Bruce Oliver ’68 had a conversation five years ago with a William & Mary student that he has never forgotten. He and his wife, Nancy Hulse Oliver ’69, were visiting campus for his 40th Reunion. The student told him her father had died unexpectedly and, because of her family’s situation, she wasn’t sure she would be able to return for her senior year.
Oliver, who surmounted his own challenges to finance his college education, remembered the scholarship support he received — and all William & Mary had done for him. He said her story became a source of inspiration for him in his role at the time as chair of the 40th Reunion Gift Committee and when he co-chaired his 45th Reunion Gift Committee.
“For all of us who graduated from William & Mary, the foundation we received enabled us to have the lives we have now,” Oliver said. “We owe a lot to our College for providing that experience.”
Oliver’s proud that 42 percent of the Class of 1968 participated in giving to the Reunion Class Gift. That is the highest participation rate of all reunion classes in 2013. Surpassing their original fundraising goal by 25 percent, members committed $1.33 million toward various purposes, including scholarships, schools, departments and the Fund for William & Mary, the College’s largest source of unrestricted funds.
One classmate Oliver contacted had never given before but, to his pleasant surprise, agreed to contribute $5,000. “He was so glad to hear from someone at the College,” Oliver recounted. “Another classmate, a doctor, gave to the biology department in hopes of supporting pre-med students.”
Oliver attributed the class success to a true team effort. “I am very grateful to my classmates who were so generous with their gifts.”
A sociology and anthropology major, Oliver also earned enough credits in education at William & Mary to obtain a certificate to teach in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He later received a master’s in education from Virginia Tech and spent 40 years in the education field, including 16 as a middle school principal in Fairfax County, Va.
Officially retired since 2004, Oliver currently is a senior consultant for Just ASK Publications and Professional Development in Northern Virginia. In addition to keynoting conferences and conducting workshops for education professionals around the country, he writes a monthly newsletter targeted at instructional leaders. He also co-authored a book, Creating a Culture for Learning, that was published in 2011.
Oliver credits William & Mary for laying the groundwork for his career.
“The Flat Hat is where I learned to write and meet deadlines,” he said of his time at the student newspaper, where he ultimately became managing editor. He added that his leadership in student government also provided vital preparation.
For years, Oliver notes, he and Nancy were not able to support the College beyond small gifts. However, as their ability to contribute increased — financially, as well as with their time and energy — their engagement with the College has grown.
“I’ve always gone back to this: I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t had that College experience,” he said.
Oliver added that gifts of any size matter because they acknowledge the foundation of a William & Mary education and, most importantly, they can make a deep, personal difference to students like the one he and his wife encountered five years ago.