William & Mary President Taylor Reveley minced few words as he spoke to alumni attending 2009 homecoming festivities about the College’s critical need for their financial support. Reveley explained the magnitude of recent cuts in state funding and the implications for the future.
“A generation ago, the taxpayers of Virginia provided 43 percent of our operating budget here,” Reveley said during a conversation and question-and-answer session with alumni in the Sadler Center’s Tidewater Room. “This year the taxpayers will pay about 13.7 percent of our operating budget.
While cuts were necessitated by “the Great Recession,” Reveley suggested that long after Virginia comes out of the current financial crisis, the state government’s ability to adequately support universities such as William & Mary will lag as higher education takes a back seat to other needs such as transportation.
“In the final analysis,” Reveley explained, “raising more money will hinge on building lifetime ties to alumni and explaining in ways that people hear and understand that we have become a privately-supported university and not a publicly-supported university—explaining that in ways that people understand.”
Reveley’s remarks concerning funding challenges faced by the university were in obvious contrast to the pleasure he took in commenting on the success of William & Mary’s four “P’s,” or W&M’s “people, plant, programs and planning.” The event with alumni was part of a series of symposiums during Homecoming weekend. Reveley’s remarks drew on his recent State of the University message.
Concerning the College’s “people,” Reveley characterized William & Mary’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends as people who historically have combined great ability, great ambition and a powerful work ethic to forge substantive change.
“That is still true at William & Mary,” he said, “true to an extraordinary degree.”
Within the last 10 years, the university has “renovated” or “built from scratch” 1.5 million square feet of space, Reveley noted during his comments concerning the physical “plant.” He referenced the two integrated science buildings, ISC I and ISC 2, that have come online recently, and he encouraged members of the audience to drive over to the business school’s new Miller Hall, which opened in August.
“Don’t just drive by. Park. Get out. Walk around in it,” he said. “It is marvelous.”
Although there remain pressing needs, including new facilities to house the arts at the College, Reveley expressed optimism that the campus was being prepared physically “for primetime in the 21st century.”
“The teaching is powerful, the learning is powerful here,” Reveley said as he commented upon the university’s “program” of instruction. “It’s going on in class, it’s going on outside class, it’s afoot on the campus and in the community and abroad.” The president emphasized that research taking place at the College was significant and a key strength, along with the College’s long standing commitment to excellence in teaching. Students at William & Mary are presented with “opportunities to learn and to grow and to contribute ” that equal those offered anywhere, he said.
Reveley also emphasized the College’s year-old strategic planning process and underscored the long-term stakes involved. In a time of enormous competition, particularly in higher education, members of the William & Mary community need to have a clear understanding of what is crucial, what must be preserved at all costs, what can change and needs to change, Reveley said.
“If we don’t really know where we’re trying to go and how we propose to get there, we’re not going to fare very well,” he said. Reveley called the planning process inclusive and “crucially important to our capacity to put our scarce resources where they’ll do the most good and make the most difference in pushing William & Mary forward.”