Is Washington and Lee Committing Suicide?

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(Kenneth G. Everett, Bacon’s Rebellion) One of my ’64 classmates, and a good friend throughout our four years at Washington and Lee University, grew up in a Chicago suburb and graduated from a top high school there. Once during an idle moment while we were studying for a Charlie Turner exam in European history, I asked him why he, a big-city Illinois boy, chose to attend a small southern college like W&L. He answered, “Because my dad thought it was a good conservative school.”

Indeed, W&L was “a good conservative school” back then — and one in the best and most authentic sense, despite some faults it has long since shed. Long gone are such perishable appendages to W&L’s conservatism as “conventional dress” (the requirement to wear a coat and tie to class and in public), the all-male student body, and the racial segregation that still lingered at the school in those days and was associated with the conservative element of society.

But for a long time thereafter, the more fundamental, rightly imperishable portion of W&L’s conservatism remained intact: the rigorous Honor System, the code of personal honor and gentlemanly conduct, the correspondingly pervasive ambience of civility and respect of persons, along with instructional and curricular adherence to the enduring truths bequeathed to us by Western Thought and Tradition.

Those imperishables were deeply rooted in W&L’s long history, ingrained in its traditions, and illumined by the inspiring examples of the lives and characters of our venerated namesakes, George Washington and Robert E. Lee. I think no one during my W&L years could have imagined…

Is Washington and Lee Committing Suicide? | Bacon’s Rebellion