McAuliffe praises W&M's past, future on Charter Day

  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Governor Terry McAuliffe praised William & Mary during his Charter Day speech.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Governor Terry McAuliffe (center) shakes a hand while he and Chancellor Robert M. Gates '65 (second from left) get ready for the Charter Day ceremony.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Emeritus Chancellor Professor of Mathematics David Lutzer (right) receives an honorary degree.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    President Taylor Reveley speaks during the Charter Day ceremony.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Professor Emerita Jacquelyn McLendon, the recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, speaks at the event.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Stephen Cameron '14 received the Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Laura Godwin '14 receives the Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Ariel Cohen '14 offers her reflections on the charter.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Charter Day
    Charter Day
    Lord Boyce accepts the Lord Botetourt Award on behalf of the Drapers' Company of London.
    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

In his first visit to a college campus since his inauguration, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe encouraged William & Mary students to take chances and pursue what they love.

“As I tell my five children: You’re going to get knocked down sometimes; all that matters is that you get back up,” he said. “Don’t be a passenger in your own life story. Dream big, and be bold. I know you can do it.”

The new governor, who started pursuing his own entrepreneurial dreams at the age of 14, was full of praise for William & Mary at its annual Charter Day ceremony in Kaplan Arena on Friday. Several faculty members, students and alumni were recognized at the event, which celebrates the university’s royal charter, dated Feb. 8, 1693.

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“The College of William & Mary was established when Virginia was still a colony and America was simply a dream,” said McAuliffe, who received an honorary degree at the ceremony. “And during that long history, you have built -- and more importantly sustained – a reputation for being one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education … With more than 30 governors, 40 members of Congress, two speakers of the House, our current FBI Director and one Daily Show host, I can understand why William & Mary is called the alma mater of our nation.”

One such notable alumnus, former Secretary of Defense and current William & Mary Chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65, also spoke at the event, despite having to wear a neck brace because of a recent fall.

“I decided that the Chancellor’s regalia needed further adornment and so added an Elizabethan collar,” he joked.

Like McAuliffe, Gates also praised the university’s long history and its continuing promise.

“We come together to remember how much William & Mary and its alumni have done and to ponder how much more we can and must do in the future,” said Gates. “William & Mary is a university with an alumni of great historical accomplishment and a university with people accomplishing great things here today. It is truly an institution with great expectations.”

Essential to Virginia’s success

McAuliffe, who has several William & Mary alumni in his administration, lauded the university’s commitment to service as well as the the William & Mary Promise, a new operating model adopted by the Board of Visitors last April. The model features a four-year guaranteed tuition plan for entering in-state students.

“This public-private partnership should serve as a model to universities around the country,” he said. “It shows that by working together we can make high-quality education more affordable and costs more predictable for all Virginia families. The William & Mary Promise is a testament to the innovative spirit of the College’s leadership and your determination to extend the benefits of higher education to all Virginians.”

Education at every level is essential to the growth of the Commonwealth, the governor said.

“Everyone deserves access to a quality education … And in order to attract the best and the brightest, it is important to keep Virginia open and welcoming to those who call the Commonwealth home,” he said, noting his work to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and his support of the DREAM Act.

“Nothing is more important to our ability to create jobs than a smart, well-trained workforce, and increasing access to higher education is critical to that success,” he said.

To that end, McAuliffe has created the Virginia Commission on Higher Education Board Appointments, to which appointed education leaders from across the Commonwealth, including former W&M Rector Jeff Trammell ’73.

{{youtube:medium:left|39KyHEvKtV4, The Cleftomaniacs sing 'Happy Birthday'}}

“You are our nation’s future leaders,” McAuliffe told William & Mary’s students. “And you have had the privilege of attending one of the most elite universities in the country. But with that privilege comes increased responsibility. And on this Charter Day, I urge all of you to continue to serve – whether that be a career in public service or volunteering when you have free time.

“There is no better way to honor this great university than by using your time and your energy to create stronger, more prosperous communities around you.”

Recognizing excellence

Several of those who have been part of making William & Mary that great university were honored at the ceremony.

Along with McAuliffe, Emeritus Chancellor Professor of Mathematics David Lutzer received an honorary degree. Professor Emerita of English Jacquelyn McLendon received the Thomas Jefferson Award, which is given for “significant service through … personal activities, influence and leadership.” Assistant Professor of Psychology Cheryl Dickter received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, presented for “the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society.”

The Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, which recognizes excellence in the sciences and mathematics, went to Stephen Cameron ’14, and Laura Godwin ’14 accepted the Monroe Prize for Civic Leadership.

Representatives with the Drapers’ Company of London also attended the event to receive the Lord Botetourt Award, presented to non-alumni friends of the university “who embody the philanthropic spirit and impact on the College of Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt.”

Also at the ceremony, multiple students from across the campus participated in the reading of the Charter, and Ariel Cohen ’14 offered her reflections on it.

“As we continue to create and hold on to our families and communities, the tradition of the charter will carry on as we find our home at the College because life at William & Mary is about so much more than those stressful lectures or those completely out-of-the-blue pop quizzes. Life here is about the people,” she said.

‘What’s clear’

As the ceremony drew to a close with musical birthday tribute provided by the Cleftomaniacs, President Taylor Reveley pondered the appropriate thing to be said to a school on its 321st birthday.

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“What’s the secret? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way you might share with other schools that want to live long, productive lives?” Reveley mused.

The university might reply, Taylor said, by citing its glowing list of talented alumni, its commitment to serving the greater good or its dedication to providing a world-class education with the “brains of a big research university and the heart of a small liberal arts college.”

“What’s clear is that this historic school is moving marvelously forward in our time, and this glorious, iconic institution richly deserves our admiration and affection -- indeed, our unabashed love.”