Meet the “First Lady of W&L”: Dr. Carola Tanna

President Dudley and Dr. Tanna were recently married after dating long-distance for eight years

Jack Eason

There’s a new resident of Lee House. Dr. Carola Tanna, who married Washington and Lee University President Will Dudley in July, recently moved to campus.

“We have been flying back and forth to see each other,” said Tanna, a mother of four, who dated Dudley for eight years. “And the target was getting the youngest of my four children off to college. That was how we timed our wedding.”

They met 30 years ago at their alma mater, Williams College, where Tanna was a member of the diving team and Dudley was captain of the water polo team and a member of the swim team.

Since Dudley became president of the university in 2017, Tanna has visited campus and familiarized herself with the Washington and Lee community.

“I already knew I was going to love living here,” Tanna said, referring to both the kindness of both students and faculty, but also citizens of the town of Lexington.

She attended performing arts and sporting events when she could.

“My very first introduction, when [Dudley] was first hired, was Mock Convention 2016,” Tanna said. “Which I thought was a really fabulous way to see what the students can do. I was so impressed.”

Dudley and Tanna live on campus in Lee House, which was built when Robert E. Lee was president of the university. The house has traditionally served as home to the university’s president since 1867.

Last month, Tanna, a board-certified internal medicine physician, joined Rockbridge Health, a local medical practice based in Lexington.

When she has free time from work, Tanna enjoys meeting students and being active on campus.

Before the increased COVID-19 restrictions, she and Dudley hosted meals at Lee House, where she met some undergraduate students.

Tanna said that she has been impressed with the students she has met and looks forward to meeting more.

“Everyone I’ve met has just been so fun to be with and excited about what they do,” said Tanna.

Sam Carley, ‘22, was able to meet Tanna during her freshman year, and was immediately impressed.

“She was very nice, very intelligent, super sweet and seemed to care a lot about the school,” said Carley.

Many past presidents’ wives have taken on causes around campus. Kim Ruscio, wife of 26th Washington and Lee President Kenneth Ruscio, was noted as a promoter of women’s leadership both on and off campus.

Tanna has said she isn’t sure yet what cause she might undertake, as her medical practice keeps her fairly busy, but has enjoyed working in the campus garden this year and talking with students interested in careers in medicine.

“Lee House is fantastic,” said Tanna, “I haven’t seen any of the ghosts that Kim Ruscio warned me about.”

While she might be able to wait on meeting the rumored Lee House ghosts, she cannot wait to meet more students.

“There’s such a great energy on this campus,” said Tanna, “And I am pretty sure it’s coming from the students.”