Washingtonian Society offers new avenue for experience at the university

The support group offers a safe space and residence for students seeking to change their substance use habits


The Washingtonian House is located at 19 University Place. Photo by Jack Eason, ’22.

Jack Eason

There’s a house that sits at the base of the hill that runs down from the Colonnade toward town. It has red brick, white columns and is home for Washington and Lee students.

But the Washingtonian House isn’t specific to a fraternity, Outing Club members or international students. It’s a physical representation of a growing subsection of students on campus: those that wish to change their relationships with substances like alcohol and drugs.

These students are a part of the Washingtonian Society. The group, founded in 2015, “welcomes any student who recognizes their past alcohol or substance use as a problem and wants to change the pattern,” according to the group’s website.

The house, first opened in 2017, is located directly beside the financial aid office, across Letcher Avenue from the admissions house. It offers five rooms to students who have had issues in the past with  substance use and are now pursuing recovery.

The house also serves as a base for the campus recovery group to meet. An average group of 10 to 15 students meet every Friday at 5:00 pm.

Graham Pergande, ‘20, a Washingtonian Society member and house resident, credited university psychiatrist, Dr. Kirk Luder, as a driving force behind the house.

“[Dr. Luder] was super adamant about it,” Pergande said. “The school and Dr. Luder essentially made the whole thing happen.”

One aspect of the house that the residents are passionate about is its use as a gathering space. Equipped with an Xbox, pool table, sound system, and flat screen TV, the residents are hoping students come by for planned activities throughout the year, or just drop in if they need a supportive, sober environment.

“We’ve had a couple of outreach campaigns to talk with various school folks.” said member Alex Cantrell, ‘19. “Our hope is that all students know we’re here.”

Daniel Rhoades ’19, who lives in the house and serves as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist, hopes the house, along with its planned gatherings throughout the year, will represent a viable alternative to those wishing to change their substance use habits.

“It’s tough to find a space not filled with alcohol on Wednesday nights,” said Rhoades.

Rhoades is also available to all students to drop by and talk on Sunday and Thursday nights on the third floor of commons.

“We want to be there before [people] get in trouble. We want people to know about us and reach out to us,” said Pergande.  “So if you do wake up in the health center on a Sunday morning and think ‘maybe I could use some help,’ they know that the house is here and that they can walk in and find people who will be sympathetic.”

To receive updates on the society’s events and efforts, email [email protected] to join the email list.