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‘A great day’: W&M community welcomes 28th president to campus

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    President-elect:  W&M's 28th president, Katherine A. Rowe, is greeted by faculty, staff and students in the Great Hall Tuesday morning.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Board vote:  Members of the W&M Board of Visitors vote on a resolution to name Katherine A. Rowe W&M's 28th president.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
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    Introduction:  Rector Todd Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer '85 introduces Katherine A. Rowe on Tuesday morning.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Welcoming Rowe:  Faculty, staff and students greet the president-elect in the Great Hall.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    With gratitude:  W&M's 27th president, Taylor Reveley, is recognized for his service to the university during Tuesday morning's event.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Introductory remarks:  W&M's 28th president gives introductory remarks from the Great Hall.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Reception:  Katherine A. Rowe poses for a selfie with Warren W. Buck III M.S. '70, Ph.D. '76, D.Sc. '13.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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    Reception:  Katherine A. Rowe poses with students for a photo at Tuesday morning's reception.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Welcome:
    Warm welcome:  W&M's 28th president receives a standing ovation in the Commonwealth Auditorium Tuesday afternoon.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Tribe Pride:
    Tribe Pride:  Katherine A. Rowe poses for a photo with the W&M Griffin.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Hark upon the gale:
    Meet and greet:  The president-elect sings the Alma Mater with members of the W&M Choir.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Meet and greet:
    Selfie:  The president-elect poses with a student for a selfie.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Partnerships will preserve, advance W&M’s mission, president-elect says

With the feel and flair of a pep rally — complete with cheerleaders, the pep band and Griffin — the William & Mary community gathered in the Sadler Center Tuesday afternoon to celebrate and meet the university’s 28th president: Katherine A. Rowe.

“I am so grateful and so happy to be here,” she said to the hundreds of people who filled the Commonwealth Auditorium to capacity. Praising the university and its faculty, staff and students, Rowe said that she would be listening to them with “appreciative curiosity to understand what’s here and then reflect it back and find the points of convergence, the shared interests from which we can go forward.”

{{youtube:medium:center|UlWyAyzBPHE, A video recap of the day's events}}

Earlier today, William & Mary’s Board of Visitors unanimously elected Rowe, currently the provost of Smith College, as the 28th president of the university with a start date of July 1. An email from Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer ’85 made the news known to the entire W&M community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. Another email from Provost Michael R. Halleran invited the campus community to meet Rowe later that afternoon.

“I am delighted to welcome Katherine Rowe as William & Mary’s next president,” Halleran said. “With her impressive range of experience, she has a profound understanding of the power of a liberal arts education in the contemporary world. Katherine has also demonstrated the vision and collaborative instincts that will make her a most effective leader of our distinctive and wonderful university. This is an exciting day for William & Mary — and for me personally.”

During the Sadler Center event, Laini Boyd ’18, president of the Class of 2018 and a member of the presidential search committee, said that it was a relief to finally be able to tell her friends and classmates about the president-elect.

“Dr. Rowe is an exceptional leader in higher education, made for William & Mary,” she said, noting Rowe’s work as a scholar, teacher, innovator, leader and even an Ultimate Frisbee coach.

“Dr. Rowe’s experience as provost and dean of Smith College, leading academic efforts, to advance excellence and inclusion, speaks volumes to the potential she can have as our president,” Boyd said. “But, beyond that, I can say that I feel content graduating and leaving William & Mary knowing that Dr. Rowe will lead the institution. It takes a special person to value the history of William & Mary while being cognizant of the ills of our past and having a vision for the future that promotes academic integrity and community.”

Immediately following this morning’s vote, Rowe was introduced to a small crowd of faculty, staff and students in the Great Hall of the Wren Building. The event was streamed live to the W&M community and beyond on Facebook and YouTube.

{{youtube:medium|J03tEhPGMJ0, Remarks from Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer ’85}}

Stottlemyer made the introduction, saying that the search committee saw in Rowe “a visionary leader deeply rooted in the liberal arts and, very importantly, their critical intersections with technology and research.”

Rowe, who will be the first woman to helm W&M, holds master’s and doctoral degrees in English and American literature from Harvard. Along with her research and scholarly work around Medieval and Renaissance drama and media history, Rowe is an innovator in the digital humanities and an entrepreneur.

“When we started the presidential search process, Chancellor [Robert M.] Gates remarked that William & Mary’s deep history and importance to our nation demand that the university be a leader in the national discussion about higher education, the preparation of our future workforce and the importance of developing outstanding citizen leaders,” said Stottlemyer. “With Katherine Rowe as our president, I am confident we have found a leader who will help us achieve this shared vision of historical pre-eminence and contemporary excellence.”

Stottlemyer also thanked current W&M President Taylor Reveley and his wife, Helen, for their many years of service to the university, referencing an inscription on the boardroom wall from a former Rector that says, “Take care of our College.” Reveley announced last year his plans to retire June 30, 2018. He has been president of the university since 2008. Before that, he served as as dean of W&M Law School for a decade.

“President Reveley, you have done this magnificently,” said Stottlemyer. “Katherine, we believe you are absolutely the right person in the university’s history to not only take care of our College, but also lead us to even greater excellence.”

Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer ’85 and Katherine Rowe walk to the Wren Building Tuesday morning. (Photo by Skip Rowland '83)After receiving a standing ovation, the president-elect made her first remarks at the university, saying that one of the things that drew her to the university is the unique combination of characteristics that make it the quintessential public ivy.

“That so many different qualities, rarely found together, are combined at William & Mary is a particular strength now,” she said. “As we prepare our students to live as citizens and professionals in the 21st century, those lives will require them to be adaptable and resilient to change, to value different modes of being in community and at work.”

Rowe is something of a hybrid herself, she said, adding that she is a scholar, entrepreneur, teacher, techie, athlete, leader and collaborator.

“I recognize in this community the unique strengths that meet in unexpected ways,” she said. “Those meetings, those combinations are going to guarantee our success together in the decades to come.”

As W&M celebrates two significant anniversaries in 2018 — the 50th anniversary of the arrival of its first African-American residential students and the 100th anniversary of coeducation — Rowe sees several important lessons to be learned.

“The first is that a learning community that is rich in diverse persons, viewpoints, experiences and modes of knowledge-making is the best preparation for citizenship and professional life in a pluralistic democracy. That preparation is what will enable us to successfully navigate complexity during a period of rapid change nationally and globally.

“The second lesson is that we will never be done striving to affirm and not cover over our differences, to redress inequity and to seek to make William & Mary a place where students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds, income levels and identities participate fully,” she said, adding that diversity accelerates innovation.

{{youtube:medium|Ec46bxClcSw, Remarks from President-Elect Katherine A. Rowe}}

In a reception held after the Tuesday morning event, Yohance Whitaker ’16, a member of the search committee and former W&M Student Assembly president, expressed his excitement about welcoming Rowe to the university.

“I look forward to partnering with her as she sets the course for our future,” he said. “I’m particularly excited about her commitment to innovation and diversity. I think she’s going to do a fantastic job at William & Mary, and I’m just happy to have her.”

Chief Diversity Officer Chon Glover M.Ed.'99, Ed.D.'06, echoed those sentiments.

“I’m excited. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for our university moving forward,” she said. “For me, the diversity and inclusiveness that she has as one of her core values will be great as we seek to build upon our efforts toward inclusive excellence. I look forward to working with her as she sets her vision for W&M’s future.”

Ginger Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06, vice president for student affairs, is also looking forward to working with Rowe.

Robert Watkins '18 rings the Wren Bell Tuesday morning to announce the selection of W&M's 28th president. Watkins and sophomores Spencer Gilbert and Adam Kearney rang the bell a total of 28 times. (Photo by Skip Rowland '83)“Today is a great day. I think the energy in the room speaks to our enthusiasm about her, her passion for the liberal arts, her deep understanding of who William & Mary is and her commitment to seeing us into our future,” Ambler said. “In my personal conversation with her, it’s very clear that she values the student experience, and I can’t wait for students to meet her.”

Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries, said it is “truly wonderful to have a woman leading the institution.”

“I love that she’s a scholar who has relied on libraries for her work,” Cooper said. “Her interest in technology and how it intersects with teaching and research is a huge advantage for the institution. I’m thinking ahead to her first tour of Swem Library’s Special Collections Research Center — that will be a fun day, too.”

Rowe will undoubtedly have many such days in her first year at the university. As W&M’s 28th president, she is hoping to partner with faculty, staff, students, alumni and board members across the university community and beyond.

“With your partnership, my hope is that these two aspirations toward inclusion and toward innovation that advances and preserves William & Mary’s mission of liberal arts for the public good, that these two will be durably linked together now and for the future, as they were imagined to be in our original charter,” she said.