On February 20, 2018, William & Mary's Board of Visitors unanimously elected Katherine A. Rowe as the 28th president of the university. Nationally recognized as an innovator in higher education, Rowe champions the liberal arts, entrepreneurship and strengthening education-workforce pathways. She began on July 1, 2018 and was inaugurated on February 8, 2019. On November 19, 2021, the Board unanimously approved an early extension of President Rowe's contract, through June 2028.
Under Rowe's leadership, William & Mary has advanced access and affordability, holding tuition flat for five years, from 2019-2023. Her cross-university initiatives include a central Entrepreneurship Hub, a Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation, W&M's first Sustainability Plan and Climate Action Roadmap, realization of William & Mary's long-planned Memorial to the Enslaved, a Veteran to Executive Transition program, an Institute for Integrative Conservation and a university-wide approach to inclusive excellence. William & Mary successfully closed its For the Bold campaign in June 2020, raising just over $1 billion.
Rowe oversaw the creation of William & Mary's ambitious strategic plan, Vision 2026, via an inclusive, multi-year planning process. During the first phase of planning, the university community came together to craft William & Mary's first-ever statement of shared values. Consistent with the strategic goals outlined in Vision 2026, Rowe announced in 2022 a commitment to cover full tuition and fees for all in-state Pell Grant recipients beginning in fall 2023.
As president, Rowe led William & Mary's effective COVID-19 response, joining forces with the City of Williamsburg and other key local partners. In August of 2020 William & Mary reconvened in-person learning, uninterrupted – flexibly adapting every university practice and system to ensure that students could maintain momentum to their degrees. Key institutional innovations were launched during the pandemic: enhanced career development for students, a unified approach to Communications and Marketing and a whole-university Council for Community Partnerships.
Rowe serves on the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Virginia Business and Higher Education Council Board, RVA757 Connects, the Virginia American Revolution 250 Commission and the GoVA Region 5 Council. Rowe was named to the Virginia Business Virginia 500 Power List in 2020, 2021 and 2022. In 2020, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education named Rowe one of the top 35 women in higher education.
Previously, Rowe served as provost and dean of faculty at Smith College in Massachusetts. Earlier in her career, Rowe co-founded and served as the CEO of Luminary Digital Media, which developed educational apps for Shakespeare’s plays.
Rowe holds a bachelor's degree from Carleton College and a master's and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has completed graduate work in Cinema and Media Studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Her areas of research and scholarship include Shakespeare, Milton, Renaissance drama and media history.
An award-winning teacher, Rowe spent 16 years at Bryn Mawr College as an English professor, department chair and director of the Katharine Hepburn Center for leadership and public engagement. She began her teaching career as an assistant professor of English at Yale. Prior to arriving at William & Mary she held the Sophia Smith chair at Smith College.
Rowe has published three books: New Wave Shakespeare on Screen with Thomas Cartelli (Polity Press, 2007), Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion as co-editor (Penn Press, 2004) and Dead Hands: Fictions of Agency, Renaissance to Modern (Stanford, 2000). She has editing credits in the Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare. With more than 350 scholarly contributors from five continents, this world-standard, multi-volume, reference work was honored in 2016 by the American Association of Publishers with two PROSE awards, considered the most prestigious in the publishing industry.
Dr. Rowe is a past president of the Shakespeare Association of America. She served on Harvard's Board of Overseers' Visiting Committee of the Library and the Executive Committee of the American Council of Learned Societies. She has held various scholarly memberships as well as service positions in the Modern Language Association and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Rowe spent more than a decade coaching Ultimate Frisbee and has led multiple teams to state championships in Pennsylvania. She was a World Ultimate Club Finalist and a Women's Nationals Finalist. She co-founded the nonprofit Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance and the Carleton College women's Ultimate team.
Rowe shares her love of Ultimate with her spouse, Bruce Jacobson, William & Mary's First Gentleman. They have two adult children, Daniel and Beah.