Sen. Jim Webb to Speak at Charter Day Ceremony

  • Sen. Jim WebbThe senior senator from Virginia will speak at the College's Charter Day ceremony on Feb. 7. Webb will also receive an honorary degree at the event.

    Courtesy photo

    Sen. Jim Webb
  • Glenn LowryThe founding director of William and Mary's Muscarelle Museum of Art and current director of the Museum of Modern Art will receive the honorary degree of doctor of arts at the Charter Day ceremony.

    Courtesy photo

    Glenn Lowry
  • John Hope FranklinThe distinguished scholar of African-American history and James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University will receive the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters in absentia.

    Photo courtesy of Duke Photography

    John Hope Franklin

U.S. Senator (D-Va.) Jim Webb, who championed the creation of a GI Bill for post-9/11 service members, will serve as the keynote speaker at the College of William and Mary's annual Charter Day ceremony on Feb. 7, 2009. Webb will receive the honorary degree of doctor of public service at the ceremony.

Glenn Lowry, founding director of William & Mary's Muscarelle Museum of Art and current director of the Museum of Modern Art, and John Hope Franklin, author and James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, will also receive honorary degrees at the Charter Day ceremony. Lowry will receive the doctor of arts, and Franklin-who, at age 93, no longer travels-will receive the doctor of humane letters in absentia. The event, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, marks the 316th anniversary of the awarding of the Royal Charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England establishing the College.

"Sen. Jim Webb has dedicated his life to public service. We are delighted to have him as our Charter Day speaker and to be able to award him an honorary degree," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "Few new members of the United States Senate have been as effective during their first two years in office as Senator Webb. We are also delighted to recognize Drs. Lowry and Franklin's enormous contributions to American knowledge, life, and culture."

Webb, who recently assumed the role of senior senator from Virginia, started his career of public service after graduating from the Naval Academy in 1968 and receiving a commission in the Marine Corps. Graduating first in his class at the Marine Corps Officers' Basic School in Quantico, Va., Webb served with the Fifth Marine Regiment in Vietnam. For his work as a rifle platoon and company commander in the An Hoa Basin, he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts. He went on to serve as a platoon commander and instructor of tactics and weapons at Marine Corps Officer Candidates School and then as a member of the Secretary of the Navy's immediate staff before finally leaving the service in 1972.

Webb received his law degree in 1975 from Georgetown University Law Center. From 1977 to 1981, he served in the U.S. Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. In 1982, he led the fight for including an African American soldier in the memorial statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and he wrote the inscription at the base of the flag pole. In 1984, he was appointed the inaugural Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and, in 1987, he became the first Naval Academy graduate to serve in the military and then become Secretary of the Navy.

In addition to his public service career, Webb has long been a professional writer. He has authored nine books, worked as a screenwriter and producer in Hollywood and taught literature at the Naval Academy as their first visiting writer. Additionally, he has travelled extensively as a journalist and earned an Emmy Award for his PBS coverage of the U.S. Marines in Beirut. In 2004, he embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan as a journalist.

In 2006, Webb was elected to the U.S. Senate and officially took office in January 2007. During his time in office, Webb has introduced and supported a new GI Bill for post-9/11 service members, established an oversight commission to prevent wasteful and fraudulent spending in wartime contracting and has remained committed to developing a national energy strategy, according to his Web site. He serves on the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Armed Services, and Veterans' Affairs and on the Joint Economic Committee.

Webb has been honored by numerous veterans and news organizations for his work. He was awarded the Gold Medal and Citation of Merit by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Award of Merit from the Military Coalition, a consortium of 35 military and veterans organizations. Washingtonian Magazine named Webb as a "Rising Star," and the Politico newspaper named him as "Rookie of the Year" in Congress. In 2008, he was recognized as one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire Magazine.

In 2009, Webb became the senior senator from Virginia when long-time U.S. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) retired. Webb lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Hong Le Webb. He has five children and a step-daughter.

Years before guiding the construction of the Museum of Modern Art's new building, Glenn Lowry oversaw the construction of William and Mary's very own Muscarelle Museum, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Lowry, who worked for the Muscarelle from 1982 to 1984, served as its first director when it opened in 1983. He came to William and Mary thanks to his connection to Thomas Graves, who served as the College's president from 1971 to 1985. Graves spearheaded the effort to build a museum at the College.

Raised in Massachusetts, Lowry earned his undergraduate degree from Williams College and his master's and doctorate degrees in history of art from Harvard University. From 1981 to 1982, he served as the curator of Oriental art at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design. After his time at the Muscarelle Museum, he went on to serve as the curator of Near Eastern art at The Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. In 1990, he became the director of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In 1995, Lowry became the sixth director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In that position, he leads a staff of more than 650 and directs an active program of exhibitions, acquisitions and publications, according to the museum's Web site. A strong advocate for contemporary art, he serves on several boards and councils and has lectured and written extensively in support of contemporary art and artists.

A distinguished scholar of African-American history, John Hope Franklin received his undergraduate degree from Fisk University and his master's and doctorate degrees in history from Harvard University. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, including North Carolina Central University, Howard University and the University of Chicago. He has held many foreign teaching assignments, including positions as the Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University, Consultant on American Education in the Soviet Union and Fulbright Professor in Australia. Franklin has been the James B. Duke Professor of History since 1983, taking emeritus status in 1985. He also served as professor of legal history in the Law School at Duke University for seven years. 

Franklin is the author of dozens of landmark books and essays, including "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans," now in its seventh edition. His Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities was published in 1985, earning him the Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize. In 1990, he published a collection of essays covering his writing and teaching career, and, in 1997, he published an autobiography about his father that he edited with his son.

Franklin served as president of the American Studies Association, the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the Southern Historical Association, and the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. He was for many years on the editorial board of the Journal of Negro History, and has served on several national committees and delegations, including the National Council on the Humanities and the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. He also served on the President's Advisory Commission on Ambassadorial Appointments and was a United States delegate to the 21st General Conference of UNESCO. President Bill Clinton appointed him chairman of the advisory board for OneAmerica: The President's Initiative on Race. Franklin has received numerous honors for his work, including the NAACP's Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has been elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and in 1997 he received the Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. More than one hundred colleges and universities have awarded him honorary degrees.

Though he will be unable to attend Charter Day exercises, Franklin's career and achievements will be recognized at the Feb. 7 event. The College will present him with his honorary degree at a later date.

Tickets are required for the Charter Day ceremony. After tickets have been distributed to faculty, students and staff, a limited number will be available to the general public after Feb. 1. Those seeking tickets should call (877) 296-7787.