Reveley steps up as interim W&M president

As he sat in his office Tuesday at the William and Mary Law School, Taylor Reveley certainly wasn’t expecting a busy day. The law school’s semester was well under way. Reveley’s schedule was light in the morning and he was planning to catch up on work.

Then he got THE CALL. President Gene R. Nichol had resigned. Reveley was now the interim president of the nation’s second oldest college.

“An alumnus of the law school sent me an e-mail, and he didn’t know whether this was a promotion, a civic duty or a sentence,” joked Reveley recently with the Flat Hat student newspaper. “I’m focusing on the civic duty dimension. I’m doing this because I think I can help the university get through a difficult period and do some good.”

He’s certainly hit the ground running. And he’s listening. Reveley’s first few hours and days on the job have included meetings on virtually every corner of campus – and listening to as many people as possible.

Reveley, who has served as dean of the William & Mary Law School since 1998, sent a message to faculty, staff and students Thursday. In his campus message, Reveley noted that it was a difficult time of transition for the campus and it was part of his job to bring the William and Mary family back together.

“Though not a mission I sought, I will serve this marvelous College as best I can,” Reveley wrote in his campus-wide message. “Listening and learning will be crucial for me in the weeks to come. I have begun meeting with our extraordinary faculty and students, deeply committed staff, and stalwart alumni. I look forward to many more conversations in the days and weeks to come.”

Reveley added the College’s priorities remain the same. He wants to build on the progress already made in areas such as diversity on campus, accessibility for students regardless of means, internationalism and the College’s place as one of the country’s leaders in civic engagement.

“These are College values of great importance,” he said. “They are also my values.”

After successfully guiding the nation’s oldest law school for nearly a decade, Reveley comes to the post with a wealth of experience. Prior to coming to William and Mary, Reveley practiced law at Hunton & Williams in Richmond for 28 years and was a managing partner of the nationally recognized firm for nine years. Reveley also served as head of the firm’s energy and telecommunications team.

In addition to his accomplishments in both the law-school community and corporate world, Reveley is very connected to life at a liberal arts college. He literally grew up on a university campus --- first when his father, W. Taylor Reveley II, served as a professor at what is now Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. and then later when his father served as president for 14 years of Hampden-Sydney College.

Reveley previously clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. He is also a trustee emeritus of Princeton University (where he served on the Board for 14 years)  and is a current trustee of both the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Virginia Historical Society.

Reveley, who holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Virginia, was actually a finalist for William and Mary’s president’s position three years ago. However, the College’s interim president is quick to point out that he has does not plan to be a candidate for the permanent position.

“I am interim, acting, temporary,” Reveley said. “And I think that’s important for me to be the most effective in this role. I am here to help the College during this time of transition but I will be happy to return to my job at the nation’s oldest law school.”

Since the news of Nichol’s departure on Feb. 12, many students and faculty have participated in rallies and other activities to honor the former president. Reveley said he understood why people on campus were expressing a range of emotions. Gene Nichol was a popular and charismatic figure on campus. Members of the College community needed an opportunity to express themselves before looking ahead to the future, he said.

“Part of my job is to reach out to as many people as possible. To listen to as many people as possible, and to begin the process of bringing this community back together,” Reveley said. “William and Mary is one of the genuinely great, enduring institutions in American life. It’s a great treasure. I want to help push it forward.”