Transformational? Try Preservational W&L Alumni Magazine: Winter 2015

"IN A WORLD TRANSFORMED by science and technology, globalization, and new economic, political and cultural realities, and where the solutions to problems require moral insight as well as analytical and technical skills, Washington and Lee must prepare its students for a daunting set of challenges. This does not mean changing the University. Instead, it calls for a renewed commitment to the timeless values of civility and integrity, enhanced by an ability to honor the quintessential Washington and Lee tradition: educating students for lives of consequence, motivated by a desire to serve others."

I wrote those words eight years ago to introduce the strategic plan that we adopted in May 2007 and that has been the basis for our historic capital campaign, Honor Our Past, Build Our Future.

As we enter the final months of this campaign, we must describe our success. The urge would be to attach a familiar adjective to our results and to call these last few years in Washington and Lee's history "transformational."

I will resist that urge. Instead, I will coin my own adjective: "preservational."

Here is what I mean: In the midst of a tumultuous time in the world, and especially a tumultuous time in higher education, the persistence and focus with which we have undertaken our strategic plan have permitted us to remain true to our educational mission, to preserve what we have always valued most.

Consider just a few of the academic programs to which we can now point with pride: a revitalized Spring Term, the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics, the Law School's Bridge to the Profession curriculum, and the J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship. These are examples of what I have described as Washington and Lee's tradition of innovation - a curriculum that adapts to new realities while staying true to its core principles.

What these programs have in common is that they are built around solving problems; they are multi-disciplinary; and they would not have been possible without the generosity of those who believe in our mission. They are also models of future development. As we look to the next strategic plan, we will be asking ourselves: How do you devise a curriculum around problems that confront us? How do you organize faculty across disciplines to form that curriculum? How do you weave that into a traditional liberal arts structure of departments and colleges?

We have always had a distinctive model for the liberal arts; it combines the liberal arts and the professions and has that investigative, problem-solving orientation. More than ever, that is relevant to the world beyond W&L.

Thanks to the timeliness of our strategic plan, and thanks to the support of so many individuals - including almost 80 percent of our alumni - we are in a position that many of our peers envy. We are true to our mission, which is to educate students "for lives of consequence, motivated by a desire to serve others."