Pass the pasta plate, please

Freshmen in Graham-Lees Hall invite President Ruscio and wife to a “home-cooked” dinner

Faith Isbell

Some halls often bond over impromptu movie nights, Domino’s pizza and trips to Hull’s Drive-In. But a hall in Graham-Lees bonded over something different: good food and particularly good company.

On Oct. 28, a group of students living on the first floor of Graham-Lees Hall invited President Kenneth Ruscio and his wife, Kim, over for dinner.

The dinner first stemmed from a suggestion to cook a hall dinner.

“[We were] bonding over a mutual interest of good food,” Graham Novak, ‘19, said. “One thing turned into another, and before long we’d decided to cook a meal together.”

Novak first suggested that the students invite Ruscio and his wife, and the students decided to pursue the idea.

At the next hall meeting, the students brought it up to their Resident Advisor, Aalekhya Tenali, ‘17, who thought it was a great idea. The students then organized themselves into smaller groups and divided the duties, such as preparing the courses and coordinating the details.

About a month and a half prior, the students emailed the Office of the President to extend the invitation to Ruscio. Ruscio accepted the invitation, and the date was set.

The afternoon of the dinner, the students started cooking around 4:00 p.m. in the Graham-Lees kitchen and transformed the nearby study room into a “dining room.” The students even wore Lee Chapel attire for the occasion.

Ruscio and his wife arrived around 7:00 p.m. The dinner was a multi-course meal consisting of bruschetta, soup, salad and parmesan chicken pasta.

During the meal, the students discussed their lives at home and their current experience at Washington and Lee, such as what classes they were taking, what drew them to W&L and what they enjoyed about W&L. Ruscio and his wife shared as well.

“I enjoy hearing about the work of the students, their concerns and what they value about Washington and Lee,” Ruscio said. “And I certainly benefit from hearing what they have to say.”

Novak sat beside Ruscio, whom he had met once before during Orientation Week at an ice cream social. On both occasions, Novak described Ruscio as welcoming, open and eager for conversation.

“Having dinner with the Ruscio’s made me understand that they’re just people too,” Novak said. “Although we most often see President Ruscio while he’s at a podium, he has a family life, enjoys good conversation, and can crack a joke here and there. I realized that I respected him even more.”

Unlike Novak, Anna Daccache, ‘19, had not gotten the chance to meet Ruscio until the dinner. Nonetheless, Daccache thought a home-cooked meal would be a great opportunity to get to know him.

“It was really nice to meet [Ruscio] in such an intimate setting,” Daccache said. “We were just lucky that we got to meet him before he leaves.”

Ruscio and his wife welcomed the chance to spend time with students.

“We enjoyed the evening very much and were honored to be invited,” Ruscio said. “The students worked hard and welcomed us in their home. They were excellent hosts—and excellent cooks.”

Both Daccache and Novak encourage other students to reach out to Ruscio and his wife. In just the past couple of weeks, Ruscio and his wife have had three luncheons with students in the Lee House.

“You can tell that they really care about the school,” Daccache said. “They’re very involved, and they want to see [W&L] succeed even after they leave.”