W. Taylor Reveley, III
February 7, 2014
So, what you do say to a school on its 321st birthday? It's truly hard to know. Three hundred and twenty-one is not an anniversary milestone like a 300th birthday, or even a 325th. It's just another year, one of hundreds now logged by the alma mater of the nation.
I suppose we could say, William & Mary, congratulations on successfully completing your 321st rotation around the sun. Or, my, William & Mary, you're getting a bit of age on you, aren't you? Your magnificent red bricks are showing some wear. Or, more pleasantly, William & Mary, you look remarkably good for someone your age! How did you bounce back so well from those two wars that totaled your campus, scattered your students and faculty and almost did you in for good? Or, there are just a tiny handful of institutions in the United States that got underway in the 1600s and are still going strong; how'd you pull it off, William & Mary? What's the secret, what are the lessons you've learned along the way you might share with other schools that want to live long, productive lives, fledgling schools like Stanford and Duke?
Well, William & Mary might reply that for hundreds of years it's been graced with people of compelling ability and character. It's been blessed with a constellation of humans of indomitable spirit and will to excel, who've had at times to prevail despite crushing odds. Or William & Mary might talk about its powerful commitment to serve country, state and community, and its remarkable capacity to keep delivering on that commitment to serve the greater good, not just in the Revolutionary and Early National Eras, but right this red-hot moment. Or the College that's been a university since 1779 might wax eloquent about how these days it has the brains of a big research university and the heart of a small liberal arts college and about its goal of providing the best undergraduate education in the United States, and thus the world, not simply being recognized as one of the three best, along with Dartmouth and Princeton. Or William & Mary could tell us about its powerful commitment to having graduate and professional programs of pervasive excellence.
But enough musing on what to say to William & Mary on its 321st birthday and how the College might reply. What's clear is that this historic school is moving marvelously forward in our time, and this glorious, iconic institution richly deserves our admiration and affection - indeed, our unabashed love.