William & Mary

Taylor Reveley's 2015 Charter Day remarks

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The following are the prepared closing remarks of President Taylor Reveley for the 2015 Charter Day ceremony. - Ed.

So, we’re 322 years old.  Well, just how old is that?  Unless you’re Methuselah or perhaps a giant redwood tree, 322 is really old, at least by human standards.  No hair, no teeth, no nothing would be left by age 322 for the standard-issue human. But William & Mary, though created and sustained by humans, transcends mortal limits.  William & Mary is a university, a robustly healthy university.  And often a great university is just beginning to get in gear by its 322nd birthday.

Think about Oxford and Cambridge.  No one is quite sure when Oxford was born, but it probably had its 322nd birthday in the year 1418.  Cambridge hit that mark in 1531.  Both Oxford and Cambridge remain robustly alive and well in 2015.  This is to say, most institutions of higher education are remarkably durable creations, far more stable and long-lived than corporations, or even a lot of nations, to say nothing of most not-for-profit institutions.  This is especially so if colleges or universities have been tempered by the fires of war and privation and, like the phoenix, have risen from the ashes. 

William & Mary has been so tempered.  Both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War tried to kill us and came within a hair of malign success.  Our most famous alumnus defected to create a competing institution after being brilliantly educated at his alma mater.  The capital of Virginia left us, fleeing to Richmond during the Revolutionary War to avoid British invaders, taking with it the rich economic, political and social resources that had previously graced the College’s hometown, Williamsburg.  There have been times, particularly in the 1800s, when the College didn’t have two nickels to rub together or enough students to keep body and soul intact. 

But throughout, William & Mary has proved to be more than simply durable and long-lived, it has proved to be nigh unto indestructible.  The alma mater of the nation is one tough phoenix; it is one tough bird. 

Students now at the College will live to see their alma mater rise to extraordinary heights in the 21st century, their century, sustained in part by their own lifelong commitment to it.

William & Mary, born on February 8, 1693, will be 322 years old this Sunday, and it’s just beginning to roll.  So, in those elegantly inscrutable words, everyone, let’s keep Harking upon the Gale – whatever that may mean!