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Taylor Reveley's Move-In Day Remarks

  • Taylor Reveley
    Taylor Reveley  The president of the College of William and Mary welcomes new students to campus in William & Mary Hall on move-in day.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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The following are William & Mary President Taylor Reveley's prepared remarks for 2009's Opening Session at William & Mary Hall for new students and parents. - Ed.

Well everyone, we've survived "move in" day so far.  The weather gods have cooperated - no rain, gentle breeze, and the sun behind the clouds for much of the morning.  It was still pretty equatorial, as is customary in Williamsburg in late August.  But now we are ensconced in this spacious cool spot.  This is good.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see you here.  This year the College topped 12,100 undergraduate applications for the first time in its history.  After I had so many conversations last spring with the fathers, mothers, senators, congressmen, teachers, principals, and well placed friends of those applicants who were not admitted to William & Mary, it's a real relief to see that we actually did let someone in.  

Let me offer warm congratulations on your admission to one of the most accomplished and carefully selected student bodies in America.  Needless to say, you and your classmates come with sterling academic credentials and compelling backgrounds. You come from across the Commonwealth, the nation, and the globe, adding rich luster to our already talented and diverse community.  We are honored you have chosen William & Mary from among all the other places you might have gone.

Let's watch a short video together.  It was crafted by a recent graduate of the College.

There you have it - straight from the experts.  William & Mary is an extraordinary place.

I'm happy to join onstage three other people who will say a few words this afternoon.  Our Student Speaker, Abigail Covington, recently returned from a summer of comedy, working with Chicago's famed Second City comedy troupe.

Also on our stage is our vice president for student affairs, Ginger Ambler.  Her knowledge of William & Mary is vast, and her love for its students is powerful.  She will be your great friend and ally here.

And we are honored and grateful to have the mayor of Williamsburg, Jeanne Zeidler, with us.  Williamsburg is an old, beautiful, and inspiring place.  You saw on your way into town banners bearing greetings from the city.  Mayor Zeidler is here to welcome you in person.  Williamsburg is a lot more vibrant when the students are here.  That's been true since 1693.

Yes, the College of William & Mary does trace its origins all the way back to 1693. The 21st century is the fifth century in which the College has lived - it made a cameo appearance in the late 17th century, was in full cry throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and, now is  beginning its romp through the 21st century.  This century, your century, will be the best yet for William & Mary, in my judgment.

No other college or university in America has a history to rival William & Mary's.  The story of this school is the story of our country - beginning nearly 100 years before its founding and continuing until right this oment when we welcome you, our newest students.  It is not for nothing that William & Mary calls itself the alma mater of the nation.  Our alumni were crucially involved in founding both the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States of American.  Four U.S. presidents have been closely tied to William & Mary - Washington, Jefferson, Monroe and Tyler.  Today, one of our alums, Bob Gates, is the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and another, Christie Romer, chairs the country's Council of Economic Advisers.  Another alum, Mike Tomlin, is the youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl, which he did earlier this year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I could go on and on but you see the picture.

Over the centuries, William & Mary has been caught in the path of two wars, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and it has suffered the ravages of fire and the scourge of economic loss, but the College has risen from each bout of adversity stronger than ever.  William & Mary is like that mythical bird, the phoenix.  You simply can't keep a phoenix down.

This is not an occasion for a more extensive history lesson.  But I do encourage you to cultivate an interest in your college's marvelous past.  Read something of William & Mary's history because - from this moment forward - it is your college, your university - and not just for a few years on campus but for a lifetime.  William & Mary is yours for the rest of your lives.

Explore the campus with its vast profusion of brick walkways, its lush boxwood and trees, its shaded doorways, its great natural beauty.  Walk the halls of the ancient Wren Building, feel its worn wooden planks creak beneath your feet, sit for a moment and muse in the timeless quiet of its chapel.  Do this often.  Make the Wren your own.  And if you have a touch of romance in your soul, during one of those moments you will begin to feel - if not see - the restless presence of persons who for more than 300 years have walked where you have walked - and who made not only a great college but a great nation.

But always remember this:  William & Mary's most precious inheritance is not the physical beauty of our campus or the smell of history in the air, but a legacy of values.  Among the most important of those values is the trust and honor that characterize our relations with one another.  And among these crucial values is the ideal of service - and of leadership - the firm expectation that every member of this community, by joining with us as you have, also commits for a lifetime to share something of  herself or himself with others.

Those of us at William & Mary are stewards of a great inheritance.  The privilege of membership in this community - conferred upon you because of your exceptional talent - carries with it the responsibility to devote part of that talent to seeking the larger good.

The academic work at William & Mary is rigorous thanks to our uncommonly able faculty, who are deeply committed to their work as teachers and scholars.  I expect that we will challenge you as you have not been challenged before.  Don't fear the challenge - embrace it.  Allow yourself to grow intellectually, test your ideas critically.  Care about the life of the mind, develop an intellect that will be a match for the rigors of competition in the 21st century where you will live the rest of your lives.

I feel a special kinship with your parents.   My wife Helen and I have seen our four children off to college.  Three have graduated and the fourth is about to begin her sophomore year.   Helen and I know how hard it is say good bye the first time and walk back to the car leaving your child all alone to fend for herself or himself in a new place facing all sorts of new challenges.  But, in all likelihood, you'll miss your child more than he or she will miss you.   I realize this may be somewhat cold comfort.

Parents, let me assure you, you have chosen wisely in sending your sons and daughters to William & Mary.  They will be well looked after here, supported as necessary, but also given the room to explore and thrive, to learn not just about chemical formulas or the origins of western thought, but also about themselves, who they are, who they want to be, how they want to make a difference for the better in the world.

Now, new members of the William & Mary family, take a moment and look around at your soon-to-be-friends, some of whom will become your friends for life.  Who knows, there may even be a future spouse sitting nearby.  

Something I will occasionally ask you to do while on campus is cheer for William & Mary and for your class.  Now I realize that not all of you are in the Class of 2013, but let's use 2013 as the cheer anyway.  This works by "call and response."  I'll call and then we'll all respond together.   Let's first cheer for the College, William & Mary - men, you will handle "William" and women you will take care of "Mary," each shouted three times.  Then I will propose a cheer for the class - to which you will all shout "13" three times.

Now let's hear from our student speaker Abagail Covington, then Vice President Ambler, and finally Mayor Zeidler.  And in conclusion, our magnificent choir will lead us in the Alma Mater.