Washington and Lee University

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Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts college in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia. It was founded in 1749 as "Augusta Academy", and renamed "Liberty Hall" in 1776. George Washington gave the school its first significant endowment in 1796, which continues to provide nearly three dollars toward each student's tuition to this day. The board of trustees changed the name of the school to Washington Academy, and later Washington College, to honor him. After the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee reluctantly accepted the post of college president because he felt that it was somewhere he could make a difference. He did so by implementing an Honor System and Speaking Tradition that continues to the present time. The school's name was changed to honor General Lee after his death. His son, George Washington Custis Lee followed as the school's next president.

Washington and Lee University also has a top-tier law school, Washington and Lee University School of Law.

The University admitted its first African-American student when John Chavis, a free Negro, enrolled in 1795. Chavis accomplished much in his life including fighting in the American Revolution, studying at both Liberty Hall Academy (now Washington and Lee University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister, and opening a school which instructed white and poor black students in North Carolina. Washington and Lee would not admit its next African-American student until 1966.

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

The University prides itself on both strong academics and being a major fraternity school. (Approximately 75% of the male student body is in one of thirteen national fraternities, and about 70% of the female student body is in one of five national sororities.)

W&L is a member of the Associated Colleges of the South.



The University is a liberal arts college divided into three schools. These schools are: (1) The Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics, which serves as both the business school and politics department; (2) The College, which houses all other undergraduate majors; and (3) The School of Law. Washington and Lee sponsors 40 undergraduate majors, including interdisciplinary programs in Public Policy, Archaeology, and Russian Area Studies, among others.

The undergraduate calendar is a unique three term system with 12-week fall and winter terms followed by a short 6-week spring term. Spring term is reserved for special topic courses and internships both domestically and abroad. The law calendar follows a more traditional two semester system.

In addition, Washington and Lee still upholds the Honor System implemented by Robert E. Lee when he served as President. The student-run Honor System, now more than a century old, is the guiding principle of life at Washington and Lee. Students vow never to lie, cheat or steal upon entering the University. Any student found to have committed a dishonorable act is subject to only one punishment—expulsion. This process is overseen by the Executive Committee, a group of students elected by the students. The Executive Committee also serves as the student government.

Alumni of Note

Tom Wolfe '51 — Journalist (created New Journalism) and author of numerous books including The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire of the Vanities, with his most recent publishing the acclaimed I Am Charlotte Simmons, chronicling college life and partially based on his time spent in Lexington. Wolfe was the undergraduate commencement speaker in 2005.

Terry Brooks '85 — Author

Robert Mosbacher '47 Undergraduate '49 Law School — Secretary of Commerce between between 1989 and 1992.

Roger Mudd '50 — Congressional Correspondent for CBS and PBS; Host on the History Channel

Robert Leigh Frackelton, Jr. '74 Undergraduate; Attorney-at-law and Professor of Business Administration at Mary Washington

Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. '29 Undergraduate '31 Law School — Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Pat Robertson '50 — Chancellor, Regent University; founder, Christian Broadcasting Network

Tom Robbins — Author of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. (Didn't graduate here, but attended for two years before moving to New York to become a poet.)

In total 27 alumni have served in the United States Senate, 67 have served in the United States House of Representatives, 31 have served as governor of a state, and 4 have served as Supreme Court Justices.

Student Activities

Missing image
Washington and Lee's Trident Athetlic Logo

The school's mascot is "The Generals" and the sports teams compete in Division III in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. The student body is predominantly conservative and tends to be very political. Once 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 receives gavel-to-gavel converage on C-SPAN.

Fraternities and Sororities



External links


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