Connecting larger entities with one another through personal relationships has served Jim Golden well throughout his career.
He used those skills to connect William & Mary to the larger community as a university employee and for the last four years since retiring has advised President Taylor Reveley on matters affecting both town and gown.
In recognition of Golden’s efforts, the university will honor him with the 2018 Prentis Award. The award is presented annually to people in the Williamsburg community for their strong civic involvement and support of the university. Golden will receive the award at a May 15 ceremony in the Wren Building.
“When you combine piercing intelligence with powerful organizational skills, the capacity to complete tasks quickly and splendidly and a wonderful bedside manner, and then you mix in military training and experience, a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard, years of teaching and leading at West Point and a stint in the corporate world, all before joining us at William & Mary 20 years ago, you get Jim Golden,” Reveley said.“The General has been an invaluable force for progress on campus and in the community. The range of his activities has been simply extraordinary. He is a cherished colleague and friend to so many of us. By any measure, Jim is a very worthy recipient of the Prentis Award.”
In addition to his service to W&M, Golden has deep ties to the Williamsburg community. He is currently the chair of the board of the Williamsburg Health Foundation, immediate past chair of the board of Williamsburg Landing, past chair of the Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance and a member of the local Towne Bank board, the Williamsburg-James City County Schools superintendent’s business & community advisory committee and the Troops to Teachers Virginia Center advisory committee.
The West Point graduate earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard, taught at West Point and served as an advisor for several U.S. government agencies before retiring as a brigadier general after 31 years in the Army. He worked in private business as a senior executive in the strategy department of Tenneco, Inc., for three years before coming to W&M in 1999 to lead economic development efforts, going on to serve as vice president for strategic initiatives from 2008 to 2014.
In each role he has looked for partnerships and promoted innovation. His strategy was to find out what people are interested in and then how to connect them so they might work together.
“Jim Golden is extraordinary,” said W&M Provost Michael R. Halleran. “I know of no one who combines as effectively his high-level strategic thinking, attention to detail, instinct for partnerships and commitment to the common good. We — William & Mary and the wider Williamsburg community — have been blessed to have him in our midst.”
Each connection has led to new areas of interest. For example, Golden has become very interested in health while helping the kinesiology department do research into fall risks for the elderly with volunteers from Williamsburg Landing retirement community. His involvement with the Williamsburg Health Foundation took him into the world of health care nonprofits.
“So that’s what I’ve always tried to do — not just maintain what was going on, but see what was possible and try to make connections that would improve things,” Golden said. “But it is interesting that through my whole career I’ve always been in a position of linking things. Even in the Army, being at West Point you’re linked to what’s going on at Department of the Army, what’s happening in the field, what’s happening in other government agencies. I’ve always looked for connections.”
Golden’s work at William & Mary spanned many areas, including strategic planning, business innovation and communications, efforts to develop and buy property around campus and collaborations to help build the local economy, to forge research partnerships, to create links to the local military and defense establishments including the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and to help address veterans’ issues.
He played a leading role in a number of critical projects, including the implementation of a new annual strategic planning process, the reorganization of campus communications, the establishment of a technology transfer office and the Technology and Business Center, the creation of the VIMS-Industry Partnership Committee, coordination of the joint venture that led to the New Town development, the purchase of the former Williamsburg Sentara Hospital site that now contains the School of Education and the creation of the William & Mary Real Estate Foundation.
In addition to spending the last four years as a volunteer senior counselor to the president, Golden works with several university committees, boards and projects.
Currently, Golden serves on the W&M Military and Veterans’ Affairs Working Group. He has been compiling all of the university’s military connections and trying to increase awareness of all that is being done. He serves on the steering committee for ongoing business innovation efforts.
Golden clearly delights in his role with Reveley, whom he described as being of the same “vintage” of college class — 1965 at West Point and Princeton, respectively. Golden meets with Reveley monthly to discuss any topics either of them might have in mind, helps him with projects and frequently exchanges emails with him on various topics.
“He and I really have a close connection,” Golden said. “He’s always very, very supportive — very gracious. So it’s been a great partnership.”
A spin around Golden’s office looking at framed photos gives lots of clues to the story of the man who chose them.
They include a dramatic spoof of a movie poster made in honor of his 2014 retirement, a photo of him as a young West Point cadet meeting President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a photo of military adviser Golden in a small group meeting with President Gerald R. Ford in the Oval Office and finally two more photos of Eisenhower — this time in Colonial Williamsburg, pictured with Winston Churchill in both.
Personally, Golden has always been very involved with sports and family. And he’s not the only Golden at W&M. His daughter, Heather, currently serves as associate vice president for university marketing and advancement communications and chief of staff in university advancement. Golden and his wife Elaine have three children and nine grandchildren, all in the greater Williamsburg-Richmond area, and spend lots of time vacationing and watching grandkids play sports.
Golden himself was a starting varsity soccer midfielder at West Point, which went to the NCAA tournament final four each of his last two years there. Walking became his main activity as he settled into the working world, strolling Duke of Gloucester St. each day at lunchtime as a transition between mornings spent responding to other people’s needs and afternoons of bigger picture work.
Golden enjoys reading and writing, and is the author of nine books on economics and strategy. He said walking three to four miles a day and maintaining a limited schedule of work duties has made his latest role at W&M enjoyable.
“Retirement is just a terrible word,” Golden said, laughing. “In the military sense it means you’re withdrawing, which is hardly the case.”