Hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and partners braved the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole to gather in the new building and celebrate its seven-year, collaborative journey to completion.
“It would be hard to find another building on campus or elsewhere that so powerfully demonstrates the integral connections across the three prongs of our mission: teaching, research and service,” said Dean Virginia McLaughlin. “With all of our academic programs, research centers and outreach projects now under one roof, we will see it all in action and witness the synergies on a daily basis.”
President Taylor Reveley greeted the standing-room-only crowd at the start of the event, noting that the School of Education “does move mountains.”
“It teaches innumerable students. It does cutting-edge research and scholarship. It lands major grants, and it nurtures K12 education throughout the Commonwealth. And for decades, the education school has moved mountains while working in bits of space scattered here and there, sometimes in mere closets and hallways,” he said.
Despite the challenge of working in small spaces, the school managed to succeed in seeking out “the seeds of triumph in every adversity,” said Reveley.
“At long last, you have come to rest in a home of your very own, one that belongs to you and no one else and one that is commensurate at long, long last with your excellence,” he said.
Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson brought greetings from Governor Bob McDonnell and his administration.
“The governor’s real clear that he wants to make sure that education remains a mainstay for the Commonwealth, not only for the social and intellectual aspects, but also for jobs and economic development and this school will play a strong role in that because we’re not only serving students here and in the K12 sector and universities, but we are doing so worldwide,” he said.
Robinson, who told William & Mary administrators to consider him a friend, noted that this was the first school of education dedication he had ever attended, “and I can think of no better place to be,” he said.
“Whenever you can open up a brand new building for a school of education and one of this splendor that will support the academic institution, the research, the professors, that’s a great thing,” he said.
Robinson joked about endeavoring to help cut the school’s ribbon – which was more than a foot wide – with a pair of small scissors.
“But as educators, we’ve often done the impossible with very little,” he said.
McLaughin, who has seen the building project through from beginning to end, said that when she was writing remarks for the event, she found it difficult at first to find a unifying theme to tie together all the things she wanted to say.
“Finally, it occurred to me, this building itself is the unifying theme,” she said. “Our journey to this place is simply an amazing story of people, ideas and resources coming together to achieve a vision far beyond what anyone could have imagined in 2003. In its origins, its construction and its use, the School of Education has built a facility for leadership in every sense of the word. Our particular aptitude for leadership, taken shape over the past 50 years, and the building we’ve designed to facilitate our work, are both all about connections and collaborations.”
The School of Education dean recalled when the site of the school – formerly Sentara Williamsburg Community Hospital -- became available. Although a hospital and a school of education do not appear to have much in common, McLaughlin sees a connection between the location’s past and its present and future.
“Life changing events happened here when this was the community hospital, and life changing events will continue to happen here in the School of Education as new careers are born through our preparation programs, relationships are healed through family counseling and futures are nourished through adult literacy. This place will remain a hub of service for the community as well as the profession,” she said.
McLaughlin thanked numerous individuals and organizations who helped make the new School of Education a reality. She noted that the building was constructed over seven years that saw three College presidents, three governors and four general assembly budget allocations.
“We are forever grateful for your support and pledge to make you proud of your investment in us,” said McLaughin.
Just as the building received support from a diverse group of individuals and organizations, the new facility will also serve a diverse population, including 100 undergraduate, 500 master’s and 120 doctoral students, numerous educators throughout the state and world, and hundreds of people in the local community.
“At any given time, we’re likely to see babies in arms arriving with families heading to the New Horizons family counseling center, children from 4 to 16 years old participating in the Saturday or summer enrichment programs, undergraduate students of traditional college age, master and doctoral students from 21 to whatever, adults being tutored or serving as volunteers at Literacy for Life, and retired citizens taking classes here through the Christopher Wren Association,” said McLaughlin.
“What a wonderful mix of people all united around their commitment to learning. This is the work of a great school of education. This is how we excel as William & Mary’s School of Education. And looking ahead, this building signifies a whole new era for the School of Education and indeed for the profession itself.”
Following McLaughin’s remarks, Reveley, Robinson and several others joined the dean at the front of the room to cut the gold ribbon on the building, officially ushering in that new era.