The following remarks were given by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley III at the inauguration of his son, Taylor Reveley IV, at Longwood University on Nov. 15, 2013 - Ed.
Friends, the program says my mission is reflections. Let me reflect in four ways – four quick ways.
First, there are happy similarities between William & Mary and Longwood. Both were born private and only later became public. Both have suffered the perils of Pauline at various points in their long lives, and both have stood the test of time. William & Mary, now in its 321st year, has a special fondness for institutions like Longwood that enjoy the distinction and dignity of serious longevity, that have the elegance and grace of tradition and history, and that remain firmly committed to the liberal arts in an era often oblivious to the centrality of the liberal arts to understanding the human condition and educating leaders of compelling ability.
Second, Longwood is dear to my family. My maternal grandmother, whom I adored, was an alumna of Longwood, as were her three daughters, all of whom I also adopted, one of them my mother and the other two my aunts; one aunt later served on Longwood’s Board of Visitors. My grandmother and her husband, Tom Eason, fell in love when he was teaching Biology at Longwood and she was teaching nearby. A generation later my parents fell in love and courted when mother was here and dad was at Hampden-Sydney. One hundred years ago, Longwood’s Class of 1913 made my grandfather an honorary member of the class. What an amazing coincidence – perfect to this occasion! Exactly one century later, one of Tom Eason’s great grandsons becomes president of Longwood. I grew up awash in stories about Longwood and Hampden-Sydney, all of which got a vibrant new lease on life when my parents came back to this part of the world in 1963 for dad to become president of Hampden-Sydney. All in all, it’s positively incestuous.
Third, it’s always fun to see one of the offspring go into the family business. Being Taylor Reveley does seem to entail becoming president of a school in Virginia. When son Taylor was picked by Longwood, I did say he needed to start using his numeral, a four, since I, another variant of Taylor Reveley, was still alive and kicking and was already accustomed to being openly and notoriously known as Taylor Reveley. And while son Taylor was much bigger, younger and better looking, I nonetheless got there first and, anyway, was prone to say outrageous things from time to time that he wouldn’t want people to think had tripped off his innocent tongue.
Fourth, parents as a species have all sorts of advice for their children that they really want to impart. But it’s generally better for parents to stuff it, or at least most of it, once the kid leaves the nest. Thus, I have tried not to share any advice with President Reveley, just because he’s my child. Every now and then he does ask for my thoughts about one thing or another. When he was thinking about whether becoming an academic president might make sense for him, Taylor did ask what the job was like. So, I said, it’s a wonderful job if you believe in the school you’re leading. When you get up in the morning and peer in the mirror, you don’t have to wonder whether what you’re going to do that day matters. It’ll matter, the only question is whether for good or ill. When you’re at the top of your game, you can in fact do serious good for an important institution, helping it seize its opportunities, surmount its difficulties, and rise to ever greater heights. You’re rarely bored, because the pot is always boiling. And you’ll certainly be given every opportunity to work like a dog. The job’s relentless. Like the energizer bunny, it just goes and goes.
This reminds me of the college president who was really feeling the pressure -- found himself under a lot of stress. He called a wise friend and asked how to get some relief. The friend urged him to start running ten miles a day. A month later the president called his friend back to say running ten miles a day had worked wonders, no more stress. So his friend asked how the job was going, how the college was doing. The president replied, “well I don’t know. I’m 300 miles from the campus.”
Longwood, your 26th president might run ten miles a day, but it’ll be around the campus.
Taylor’s mother and I, and his siblings, are very proud of him. We are also very proud of Marlo. She and the twins will join him in being wonderful additions to the Longwood family. Longwood House is in for quite a ride.
And to Longwood’s 26th president, congratulations and paternal best wishes from the 27th president of William & Mary, who also celebrates you in the memory of the 18th president of Hampden-Sydney. I believe you’re the right person for the job at this particular moment in Longwood’s long life. So, keep doing your level best for this grand institution.