Papers Written To/Received From Anonymous Alumnus A

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 1_Redacted

Among their many charges of preservation, Special Collections at Washington and Lee University holds letters written to and received by alumni of the University. Special Collections also holds any important notes that are submitted by a single alumnus that are of significance to the University.

These papers are samples collected to and received from an anonymous alumnus, known as Anonymous Alumnus A. You may access the whole collection by clicking on the thumbnail or choose an individual letter that has been curated from the list below.

Letter 1
Letter 2 and Board of Trustees Brochure
Letter 3
Letters 4 and 5
Letter 6
Letter 7
Letter 8
Letter 9
Letter 10
Letter 11
Letter 12
Letter 13
Letter 14
Letter 15
Letter 16
Letter 17
Letters 18 and 19
Letter 20
Letters 21 and 22
Letter 24
Letter 23 and Board of Trustees Statement on Coeducation

Papers in Collection of Trustee Peter A. Agelasto

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_RedactedAmong their many charges of preservation, Special Collections at Washington and Lee University holds letters written to and received by members of the Board of Trustees. Special Collections also holds any important notes that are submitted by a single Trustee.

This collection is from former trustee Peter A. Agelasto, III. You may access the whole collection by clicking on the thumbnail or choose an individual article that has been curated from the list below.

Letter 1
Letter 2
Letter 3
Letters 4 and 5
Letter 6
Letter 7
Select Exhibits


From the MALLET homepage : MALLET is a Java-based package for statistical natural language processing, document classification, clustering, topic modeling, information extraction, and other machine learning applications to text.

We chose to represent two distinct topics within the letters we obtained in Special Collections at Washington and Lee University using topic modeling. Used for this purpose, MALLET searches for topics in data set.


lee university future women study hope raised position member successful idea respond expect fewer individuals top obtaining greatly conviction


This model focuses on the study concerning Washington and Lee’s  future contending with other top universities in the United States. With the falling rate of college-going males and academic quality at W&L, John D. Wilson and the Board of Trustees aimed to respond in a timely manner to address these concerns to secure a successful future for the university. Their solution to this concern was coeducation.


alumni board president quality male experience student change people education support opinion found encourage size important age place present


This model concerns how the educational environment and experience would change if women were to come to Washington and Lee University.  Continuing academic excellence of W&L’s past involved questions of the school’s surely changing academic and atmospheric qualities in 1985 with the switch to coeducation.

Source: McCallum, Andrew Kachites. “MALLET: A Machine Learning for Language Toolkit.” 2002.

Social Life

Screen-Shot-2014-05-06-at-1.57.19-PM-1024x730Social life for women following their admission to Washington and Lee University went from negligible to fully active in a matter of years with the advent of sororities in 1989.

All-Male Colleges Drop to 2

All Male COllegesIn response to a decline in applicants at Washington and Lee, the Board of Trustees voted 17-7 in favor of coeducation to begin at in the fall of 1985. After similar efforts made by the university in 1969 and 1975, the 1985 initiative finally removed the university from the pool of three all-male private colleges in the United States. In response, students staged a sit-in at the president’s office and made bumper stickers that said, “Better Dead than Coed” and “Girls in the Hay, Not All Day”. Additional public shows of disapproval included men hanging a banner displaying “No Marthas” on Washington and Lee’s “Old George” statue.

[from Special Collections, original source unknown]

Washington & Lee to be Coed, Despite Student, Alumni Cries

Despite Student:Alumni CriesDespite the student and alumni opposition to coeducation by a 2-1 margin, the incoming student body president and the head of the alumni association fully supported the decision. Student body President Cole Dawson believed the pioneering experience would be rewarding for the women and  Charles Hurt, head of the alumni association, believed the uniqueness of the university would not be altered. Since the school would not increase dramatically in size with the initiative, they planned to implement more stringent admissions decisions, contributing to the quality of students at the W&L. After Washington and Lee became a coeducational institute, the only all-male private colleges left in the country were Hampden-Sydney of Virginia and Wabash College of Indiana.

[Source: The Valley Times – July 15, 1984]



W&L Coeducation Talks Called ‘Intense’

Intense coed talksDiscussion surrounding the coeducation decision was lengthy and heartfelt as the initiative would break the all-male tradition that functions as one of Washington and Lee’s hallmarks. The Board of Trustees considered videotaped interviews of faculty, students, and alumni as well as the results of a survey. The survey revealed that 58.5% of the 6,700 alumni interviewed were opposed to the installment of coeducation at W&L. 28.9% favored coeducation while 10.6% had no opinion. Their analysis included the University Treasurer’s report, which contained financial projections based on the the number of enrolled students. Opponents to the initiative argue that the University should increase recruiting efforts for students rather than admit females in compensation for the school’s dropping numbers and lower academic quality.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

Roster of Men’s Colleges Dwindles

Roster of Mens Colleges DwindlesAfter nine months of careful consideration by the 24 trustees, the decision on W&L’s coeducation brings the total number of public and private all-male liberal arts colleges down to four in the United States. While this number contrasts with the 110 U.S. liberal arts colleges remaining exclusively female, W&L had to make a choice between lowering its academic standards/going broke with declining college-going male high school graduates or submitting to the pressure to go coed. W&L Law female Eileen McCabe believes the coeducation implementation at the undergraduate level will help mature the mens’ view on women. She thinks the all-male nature of the undergraduate portion of W&L results in an artificial social atmosphere and a warped perception on women.

[Source: United Press International (UPI)]

Students, Alumni 2-1 Against; Faculty 4-1 For

Student:Alumni and FacultyWashington and Lee University’s decision to go coed was spurred largely by concerns over a shortage of qualified students, but remaining all-male colleges including Wabash College and Hampden-Sydney did not feel similar pressure. W&L had resisted the pressure to go coed since 1888, when the idea was presented in the student magazine, Southern Collegian. President Wilson’s suggestion of opening W&L’s undergraduate school to women was met with stark negativity even though the law school had gone coed in 1972 due to pressure by the American Bar Association. When Wilson became president of the University in 1983, his push to halt a tradition that marked Washington and Lee University as a distinctive school caused his low popularity among students. Bob Jenevein, student body president in 1984, believes that changing the single-sex status at W&L will inevitably alter the spirit of the institute. However, Frank Parsons, Executive Assistant to the past three presidents of W&L, thought that W&L’s character would not change drastically with the initiative. Perhaps, like Wabash College’s spokesman Keen, Parsons realized a single-sex institute is hard to sell, and thus seeks the maintenance of W&L as a unique and academically acclaimed school with a pro-coed stance.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

W&L Swamped With Inquiries

Students Swamping W&LFollowing Washington and Lee University’s declaration to go coed, high school students from across the country expressed interest in attending. The new status of the University helped attract many prospective students. A Californian was, at first, deterred by the all-male status of W&L, but once he learned of the coeducation decision, he requested an application. Alumni also began recommending W&L to their female relatives. Washington an Lee’s choice to become coed not only encouraged more applicants across the country to apply but also helped raise academic standards.

[Source: Roanoke Times & World-News – August 8, 1984]

Washington and Lee to Admit Female Undergraduates

To Admit Female UndergradsSurveys administered to the alumni, undergraduates, and faculty of Washington and Lee show 58 percent of alumni opposing the coeducation change, 53 percent undergraduate opposition, and 80 percent faculty approval. The preference of coed schools by both males and females as well as the increasing role of women in society led to the trustees’ decision to implement coeducation at Washington and Lee.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

W&L Vote is for Coeducation

Vote for CoeducationThe historical decision for coeducation at Washington and Lee was met with mixed emotions by students, alumni, staff, and faculty. Scott Tilley believes the school will be forever changed, losing its cherished unique qualities with the breaking of the all-male tradition. Other emotional reactions included cheers by staff, faculty, and alumni that were described as pandemonium when they heard of the announcement at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday. No students planned on leaving the University despite their stark opposition to the decision. President Wilson planned to gradually grow the female population to 500 by 1995, comprising about one-third of the undergraduate population. To date, the female population comprises around one-half of the total undergraduate population, proving President Wilson’s success.

[from Special Collections; source unknown]


Screen-Shot-2014-04-28-at-10.40.57-AM The kickoff speaker for W&L’s 1988 Mock Democratic convention was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 1984. During the talk, Jackson covered themes of economic recovery, human rights, and civil rights. Though many did not agree with Jackson’s ideology, most agreed with the notion that Jackson helped students to become more politically aware. With the opportunity to attend Jackson’s lecture, women of W&L can be inspired and  better empowered to make a political change.

W&L Welcomes Women

picture_14Following the trustees’ 17-7 decision that led to Washington and Lee University to become coeducational, 2,369 prospective students applied to the university–a record number. It led to the highest selectivity in the admissions process that the institution had ever seen. The academic standards of W&L were well on the rise. The University also added more activities to Orientation Week that focused on entertainment as opposed to an academic-centered curriculum for the week. The University threw a mock cocktail party, dubbed “mocktail” for the freshman class during their first week.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

Women Expect Tension at First, Acceptance Later

picture_13Incoming freshman Kim Fainter voiced her opinion on being part of the first coed class at Washington and Lee. Although she does not fear attending a previously all-male institution, she anticipates tension between the women and upperclass men. Fainter worked as a cashier at Kroger in Lexington and met many of the men before attending the University.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]


Screen-Shot-2014-05-06-at-6.16.45-PMThe first Women’s Tennis team at Washington and Lee University began in 1987. They faced tough competition and saddening losses to some of the best teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference. However, the championship demonstrated that the women improved drastically throughout their season, coming out ahead of Roanoke, who beat the Women’s team 8-1 earlier in the season. They set an example of capability and determination for female sports at Washington and Lee.


Screen-Shot-2014-05-06-at-6.29.39-PM-1024x840By 1987, lasting friendships existed among male and female students of Washington and Lee University. Initially, many males resented the coeducation decision, especially its effect on their social environment.  Here, Colleen Ryan, Nelly Greene, and Michael Higganbotham share a delightful dinner in Evans.

Raising The Bar

Screen-Shot-2014-05-06-at-6.25.03-PM-1024x660The introduction of females at Washington and Lee University was quickly followed by their involvement in extracurriculars. The Glee Club, University Chorus, and Southern Comfort all performed on the 1987 Alumni Weekend for over 500 alumni from ten reunion classes ranging from the years 1937 to 1982. They contributed to the vocal range accessible by these groups as well as narrowing down the members to only the most qualified.


Screen-Shot-2014-05-06-at-2.01.48-PM-1024x705By 1986, the Student Recruitment Committee had gained several female members. It did not take long for females to become involved in important university operations and committees. Being involved in this Committee, these women directly influenced prospective students and their families through comprehensive and informative tours. They highlighted the advantages of a Washington and Lee education and thus contributed to the caliber of intelligence that W&L’s students have.

1980 Student and 1981 Faculty Survey Summary on Coeducation

1980 and 1981 survey summary

A 1980 Student Survey and 1981 Faculty Survey on coeducation at Washington and Lee University revealed a positive attitude toward coeducation. Interest in coeducation reemerged in 1980 after failed attempts in 1896, 1902, and 1975 to make the University coed. David Bowen ’83 conducted a survey as part of his senior honors thesis titled “Coeducation at Washington and Lee University: A Social Systems Approach.” At the end of Winter Term 1980, Bowen and members of the Sociology 375 class called “Research Methods” surveyed 1,050 out of 1,200 students to gauge their attitudes toward coeducation. They considered the following variables: geographic background, class, religious preference, family income, and grade point average. They then asked questions such as “Was W&L’s single sex student body a factor in your decision to enroll?” They sought to understand the impact that coeducation would have on social and academic environments at W&L.  In the student survey “Should W&L Become Coeducational?” 50.2% were in favor of coeducation. The survey conductors found that students from the South opposed coeducation more frequently than students from the North. In the faculty survey, 92 out of 115 faculty members participated. Of that 68%, 77% of faculty members favored coeducation. The surveys found that the need for a “realistic environment” motivated students and faculty to support coeducation at Washington and Lee.

Fighting Coeducation Opposition

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 9.05.15 PM Washington and Lee women of 1986 making a statement against male opposition to their introduction to the university. Even after the implementation of the coeducation initiative, men of Washington and Lee still brought women from other schools to on-campus functions. Many women wore shirts reading, “W&L Women: Quality Doesn’t Have To Travel” in response.