The University Relations office phone rings, but the caller ID reveals nothing except "Second Floor, Campus Center." On the line is someone who sounds as though he's faking a British accent, suggesting "you should check your back stoop." Waiting there, slipped into the crack of the old doorframe, is an envelope emblazoned with the symbol of the Seven Society, Order of the Crown and Dagger.
It's not an invitation to join, nor is there a hint at who's behind the mysterious letterhead. Instead, it's press release of sorts. The Society recently donated a plaque recognizing W. Samuel Sadler ('64, M.Ed. '71), the College’s former—and much beloved—vice president for student affairs. The plaque, which commemorates Sadler's 41 years of service to the College was placed by the main entrance of the newly renamed Sadler Center. It features selected excerpts from the Society's official poem, "I Am the College of William and Mary," penned by former William and Mary Law School Dean Dudley Woodbridge.
The Seven Society is known at the College primarily for their famous banners and their posters thanking seven students at the end of each term for their dedication and service to the College. Though they carry all the connotations of a "secret society," their primary focus on campus has always been philanthropic, and their random acts of kindness are geared toward individuals and campus groups in need. In 2003, two dozen golf umbrellas showed up outside the Admissions Office reportedly after a dean of admissions was overheard expressing a need for them. The only clue regarding their donor was the symbol of the Sevens, which appeared on every umbrella. More recently, the society left a banner congratulating Sadler on his retirement in the back stairwell of the College's Campus Center—the same stairwell he used every day.
The Seven Society's founding year is reported to have been as early as 1826, but their presence on campus was interrupted by the American Civil War, two fires and the College closing from 1881 to 1887. In a 1939 edition of the Flat Hat they declared themselves to be the only secret society at William and Mary, but several other societies—including the FHC Society, Alpha Society, 13s Club and Bishop James Madison Society—function on campus today.
Outside of their good works, there is only speculation about the workings of the Society. Some suggest that the group is still comprised of seven men and that their late night meetings are held in Shields Tavern in Williamsburg, but the truth behind these rumors is, of course, a mystery.