's works.

The world's first recorded "streaker, "George William Crump, was a student at Washington College, in 1804. He later became a "U.S. Congressman.


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.[57] "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[58] is an audio excerpt from a 1944 recording by Jan Garber, a prominent dance-band leader of the era. Here[59] 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. "Dummy" was recorded by NRBQ, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Glenn Miller's vocal jazz group, the Modernaires, and many others, and was used in the movie You've Got Mail.

Notable alumni[edit]

List of Washington and Lee University people
"Tom Wolfe, Class of 1951

Washington and Lee University is the alma mater of three "United States Supreme Court Justices, a "Nobel Prize laureate, winners of the "Pulitzer Prize, the "Tony Award, and the "Emmy Award, as well as 27 U.S. Senators, 67 U.S. Representatives, 31 state governors, as well as numerous other government officials, judges, business leaders, entertainers, and athletes.

Several well-known alumni include Kentucky Governor "Matt Bevin, "United States Supreme Court Justice "Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; "United States Senator "John Warner from Virginia; "United States Solicitor General "John W. Davis, Democratic Party nominee for "President of the United States during the "1924 presidential election; author "Tom Wolfe, founder of "New Journalism; broadcast journalist "Roger Mudd; artist "Cy Twombly; voice actor "Mike Henry, explorer "Meriwether Lewis of the "Lewis and Clark Expedition; Federal Judge and Civil Rights Champion "John Minor Wisdom; and billionaire "Rupert Johnson, Jr. of "Franklin Templeton Investments.

Archives of the papers of notable alumni and other resources relating to the history of the university may be found in the manuscript collections at Washington and Lee's James Graham Leyburn Library. Publication of the 1995 guide to the collections was made possible by a grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.[60]

In literature[edit]

A fictionalized representation of the university appears in L'Étudiant étranger by "Philippe Labro (1986, Editions Gallimard), translated into English two years later and published as The Foreign Student (Ballantine Books). In 1994 it was made into a movie, starring "Robin Givens and "Marco Hofschneider, but it grossed only $113,000 at the box office.[61]

Other novels about the university include Geese in the Forum (Knopf, 1940) by Lawrence Edward Watkin, a professor of English who went on to become a screenwriter for Disney (the college faculty were the titular geese); The Hero (Julian Messner, 1949), by Millard Lampell, filmed as "Saturday's Hero, starring Donna Reed and John Derek (Columbia Studios, 1951), about a football player who struggles to balance athletics, academics and a social life; and A Sound of Voices Dying by Glenn Scott (E.P. Dutton, 1954), released in a paperback edition in 1955 under the new title Farewell My Young Lover (replete with a lurid illustration on the cover).


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External links[edit]

"Coordinates: 37°47′11.7″N 79°26′39.3″W / 37.786583°N 79.444250°W / 37.786583; -79.444250

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