A Philosophical Challenge for W&L’s President Dudley

June 23, 2024

President Dudley, a philosopher by trade, has in the past offered a seminar for first year students on a philosophical topic.  So, I am pleased to propose the following suggestion for his next seminar, assuming his ongoing exertions in transforming the ethos of the University and expunging visible markers of its history permit.

The seminar should focus on George Santayana’s “The Life of Reason”, specifically the volume entitled “Reason in Common Sense” which contains the following paragraph on page 284:

“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness.  When change is an absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual.  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

As Brad Miner, in his excellent book “The Compleat Gentleman” (which should also be a required text for the seminar) observes, the famous and much quoted last sentence of the foregoing paragraph “leaves out much that is essential” since the preamble to that memorable phrase infuses it with real meaning.

Therefore, President Dudley might focus his attention, that of his students and perhaps even that of his supinely compliant Board of Trustees on Santayana’s assertion that “Progress…depends on retentiveness.”  And further, “when experience is not retained…infancy is perpetual.”  The lamentable cancelation of a horse, Traveller, manifests infancy at play.  And the desecration of Lee Chapel, the removal of historic portrait paintings of W&L’s namesakes as well as numerous plaques memorializing persons and events both in the Chapel and elsewhere, often surreptitiously, while converting a historic building into just another nondescript place, destroys any semblance of “retentiveness.”

Incidentally, Mr. Miner cites Robert E. Lee as the consummate “Compleat Gentleman”, devoting several pages to Lee’s example for “The Modern Man’s Guide to Chivalry”, the subtitle of Miner’s book.  President Dudley might usefully consider whether his own, often lamentable, stewardship of W&L remotely meets any of the standards Lee set as President in restoring and leading the University.

So, my dear Dr. Dudley, are you the architect of real “progress” or merely a promoter of “infancy”?  Have you and your woke minions on the faculty exercised “Reason in Common Sense”?  Philosophers are supposedly capable of self-reflection.

Ideologues, who simply imbibe the blinkered orthodoxy they are fed, are not.  Are you a true philosopher who will examine and on reflection perhaps correct what you may have misguidedly wrought, or are you simply an academically credentialed apparatchik wedded to the prevailing delusions of a self-loathing American academy because, as an idealogue, you don’t have the intellectual fortitude or the personal courage to confront that destructive ideology?

Should you accept this challenge and offer this seminar, you might very well rehabilitate your soiled reputation amongst the vast University constituency who are not toadies and who value and respect its storied history.  Or do you prefer to be remembered for, to paraphrase Santayana, perpetuating infancy and destroying historical memory while abandoning reason in common sense?

Which will it be?  Based on observing your performance as President, few are holding their breath.

Kazimierz J. Herchold ‘68


         21 June 2024


Thank you for serving on your 50th reunion committee.

I do, indeed, teach a seminar every year.  The focus is the Washington and Lee mission statement.  My students read a month of Aristotle’s ethics and then consider quite carefully the purpose of this great school:

“Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students’ capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely, and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility.  Graduates will be prepared for lifelong learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.”

Spending time in conversation on this important topic with our outstanding students is a privilege and a joy.


Will Dudley

Kazimierz J. Herchold BIO

Kazimierz J. Herchold graduated from Washington & Lee in 1968 with a B.A. cum laude and Honors with Exceptional Distinction in History. Kaz obtained a J. D. from the New York University School of Law in 1971 where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar and Editor in Chief of the NYU Journal of International Law & Politics, and subsequently an LL.M. from the London School of Economics in 1972.

He initially practiced corporate law at a major Wall Street law firm before joining Xerox Corporation in the International Counsel’s office. He was subsequently invited to move to the business side where he held operational and general management responsibilities for a number of Xerox companies in the Middle East and Africa, India, Western Europe, China and Hong Kong. He was also responsible for Xerox’ investment in its Fuji Xerox joint venture in Japan and Asia, serving as the lead Xerox Director on the Board of Fuji Xerox.

Following his retirement from Xerox, he served as Chairman and President of the Polish Chamber of Commerce in the USA from October 2019 until November 2023.

As a first- generation Polish immigrant whose parents fled both Nazi and Communist oppression to come to the US, in fact it was W&L’s rich ties to American history which so impressed Kaz and his parents and led him to enroll. As a W&L History major, he finds the efforts of the present W&L administration, acquiesced in by the Board of Trustees, to remove and obliterate visible indicators of the University’s history both misguided and lamentable. They are redolent of practices implemented by totalitarian regimes seeking to expunge memory and promote a servile, witless culture. Hence his proposal to President Dudley to reconsider his destructive policies and directives.


24 June 2024

Dear Kaz — 

Your suggestion would have been worthy if you had left out the snark, and perhaps recognized the value of moving Confederate memorials in the former Lee Chapel to a museum. That way curious visitors can still see them, but they don’t provide a pall for students of color in one of W&L’s most important gathering places. 

Progress includes both change and retentiveness. As a graduate of NYU Law, surely you know this. 

I was Editor-in-Chief of Tuesday Edition of The Ring-tum Phi for the 1963-64 school year. In our editorials, we urged the admin to reach out and recruit Black high school students. For that, we were lambasted by our fellow, racist students. And the admin’s response? They can apply if they want to. 

I’m surprised you have so little empathy for the students of color who are now part of our alma mater. Sitting in the former Lee Chapel with all that Confederate regalia became impossible for them. Why can’t you get that? The name University Chapel is a good thing. So is the barrier between Lee’s recumbent statue and the chancel and pews. The sooner the Redoubt sees that, and the sooner folks like you lose the snark, the more your side of the aisle will be listened to.

Roger Paine, ’64


Boulder, Colorado


25 June 2024

Dear Roger, 

Your comments on my proposal deserve the courtesy of a reply.

I believe you conflate change, which is inevitable, with effacing history, which is a misguided choice. Change at W&L is evidenced by the fact that some 30% of the student body today are “students of color”, a positive change for which you rightly advocated so many years ago. But denuding what is (or rather was) a historical landmark of its visible marks because those might be upsetting assumes that those students are children whose tender sensibilites are easily “triggered” and the poor darlings just won’t be able to cope. Which is why Santayana’s remarks about “infancy”, written in 1905, are even more glaringly relevant today. Infantilizing our progeny ill prepares them for the real world and for dealing with the ever growing cohort of this country’s adversaries who don’t and won’t give a damn about our tender sensibilities. Frankly, listening to Polak jokes in my youth didn’t trigger me, but toughened me. 

History, flawed or otherwise, should be manifest and visible, not hidden because some might find it unpalatable. By all means, confront it, debate it, but don’t hide it or destroy it.

Equally distressing is the fact that much of what the W&L administration has wrought is disingenuous. Accumulated experience suggests that dealing with those who cloak themselves in noisy moral righteousness, namely thems that’s woke, requires piercing that self righteousness with deprecation. Call it snark if you will, but terminal politeness gets you nowhere with that crowd.

Finally, since I don’t wish to disappoint regarding my snarkiness, I won’t ask the impertinent question of whether you’ve made provision in your estate plan for the Museum of Institutional History. If not, perhaps you should since I understand that very few others are much interested in supporting that initiative. After all,they had such a museum, namely Lee Chapel.

We can civilly agree to disagree, which was often the norm in our day, so I did appreciate hearing from you.

Best wishes, 


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