Commencement Speaker

Arthur Brooks
President,  American Enterprise Institute

Arthur Brooks headshotArthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a nonpartisan public policy think tank in Washington, DC. He is also the Beth and Ravenel Curry Scholar in free enterprise at AEI and a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.

Until December 31, 2008, Dr. Brooks was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government at Syracuse University. He taught courses in economics and social entrepreneurship and performed research on happiness and the economics of philanthropy.  

At 19, Dr. Brooks left college to work professionally as a classical musician (a period his parents described as his "gap decade").  During this time he toured with the Annapolis Brass Quintet, recorded albums with jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd and others, and spent several seasons as associate principal French horn with the City Orchestra of Barcelona.  

In his late twenties, Dr. Brooks returned to college by correspondence and studied economics, mathematics, and languages, eventually earning his B.A. while still working as a musician. He went on to pursue an M.A. in economics at Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in public policy at the RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California. His doctoral work focused on applied microeconomics and mathematical modeling.  While earning his Ph.D., Dr. Brooks also worked for the RAND Corporation on theater-level combat models for the US Air Force. Upon completing his doctorate, he spent 10 years as a professor of public administration.  

Dr. Brooks has published dozens of scholarly articles and 11 books on topics including philanthropy, military operations research, the future of conservatism, and the economics of human happiness. His latest book is the New York Times bestseller "The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America" (Broadside Books, 2015). Previous books include the New York Times bestseller "The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise" (Basic Books, 2012) and the graduate business textbook "Social Entrepreneurship" (Prentice Hall, 2008).  

Dr. Brooks delivers more than 100 speeches annually around the US, Europe, and Asia. He appears regularly on radio and television and is a frequent guest host for programs such as "The Hugh Hewitt Show" and CNBC's "Squawk Box." He writes frequently for The New York Times and publishes featured pieces in other outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Commentary Magazine, and Foreign Affairs. As of early 2017, he is producing an international, feature-length documentary film that explores the relationship between capitalism and human happiness.  

Dr. Brooks is a native of Seattle, Washington, and has been married for 25 years to his wife, Ester. They have three children and currently live in Maryland.


Baccalaureate Speaker

Kenneth P. Ruscio
President, Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges  

Ken Ruscio headshotKenneth P. Ruscio, serves as the seventh leader of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges. Prior to his appointment, he served as the 26th president of Washington and Lee University from July 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2016.   An alumnus of W&L and a distinguished scholar of democratic theory and public policy, Ruscio was named Emeritus Professor of Politics and President Emeritus by the University's Board of Trustees when he stepped down from the presidency.

Ruscio earned his B.A. in politics from Washington and Lee in 1976, and a master of public administration (1978) and a Ph.D. in public affairs and public administration (1983), both from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Ruscio held both faculty and staff positions at W&L from 1987 to 2002. Immediately prior to being named W&L's president, he served as the dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond from 2002 to 2006.

The year after Ruscio became president of W&L, the University launched an ambitious strategic plan emphasizing its commitment to a liberal arts education in the 21st century. When it was completed in 2016, "Honor Our Past, Build Our Future: The Campaign for Washington and Lee" had raised $542.5 million against its original goal of $500 million, making it second largest campaign ever by a liberal arts college.

One of the major elements in the campaign was support for need-based financial aid. The campaign secured more than $156 million for that goal, including $100 million for the Johnson Scholarship Program. Other successful fundraising goals were for faculty support and academic programs, including $66 million from the Lenfest Challenge to improve faculty compensation and $4 million from award-winning journalist Roger Mudd to create the Roger Mudd Center for Ethics. A $50 million renovation and restoration of the historic Colonnade was completed in 2017. Among the new facilities funded by the campaign were a new natatorium and the creation of the Ruscio Center for Global Learning, named in his honor by the Trustees in recognition of Ruscio's "strong support and advocacy for the integration of global perspective throughout the university's curriculum." Ruscio has authored articles, book reviews, essays and a book, "The Leadership Dilemma in Modern Democracy" (2004). He has served as national president of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership society.

Ruscio served on the boards of both the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), and he chaired the AAC&U board. He currently is a member of the Board of Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia.

Ruscio is married to Kimberley O'Donnell Ruscio. They have a son, Matthew, who is a 2012 graduate of St. Lawrence University and is completing his MBA at the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina.