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Message to College community from Rector Michael K. Powell

Michael K. PowellMichael K. Powell, Rector of the College of William and Mary, sent the following email to faculty, staff, students and alumni. - Ed.

Dear Friends:

The academic year has begun and there is real excitement and enthusiasm. We have an exceptional freshman class and 25 percent of it are students of color--the most diverse class in our history. Earl Granger, associate provost for enrollment, and Henry Broaddus, dean of admission, are to be commended for their exceptional efforts. Additionally, the U.S News and World Report rankings were just released and the College has risen on the list from 33rd nationally to 32nd nationally. There is much to do, but there is a sense of good momentum. Much credit goes to Interim President Taylor Reveley, who has been extraordinary. He has worked tirelessly, reaching out broadly to the College community, and has tackled the very real challenges facing William and Mary. The Board is thrilled with his leadership and we should all be thankful he has stepped in.

Some of the challenges facing the College are quite serious, but we are attacking them aggressively. The financial picture remains worrisome. Huge budget shortfalls facing the state inevitably mean serious budget cuts--again--for William and Mary. This on top of deep cuts last year. In our judgment, the College must restructure its financial model to take our financial destiny into our own hands. Our ambitions are too great to be hostage to the state appropriations process. We will share more with you on this subject in coming months, but it will involve examining how to dramatically improve our annual giving, how to grow the endowment to a more substantial level, and what should be the right approach to tuition over the long run. We also are working with President Reveley and Provost Feiss on a new strategic plan for the College. It has been some time since the last plan and we are due. This will be an excellent opportunity for our entire community--faculty, students, staff and alums--to engage on setting the direction for the College.

It is also important to share with you where we stand with regard to the presidency of the College. In February of last year we appointed Taylor Reveley as interim president and initially thought we would start a search immediately. Yet, after coming to campus last spring and meeting with the faculty, staff and students, it was clear our community was not yet ready to proceed and that serious challenges suggested an immediate search would be unproductive. As the academic year ended, the Board agreed and announced that we would take no action over the summer.

As the months passed, however, the work of the College did not stand still and President Reveley was faced with extraordinary challenges. He had to reach out and help the community heal and come together. He worked hard to bring our admissions process to a successful close, including attracting a diverse class. Taylor reached out to the higher education community to mitigate risk that our national ranking might suffer. Working with the Board he engineered an endowment effort for Gateway, finalized a major gift to fund an annual faculty award, and put in place an important sustainability effort. Having just stepped in as president, Taylor was immediately faced with a severe budget cut and had to handle some critical personnel issues, including the retirement of vice presidents Sam Sadler and Stewart Gamage. In our judgment, Taylor handled all of these challenges and more with extraordinary skill, good nature and hard work. The Board has been very impressed as have many others who have had a chance to work with him.

Steadily and increasingly, many board members, faculty, students, staff and alums began suggesting that one compelling option might be to retain President Reveley for a longer period and remove his interim status, particularly if there was a widespread belief that the time was not ripe for a search, or if our current and immediate challenges demanded strong, fully empowered leadership. The Board agrees that removing Taylor’s interim status might be a meritorious course, but only if it is widely supported by our community. We have been working hard for weeks now to reach out to faculty, students, staff, administrators and alumni to get input and gauge which path is preferred and in the best interest of the College. Clearly, there are many issues to consider. Nonetheless, we must resolve the question and keep the College moving forward.

The Board is planning to meet Friday, September 5 to discuss the options, consider the input that we have received and make a decision on how to proceed. I will communicate with you again once a decision is reached.

Thank you for your consideration and support of the College.

Michael K. Powell, Rector

For the Board of Visitors