“We must recognize the importance of investing today in educating the leaders of tomorrow,” said McDonnell, who served as the keynote speaker during the College’s annual Charter Day ceremony. The event celebrates William & Mary’s “birthday” and marks the 317th anniversary of the awarding of the Royal Charter from King William III and Queen Mary II of England establishing the College.
Despite a fast-approaching snow storm, hundreds of William & Mary students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members attended Saturday’s formal ceremony.
Calling William & Mary “the alma mater of the nation,” McDonnell said that the relationship between William & Mary and the state was still vital.
“The partnerships between the state and the universities are critical to create a world-class educational system that our young people of Virginia deserve and demand,” said McDonnell, who received an honorary degree of doctor of laws at the ceremony.
McDonnell, who was inaugurated on Jan. 16 as Virginia’s 71st governor, acknowledged the College’s long history as the nation’s second oldest College. This history, he said, includes a period during the Civil War when William & Mary closed and the moment in the early 20th century when the College became a public institution.
The new Virginia governor said that students must be prepared to compete in a global economy. The governor called William & Mary’s students “future leaders of this great land” and challenged them to use what they had been given at the College. McDonnell also encouraged the faculty to continue teaching and inspiring their students, and he asked alumni to continue loving and supporting their alma mater.
“It is hard to imagine what could have happened several times in this College’s history, and that is a nation and state without William & Mary,” said McDonnell, who promised to maintain the Commonwealth’s relationship with the College.
“I pledge to, during my brief four-year time that I am able serve as the 71st governor of Virginia, to keep alive its 104-year outstanding partnership between William & Mary and the Commonwealth and to continue to find ways to leave this state and this nation in a better place than we found it,” he said.
McDonnell was one of three people who received honorary degrees during the ceremony. Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School, and R. Wayne Kernodle, emeritus professor of sociology at William & Mary, also received honorary degrees, which were presented by William & Mary President Taylor Reveley and Rector Henry Wolf.
Earlier in the ceremony, Provost Michael Halleran read from the College’s royal charter, and Faculty Assembly President Eugene Tracy read from the royal proclamation.
Several awards were also presented to members of the William & Mary community during the event. Economics Professor Bob Archibald received the Thomas Jefferson Award, and Associate Biology Professor Mark Forsyth received the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. Senior biology major Lauren Miller was presented the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, and December 2009 graduate Nik Belanger, a double major in government and French, received the Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership.
This year’s Alumni Medallion recipients were also recognized during the ceremony: W. Samuel Sadler ’64, M.Ed. ’71, Nicholas St. George ’60, J.D. ’65, Earl “Tuggy” Young ’59, and Dr. Waverly Cole ’50. Cole was awarded the Alumni Medallion posthumously.
As the ceremony came to an end, Reveley gave the crowd “a quick riff” on birthdays.
“When we humans are young, our birthdays come around very slowly and once the magic moment finally arrives, it is glorious,” he said. “The wild animal excitement of birthdays subsides as the years accumulate, and the birthdays begin to pile up, rolling in more and more quickly, relentlessly, like the surf rushing to shore. Some birthdays remain special, though – when we get to be 21 – or 300!”
The president went on to quote several popes, Pablo Picaso, Oprah, Henry Ford and Abraham Lincoln before finishing with a line from Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
“There is only one College of William & Mary,” said Reveley. “So we do say to this marvelous university on its 317th birthday, in the words of Dr. Seuss, truly ‘there is no one alive who is Youer than You.’”