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Holm, Fox Retiring From BV Schools

  • Written by Darryl Woodson



The Buena Vista School Board approved the retirements of Dr. Mary Holm, director of instruction, and Nelson Fox, a longtime PE teacher and successful golf and basketball coach.  Holm will retire effective June 17 and Fox at the end of the school year, on June 30.

Holm is a longtime educator who has served the Buena Vista division as director of instruction for the past seven years.

“We owe Dr. Holm a big thanks for stepping up as acting superintendent for a full year, after Dr. [Rebecca Gates] had resigned and during the search for a new superintendent [Dr. John Keeler],” said Board Chairman Steve Webb after Thursday night’s meeting.  “She did a big job for us and helped us out tremendously.”

Superintendent Keeler said that no discussion had yet taken place about a replacement for Holm.  He pointed out that Rockbridge County recently divided that job among administrators at the different levels.

Fox has been in education for 39 years, 38 of them in Buena Vista.  Webb said that Fox will be “hard to replace − he was such a class act, and a leader in our school system.”

“He knew how to lose and win gracefully, and taught our students the same,” he said.





Salman Hameed To Talk On How Muslims View Science and Biological Evolution At W&L

  • Written by Darryl Woodson

Salman Hameed, the director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies, will give a talk at Washington and Lee University on Tuesday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m. in Leyburn Library's Northen Auditorium.
The title for Hameed's talk, which is free and open to the public, is "The Crescent and the Natural World: How do Muslims view science and biological evolution?"
Hameed is also an associate professor of integrated science and humanities at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. His primary research interest focuses on understanding the reception of science in the Islamic world and how Muslims view the relationship between science and religion. He recently led a four-year National Science Foundation-funded study on the reception of biological evolution in diverse Muslim societies.
Salman also runs Irtiqa, a science and religion blog with an emphasis on scientific debates taking place in the Muslim world. His research work has been highlighted in The Economist, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, National Public Radio and Public Radio International.
He teaches "Evolution, Islam and Modernity," "Science in the Muslim World," "Astrobiology" and "History and Philosophy of Science and Religion" at Hampshire College.
Hameed's current research interests include star formation in spiral galaxies, nature of small dusty galaxies in the early universe, reasons for the spread of paranormal beliefs among college students, modern Creation movements in the Islamic world and reconciliation efforts over sacred objects and places of astronomical importance (e.g. Tomanowos/Willamette meteorite and observatories at Mauna Kea).

VMI Cadet Dies Following Search

  • Written by Roberta Anderson

 A sweeping search by local law enforcement officials to find a missing Virginia Military Institute cadet who was thought to be suicidal and in the possession of a handgun ended in tragedy Tuesday evening at Goshen Pass.

A Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Department deputy located Eric B. Alter, 22, of Centreville at Goshen Pass.  According to a sheriff’s department spokesman, the deputy was only able to speak briefly to Alter before Alter pulled out the gun and shot himself.  The sheriff’s office had been notified shortly before the tragedy by VMI police about the missing cadet’s condition and the location where he was thought to be heading.   Alter had cell phone contact at some point earlier in the afternoon with a member of the lacrosse team for which he was the director of operations.

The VMI corps of cadets was informed of Alter’s death early Tuesday evening, and a vigil was held that night at 11. Counseling and pastoral care is available to cadets, faculty and staff. “Our thoughts go out to his family. He was an outstanding cadet,” said Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, superintendent, in a statement. 

Alter was an English major and was commander of the corps’ 2nd Battalion. He was set to graduate in May and to commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

He is survived by his parents, Bruce and Beth Alter of Centreville, and his sister, Betsy. Funeral arrangements are pending.




W&L Responds To Law Students' Concerns

  • Written by Ed Smith

Editor's note: The following story appeared in today's issue of The News-Gazette. However, due to a production error, the final two lines in the story were left out. The complete story follows.
Race-related questions raised by a group of Washington and Lee University law school students earlier this month have prompted the university's president to issue two messages in the past week in which he addresses the students' concerns.

“The questions that some law students have raised are legitimate,” said Dr. Ken Ruscio in a statement released Monday. “Washington and Lee seeks to establish a climate of learning in which we treat all individuals with respect and trust. If even one person thinks that we have not met our aspiration in that regard, we must listen to them and examine why. We are doing so, and we will continue to do so.”

Twelve law school students signed an April 12 letter to W&L's board of trustees in which the students made four “demands” of the university with regard to creating a more welcoming environment on campus for persons of color.

The students are demanding that W&L do the following: 1) recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day by not holding undergraduate classes this day; 2) stop allowing Confederate heritage groups to march on campus with their flags on Lee-Jackson Day and stop allowing them to hold programs in Lee Chapel; 3) remove Confederate flags on display inside Lee Chapel; and 4) apologize for the university's participation in slavery and denounce Robert E. Lee's participation in slavery.

Ruscio stated that these matters “require a wider, deeper conversation that includes members of our community whose voices have not been heard in the various media reports. That includes many of our black students and black alumni, who have shared their individual experiences in our ongoing discussions about these issues throughout this academic year.”

The phrase, “climate of learning,” is worth underscoring, said Ruscio. “Washington and Lee is an educational institution, not a museum and not a historical curiosity. Education – by which I mean education in the deepest sense, with all the foundational features of the liberal arts and sciences, ranging from free and open inquiry, to critical and independent thinking, to a sense of history, philosophy, religion and ethics – is sometimes messy and controversial.”

The fundamental question, he continued, “is whether people with different backgrounds, different experiences and different opinions can address difficult questions and, if not necessarily agree with one another, at least strive, with mutual respect, to better understand each other and to find common ground.”

Ruscio recalled that this past fall he asked a campus group to undertake a comprehensive review of the history of African Americans at W&L. Thus far this group has been operating informally and on a preliminary fashion, he said, but the current discussion might provide an impetus for the group to move forward. “In the end, we will assess that institutional history and provide whatever judgment is warranted.”

As for whether undergraduate classes should be canceled on MLK Day, Ruscio said, “[It's] a fair question, one that rests in the hands of the faculty who determine the academic calendar. Many people are concerned that canceling classes would supplant an eventful week of educational activities with an uneventful three-day weekend. I trust the wisdom of our faculty if they wish to take up the question.”

Ruscio said he would initiate a review of the current language in the university's diversity statement “to be sure that it accurately reflects our commitment to diversity and inclusion and our reasons why. … I firmly believe that inclusion and excellence are inseparable; if we seek excellence, we will necessarily seek inclusion.”

On the display of battle flags of several Confederate regiments near the statue of the recumbent Robert E. Lee inside Lee Chapel, he said, “Too many individuals assume they know which flags are there, why they are there and the history of how they got there. I am piecing the story together for myself and will share my findings with all of you.”

A university committee on inclusiveness and campus climate, established in 2008, is to take up these and other ongoing questions to help W&L formulate additional steps, Ruscio said.

The W&L president noted the university has been “receiving a great deal of advice from many people outside our community. While we will not simply dismiss that advice, these are matters for us to decide.”


Hazmat Exercise Planned In County

  • Written by submitted

 There will be a large number of emergency vehicles in the vicinity of Old Buena Vista Road and Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital this Wednesday and Thursday.

But, said Rockbridge County emergency management coordinator Robert Foresman, area residents should not be alarmed.

It’s all a part of a Rockbridge County hazmat (hazardous materials) exercise will be held each day from noon to 7 p.m. at McKethan Park, the Virginia Military Institute property located off Old Buena Vista Road.

Participants will include representatives of a wide range of local, state and federal agencies.  During the event, a variety of Hazmat scenarios will be played out in a farmhouse on the property and outdoors, with each agency having a specific role. There will be no hazards to public safety or chemicals used during the exercise.

The exercise is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.