William & Mary

Remarks from Rector Todd Stottlemyer '85 on W&M's 28th president

{{youtube:medium|J03tEhPGMJ0, Remarks from Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer ’85}}

The following are the prepared remarks of Rector Todd Stottlemyer '85 from the announcement of William & Mary's 28th president. – Ed.

Good morning and welcome to an important and historic announcement for William & Mary.  In the past 15 minutes, you have heard the Wren Bell tolling 28 times to signify a very special moment in the university’s history. No white smoke but nonetheless a great moment for William & Mary.

Last April, President Taylor Reveley announced his intention to retire on June 30th of this year. When he turns out the lights at the Brafferton on June 30th, Taylor will have served for more than 10 years as William & Mary’s President, following 10 years of service as the Dean of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. While there will be many celebratory events for Taylor and Helen in the coming months, I want to recognize and thank both of them for their outstanding service to this great university. Taylor and Helen, please stand and be recognized.  Thank you.

The formal process to select the 28th President commenced last April after Taylor made his announcement. But the informal succession process started much earlier. A little over two years ago I asked the Vice Rector of the Board, Tom Watkins, to begin informally looking at contemporary best search practices for university presidents and speak with other university boards and presidents about their recent search experiences. The objective was simple: We wanted to learn as much as possible before beginning an active search for William & Mary’s 28th President.

With Taylor’s announcement, we formed an incredibly diverse 19-person presidential search committee to represent the William & Mary community. The search committee included faculty, staff, alumni, students and members of the Board of Visitors. I asked Tom Watkins to chair the search committee. I also asked William & Mary’s Chancellor, Bob Gates, to serve as a special advisor to both the search committee and the Board of Visitors. I teased Chancellor Gates that he would be our closer in the search process, like New York Yankees pitching great Mariano Rivera.

The presidential search committee had a difficult mission: to find a leader to whom Taylor Reveley could pass the reins, someone who would respect William & Mary’s 325 years of history and also lead our contemporary excellence.

I asked the presidential search committee to bring to the Board of Visitors no more than three finalists by February 15th. I also charged the search committee to consider the widest and most diverse pool of candidates and to actively listen to the William & Mary community. 

Over the following months, the search committee did just that, scheduling more than 150 listening sessions on campus and across the country and hearing from nearly 1,600 members of the William & Mary community. Our search consultant told us that it was the most outreach they had ever seen a university do for a presidential search.

We also received hundreds of comments through email and the presidential search website. In addition, we launched a social media campaign to make sure students had opportunities to participate. A video with the Griffin as an applicant was particularly fun. But behind the fun was a serious effort to keep the community involved over time.

The search committee took the feedback we received very seriously as we initially worked to develop our leadership profile for the position and then later develop and build our candidate pool.

We had roughly 300 nominations for the president’s position, which led to a diverse pool of approximately 100 candidates from all areas of academia and business.

We then narrowed the number of candidates to a diverse pool of 12 very strong semifinalists and ultimately three outstanding finalists who were referred to the full Board of Visitors for final interviews and consideration.

I want to thank Tom Watkins and the members of the search committee for their outstanding work. Please join me in thanking them. I also want to recognize and thank Cheryl Corvello, who staffed the search committee, for her outstanding work. Please join me in thanking Cheryl. Finally, I want to recognize and thank the Board’s Secretary, Michael Fox, for all of his outstanding work in supporting the search committee and the Board of Visitors throughout this process. Please join me in thanking Michael. 

Today, I am very excited to announce that the Board of Visitors voted unanimously to ask Dr. Katherine Rowe to become the 28th President of William & Mary. More important than the Board’s unanimous vote is the Board’s enthusiastic support for Katherine.

So out of all of those nominations and candidates, how did the Board of Visitors come to unanimously select Dr. Rowe?

The search committee and the Board of Visitors saw in Katherine Rowe throughout the search process a visionary leader deeply rooted in the liberal arts and, very importantly, their critical intersections with technology and research.

Katherine is passionate about the value and relevance of the liberal arts. It is at the root of her scholarship and at the heart of every school she has attended or at which she has worked. Here, the liberal arts have been called “the beating heart” of William & Mary. A liberal arts education is not ancillary. Instead, Katherine will tell you that it is precisely what students will need to navigate the future. She believes very strongly that the liberal arts are what will give our students an edge as critical thinkers in a multi-disciplinary, data-informed, and rapidly changing economy and world.

The multi-disciplinary, data-informed world is one in which Katherine is very comfortable. She is constantly scanning the horizon to find new ways to innovate the liberal arts, is a nationally recognized leader in digital innovation and a pioneer in finding new ways to use technology to teach more effectively. Katherine is also deeply interested in design thinking, entrepreneurship and the digital humanities. As co-founder and CEO of Luminary Digital Media, she has reimagined the classics with interactive reading apps that enhance student engagement and understanding of Shakespearean texts.

Katherine’s deep understanding of pedagogy, the critical value of the liberal arts and the digital horizon made her a rare combination. Like William & Mary, Katherine values the aggregate of human learning and is also always looking toward an exciting future.

Katherine is also a stellar leader. As provost and dean of the faculty at Smith College, the college enjoyed a period of tremendous forward momentum during her tenure. Katherine led Smith to undertake a deep investigation of its curriculum and, while respecting its own beating heart, adopted one of the first Statistical and Data Science majors in the country, which proved immensely popular with students.

Katherine also rightly believes that diversity accelerates innovation. She gets it that diverse environments are strong and dynamic places to learn and work, and that the best and highest performing teams are the most diverse teams. Katherine has a long track record of promoting diversity and inclusion for under-represented students, staff and faculty. As provost at Smith, she greatly increased faculty diversity. Katherine also served as interim vice president for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, which is just one of the many leadership roles she has held over the years, though it is one of which she is particularly proud.

As a professor, administrator and provost, Katherine is an engaged communicator who listens deeply and excels at connecting with students, colleagues, and alumni. We could see this from the first time we met her. Katherine impressed everyone who interacted with her throughout the process – the search committee, the Board of Visitors, President Reveley, Chancellor Gates and others – as someone who is authentic, genuine and really engaging. 

We also believe she shares the values at William & Mary that we hold most dear: a strong commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and research; multi- and inter-disciplinary learning; educating and developing strong citizen leaders; good stewardship and humble servant leadership.

Katherine also loves sports and has been a competitive athlete throughout her life. She remarked throughout the search process how sports – varsity, club and intramurals – are an important part of the university. Katherine also observed how well William & Mary does with its varsity sports in producing outstanding scholar-athletes who compete and win on the field of competition and in the classroom. On a personal level, Katherine is well known as a player and now championship coach of United States Ultimate Frisbee. Ultimate is a self-refereed team sport governed by the “Spirit of the Game:” the joy of play and a mutual respect for fellow players. This is how Katherine leads.

Katherine is also someone who really appreciates and respects William & Mary’s history and traditions. At the same time, she also understands why change, transformation and vision for the future are essential to the university’s continued excellence.

When we started the presidential search process, Chancellor Gates remarked that William & Mary’s deep history and importance to our nation demand that the university be a leader in the national discussion about higher education, the preparation of our future workforce and the importance of developing outstanding citizen leaders. With Katherine Rowe as our President, I am confident we have found a leader who will help us achieve this shared vision of historical pre-eminence and contemporary excellence.

On the wall in the boardroom for the Board of Visitors is a single plaque. The inscription is from two former Board of Visitors members to the then incoming Rector of the College, Anne Dobie Peebles. The inscription states simply: “Take care of our College.” President Reveley, you have done this magnificently. Katherine, we believe you are absolutely the right person in the university’s history to not only “Take care of our College,” but also lead us to even greater excellence. 

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Dr. Katherine Rowe as the next President of The College of William & Mary. Katherine is joined today by her husband, Bruce, her two children, her parents and other family members and friends.