William & Mary

Remarks of President Taylor Reveley

The following are the prepared remarks of President Taylor Reveley for the announcement of his retirement - Ed.

I feel a bit like I did when we officially launched William & Mary’s billion-dollar campaign in a giant white tent in the Sunken Garden.  The fact we were having a campaign was, by then, no sudden revelation to those gathered in the tent.

In that same spirit, let me now say that my last day as President of William & Mary will be 14 months hence, on June 30, 2018, after a decade as this iconic university’s 27th leader.  At that time, I will be 75 and ½ and ready to taste the sweet fruits of retirement.

Each William & Mary president stands on the shoulders of prior presidents.  I have been keenly aware of the debt I owe those who came before me, particularly those who shaped William & Mary’s early success and those in more recent times who laid the foundation to restore the university’s preeminence.

Presidents also depend enormously on the work of countless colleagues to help push the university forward. A successful institution of higher education is always under construction, with its continued progress utterly dependent on a team effort.  My presidency has been blessed, amazingly blessed, by colleagues of extraordinary ability and commitment to William & Mary.   I would have been bereft without their good counsel, friendship, and personal efforts for the good of the whole.     

During the colonial era, William & Mary was the leading institution of higher education in America.  My prime ambition has been to quicken the university’s progress back to its rightful place in the sun, believing this will serve William & Mary’s people well and enhance the good they can do for the Commonwealth, nation, and world.

More specifically, my presidency has had four overriding goals:

First, to pursue excellence in all that William & Mary does, not just in its teaching and research;

Second, to set audacious goals to stretch and galvanize us, even if some seem beyond reach;

Third, to make our strategic planning a “living” process, reflected in the annual cycle of budgets; and

Fourth, to hammer home the reality that going forward William & Mary’s financial future, and thus its capacity to excel, hinges largely on our own efforts -- faculty, staff and administrators on campus, students and parents, and alumni and friends, with each part of the W&M family pulling strongly on its oar, and no part standing on the sidelines failing to do its part.    

All of us, our entire constellation of chancellors, rectors, board members, the campus community (students, faculty, administrators, staff and president), alumni around the world, parents, and friends of William & Mary have come together to make enormous progress in recent years.  I will keep pushing forward for the next 14 months, as always.  No lame duck for me.

Now, I didn’t go to college or law school at William & Mary. Indeed, I was long in the tooth before I knew much about the College except its stereotypic reputation – really old and historic, really tough academically. So how did William & Mary come to capture my heart and mind with the force it has?  How did I come to have such respect and affection, indeed love, for a school I never attended and didn’t seriously encounter until my mid-fifties?  

Was I seduced by the physical allure of William & Mary’s campus?  It is, by any measure, one of the most beautiful in the country, in the world for that matter.  I love to walk its varied precincts, and to find its western grounds flowing into 700 acres of pristine College Woods and its eastern grounds merging gracefully into the late 18th century reborn in Colonial Williamsburg.

Was I mesmerized by the rich history that William & Mary has lived over the centuries?  You can’t manufacture history if you don’t have it; history has to be lived.  The College has lived it to astonishing degree since 1693, leading the way for higher education in key respects, educating leaders for communities, states and nation, making its way indomitably through times of terrible loss and turmoil, and providing a past from which the College can draw abiding strength for all time coming.  

Was it the high caliber of William & Mary’s people that drew me close?  William & Mary people are remarkably intelligent, hard-working, and ambitious.  They are also collegial, caring and free of the cloying sense of entitlement that sometimes blights very accomplished humans. They are the sort of people with whom you enjoy being and on whom you can count for splendid performance.

Was I won by William & Mary’s pervasive academic excellence and its commitment to being a research university while also remaining a great teaching institution for undergraduates as well as graduate and professional students?  

Was it William & Mary’s unequalled capacity to do more with less in all aspects of its life that was so inspiring for me, even while we are moving heaven and earth to reach that happy day when the university can do more with more?

Was it the deep loyalty of William & Mary people to the Alma Mater of the Nation and their pride in being its alumni and alumnae?

Well, of course, it was all of this and more that accounts for William & Mary’s powerful hold on my respect and affection.  I am a member of the Tribe and will be till my last breath.

Let me end by saluting the most important person in my life, Helen, my beloved spouse for over 46 years.  We have supported one another through thick and thin for almost half a century.  I can’t imagine living in the President’s House without Helen by my side.  She has been, and is, a stalwart, caring and all round marvelous first lady.     

When I became William & Mary’s 27th president, I promised to do my best for this magnificent institution, and that is what I’ve tried hard to do.  We’ve come a very long way together.  It has been an extremely meaningful time for me and Helen.  Thank you William & Mary for what you have meant to us and so many others over the centuries.

In my judgment, the 21st century is going to be the most productive and successful in William & Mary’s long life.  In the years ahead, the College, the university, is going to do great good for countless generations of William & Mary people and for our communities, states and nations.   

Taylor Reveley