A love letter to Washington and Lee University

“I haven’t stopped thinking of you since we were abruptly torn apart in this chaotic mess.”


An aerial view of Washington and Lee University. Photo by Coleman Martinson.

Lilah Kimble

Dear Washington and Lee,

I haven’t stopped thinking of you since we were abruptly torn apart in this chaotic mess. Two months ago, after hearing the ongoing speculation for days of whether or not you would be closed, I anxiously awaited word of the school year’s demise. Finally, while FaceTiming my mom and sister back in my Graham-Lees dorm room that Friday evening, the email notification appeared.

Honestly, I was initially excited to leave you. Please don’t misunderstand me — it wasn’t a gleeful excitement. It was one of relief. From all of my (amateur) research on COVID-19 and the responses from institutions of higher education, I assumed that students would all be sent home eventually. It was only a matter of time before the disruption would proceed, and I was awaiting it nervously. It isn’t that I was desperate to leave you; I just had already cynically accepted the circumstances. Or so I thought.

How does one truly accept changes until they have occurred? After ending the phone call, I talked about the news with all of my hallmates. Many of them were on the frantic search for storage space and plane tickets, but most notably, they were looking for a sense of certainty amidst the new anxieties we were all facing.

None of this is news to you, though. Throughout all of this, you were there. Students, professors, administration and all the faculty dreaded the effect that going off campus would have on the Washington and Lee community. Most students only had one weekend left in Lexington to spend with their friends before everyone would be off on their separate ways throughout the country and world.

There was a different energy in the air of the home I had had for only six months: one of sorrow and heartache. While like any group of people the student body has their disparities, we were all tremendously disappointed to be leaving you.

Even after numerous hours of Zooming with classmates, part of me naively feels like my dorm room is still entirely put together, waiting for me to return. Throughout all of my time being home and attempting to make my online learning as influential as my time on campus this year was, the circumstances have proved to me that it is impossible to replicate the fundamental experiences that you, Washington and Lee, have given me.

I can no longer walk with Professor Gray and other classmates from class across the school grounds to his office as we continue our conversations about political philosophy. When a class ends now, we are all left immediately and abruptly in our isolation. Classmates can no longer chat before and after class, gradually developing meaningful relationships.

There is no room for the personal connections that make Washington and Lee such a wonderful experience. You gave us that. Thank you for the six months that I’ve had the opportunity to spend with you. Thank you for the time you’ve given me.

I’m looking forward to seeing you again, whenever that may be.

With sincere gratitude and love, Lilah Kimble