Note: Interim President Taylor Reveley will conduct similar forums with staff (March 19, 2 p.m.) and faculty (March 19, 4 p.m.) at the University Center (Tidewater A). Recently he conducted a teleconference with alumni in order to respond to their concerns.—Ed.
W. Taylor Reveley III, the College of William and Mary's recently named interim president, shared his ideas for moving the College forward and also gave students a glimpse into his personal side (his rarely used first name is Walter) during a campus forum Feb. 27.
Reveley also got a surprise visit from Sam Sadler, the College's vice president for student affairs, who has been on leave since late January recovering from surgery. Sadler, who is retiring in June, said he wanted to come to the student forum to share with students his support for Reveley. The College's new interim president has served the past 10 years as dean of the William and Mary Law School.
"If you've watched what happened at the law school, you'd understand why Taylor Reveley is a good person for this interim president job," Sadler said at the beginning of the program in the Commonwealth Auditorium at the University Center. "This is a man who gets things done. I feel very confident that we're in good hands."
During the hour-long event, Reveley answered questions from students about how he plans to unite the College community following the Feb. 12 resignation of Gene R. Nichol; spoke about his hobbies and family life – including a "white fluffy dog" that will soon be exploring the Williamsburg campus; and offered his thoughts on the need for the College to find the public and private funding necessary to advance critical areas such as academic excellence, civic engagement and diversity. Reveley will hold similar forums with staff and faculty following Spring Break.
Reveley told the crowd that his top priorities were to help the school get through the academic year and to help the campus to heal.
"Crucial to William and Mary and really any successful institution are the really powerful bonds of affection and trust, and those bonds of affection and trust within the William and Mary family have taken a real hit in the last couple of weeks," he said. "It's crucially important that we rebuild them. It's going to take a little while, but I am spending a lot of time meeting with various groups all over the university, listening, learning, really trying to get on with rebuilding those ties."
Reveley said he hopes to help the College find "a couple of ways that we can make some quick, really impressive progress in the next few months." He said that that progress would help to show "that William and Mary continues to be William and Mary and is powerfully moving forward."
When asked about how he would reunite the campus community, Reveley said that he would make it clear that the values that Nichol stood for – including diversity, the Gateway Program, internationalization, and civic engagement -- "remain crucial values to William and Mary." It is important, Reveley said, to secure the funding necessary to build on these important initiatives
"And again, not just rhetorical support, but actual implementing steps taken to put flesh on their bones," he said. "Once it becomes clear that we remain committed to those values and are actually doing something about them, that will help a good bit."
Reveley emphasized the importance of fundraising in his role, but assured students that raising money was not the only thing that mattered to be a successful president.
"No president worth warm spit is just a fundraiser. Let's be really clear about that. You've got to be a lot more than just a fundraiser," he said. "But this university desperately needs funds, and if you don't have funds, you are limited in what you can do."
He added that an effective president "has also got to be interested in every other aspect of the school's life, starting with the caliber of the education that is being provided."
Reveley said he is seeking to reestablish bonds with alienated alumni, and he thinks that the bonds between the Board of Visitors and students, faculty and staff need to be rebuilt as well if the College is to move forward. He said last Friday's sessions between the Board of Visitors and staff, faculty and students were very helpful to enable the campus to begin healing.
"I'm pretty confident that before long there will be a restoration of confidence and a real hope for the future and this school will pretty quickly be back to where it was," he said.
Reveley also got a strong endorsement from several law students, who reassured undergraduates that Reveley would prove to be an effective and inspiring leader. Charles Crimmins, a first-year law student, said that Reveley made him proud to tell people he went to William and Mary's law school.
"I guarantee that you guys will feel the same way," Crimmins told the crowd.
Added third-year law student David Bules, "You are getting the single greatest leader I have ever worked with. … I've never worked with somebody who has the ability to lead and bring people together and put people in a positive direction quite like (President) Reveley can."
Though many of the students' questions focused on Reveley's vision for the College and other campus issues, some inquiries fell on the lighter side as students tried to get to know the interim president a little better. Students asked whether he planned on helping out with freshman move-in day, whether he'd be at sporting events and what his hobbies were.
Reveley, who playfully referred to himself as the "IP" (pronounced "ipp"), said that he's been meeting with students and encouraged the students in attendance to go to lunch with him. He's doubled the number of president-student lunches scheduled this semester.
"I look forward to seeing more of you often," he said.
Reveley also introduced his wife, Helen, and his oldest son, Taylor, who were in audience. He emphasized the importance of his family and told the crowd that his wife and four children are one of his main interests. He added a cat and a "small and fluffy" dog that might be seen around the President's House after they move in.
Reveley said he enjoys reading, tennis and going to the movies, saying that "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine" were some of his recent favorites.
Reveley also revealed that his first name is Walter and went through a "Wally" stage in College. He joked with students that he was used to his last name being pronounced in a variety of ways and would answer to anything close to it.
"I think I graduated from kindergarten as Beverly Taylor," he joked.
As the session neared its end, Reveley told students that as the College moved forward, their voices were vitally important to how the College would be perceived in the world.
"The truth of the matter is that messages of this sort coming from students will be the most credible and powerful," he said.
Reveley said that the College had been caught up in a national cultural war over the past 18 months.
"We need to get out of it and get back to the really marvelous aspects of this place," he said. "And it will happen."