A loss for W&L

Washington and Lee’s 20th President, Robert E.R. Huntley, dies at 86

A loss for W&L

Washington and Lee President  Robert E.R. Huntley, ’50, ’57L, who led the university form 1968 to 1983, passed away Dec. 10. Below is an email from President Ken Ruscio, sent to the university community Dec. 11.

I write with the sad news that Robert Edward Royall Huntley, the president of Washington and Lee from 1968 to 1983, died yesterday, Dec. 10, at his home in Kendal at Lexington. He was 86.

We have lost one of W&L’s most important and beloved figures. President Huntley made innumerable and invaluable contributions as a student, as an alumnus, as a member of the faculty and administration, and as the president. He personified our highest values of civility and integrity, and was able to articulate and explain those values with eloquence and force. He was indeed a Washington and Lee legendary figure.

The 20th president of W&L, he was the first and only alumnus to be inaugurated as president in the 20th century. When he was named president on Jan. 3, 1968, he was 38 years old and had only recently taken the dean’s post at the Law School. He took office on Feb. 5, succeeding acting president William W. Pusey III, and was inaugurated on Oct. 18 that year.

Kim and I send our deepest condolences to his three daughters and three sons-in-law, Martha and Dyer Rodes, Catherine (Katie) and James McConnel, and Jane and John Duncan; and his six grandchildren, Huntley Elizabeth Rodes ’07, Sarah Catherine Rodes ’11, Jordan Elizabeth McConnel ’10, Robert Huntley McConnel ’15, William Colin Whitmore and Cole Huntley Whitmore. His wife, Evelyn Whitehurst Huntley, whom he married in 1954, died in 2010. He was uncle to Robert Huntley ’75, and his brother was the late Dr. Benjamin F. Huntley III ’46.

He held two degrees from W&L, a B.A. (1950) and an L.L.B. (1957). President Huntley majored in English as an undergraduate and graduated summa cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He won election as vice president of the student body and received the Washington Literary Society Award for the most distinguished service to the university of any graduating student. As a law student, he served as editor in chief of the Washington and Lee Law Review. He belonged to the Order of the Coif, Omicron Delta Kappa, Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity and Delta Tau Delta social fraternity. He also earned an LL.M. from Harvard University in 1962.

President Huntley also served the university as the dean of the School of Law from 1967 to 1968; as a professor of law from 1958 to 1968; and as the secretary of the Board of Trustees and legal advisor to the university from 1966 to 1968.

President Huntley expressed his thoughts about education in his 1981 Commencement address. “Education gives us power, a kind of power we can get in no other way: power over ourselves,” he said. And “education is what we are going to have if we are going to be persons, human beings. Character is what we must have if we are going to be good human beings.”

We are working closely with President Huntley’s family on further communications, including a tribute to him that will appear later today on the W&L website. It will also contain information on the memorial service.