Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will speak at William & Mary’s annual Charter Day ceremony, which this year celebrates the university’s 325th “birthday.” The event marks the anniversary (Feb. 8, 1693) when William & Mary received its royal charter from King William III and Queen Mary II. The ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Feb. 9, 2018, in Kaplan Arena.
It has become tradition at William & Mary for Virginia’s newly elected governor to serve as the keynote speaker at the Charter Day ceremony and receive an honorary degree. Northam, previously the Commonwealth’s lieutenant governor, will receive an honorary degree along with Trudier Harris, W&M’s first tenured African-American faculty member, and Frances G. McGlothlin '66 and Hunter J. Smith ’51, alumnae whose generosity has had a transformational impact on the university.
William & Mary Chancellor and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates ’65 is expected to be in attendance and offer brief remarks.
“This 325th milestone is a testament to William & Mary’s indomitable spirit over the centuries,” said President Taylor Reveley. “This school year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first African-American students in residence at William & Mary.
“Ralph Northam has been a longtime friend of higher education in general and William & Mary in particular. Professor Harris devoted her early career to William & Mary, paving the way for others behind her. We are honored to have her back on campus. And we celebrate Fran McGlothlin and Hunter Smith, two alumnae who have made their own indelible mark on alma mater. Much progress and many significant initiatives at William & Mary are directly attributable to them.”
Harris, University Distinguished Research Professor of English at the University of Alabama, is one of the nation’s leading scholars in African-American and Southern literature and cultural theory.
Harris grew up on a cotton farm in segregation-era Alabama. She attended Stillman College. She later earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in English from The Ohio State University.
Harris joined William & Mary’s English department in 1973, later becoming the university’s first tenured African-American faculty member. She received W&M’s Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award in 1978. Harris next took a faculty position at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where she became the J. Carlyle Sitterson Distinguished Professor of English. She also served on the faculty of Emory University.
Harris, who spent 36 years teaching fulltime before her retirement in 2009, has written or edited two dozen books, including The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature and her memoir, Summer Snow: Reflections from a Black Daughter of the South.
She has lectured across the globe and received multiple honors and awards for her scholarly work and teaching including the UNC System Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Teaching and the John Hurt Fisher Award of the South Atlantic Association of Departments of English.
Harris founded the George Moses Horton Society for the Study of African American Poetry in 1996, and, in honor of her parents, created the Terrell and Unareed Harris Endowed Scholarship at Stillman College.
She returned to W&M in the fall last year as the Department of English’s Sara and Jess Cloud Distinguished Lecturer. Following her lecture on Sept. 28, Harris received an award in honor of her historic role at W&M.
McGlothlin is a philanthropist whose generosity has benefited many arts, medical and educational institutions.
A native of Leesburg, Virginia, McGlothlin has remained closely connected with the university, serving as its first lady during Paul Verkuil’s presidency. In that role, she was an advocate for faculty, staff and students with children and was a leader in the effort that established the Campus Child Care Center — made possible largely thanks to McGlothlin’s fundraising efforts.
McGlothlin and her husband, James W. McGlothlin '62, J.D. '64, LL.D. '00, also established the university’s McGlothlin Leadership Forum at W&M, which offers students the chance to learn from some of the nation’s preeminent leaders in business and law. The couple has endowed McGlothlin Scholars at the business and law schools, and these endowments have greatly enhanced the business and law schools’ capacity to recruit students of compelling ability. They have also established the McGlothlin Faculty Teaching Award. They helped make possible the recent renovation of Zable Stadium. In 2012, the McGlothlins served as the grand marshals for W&M’s Homecoming parade. They are currently honorary co-chairs of the university’s For the Bold campaign, which aims to strengthen alumni engagement, achieve 40 percent alumni participation and raise $1 billion for W&M.
Fran McGlothlin has been a strong supporter of the Mountain Mission School, which provides at-risk youth with an exceptional educational experience in a nurturing environment. The McGlothlins have also been significant supporters of the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center and its School of Medicine. Its new medical education center is named in their honor.
Fran McGlothin’s love of American art also led her and her husband to assemble one of the leading private collections in the country. She is the senior vice president of UC Fine Art, Inc. in New York and has served on the boards of arts organizations, including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, to which she and Jim have bequeathed their art collection.
Fran McGlothlin is a board member of the United Company Foundation and the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Foundation.
A native of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Northam attended Virginia Military Institute, graduating in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He went on to attend Eastern Virginia Medical School, followed by a pediatric residency in San Antonio, Texas, where he met his wife, Pam. He later held residencies at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Northam served as an officer in the U.S. Army for eight years, during which time he treated soldiers who were wounded in Operation Desert Storm.
After leaving the service as a major, he began practicing pediatric neurology at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. He started his current practice, Children’s Specialty Group, and began teaching at Eastern Virginia Medical School as an assistant professor of neurology.
Northam has also volunteered for 18 years as medical director of the Edmarc Hospice for Children in Portsmouth, Virginia.
His career in politics began in 2008 when he became a Virginia State Senator, representing the 6th District. In that position for two terms, he worked to establish the prohibition on smoking in restaurants, protect young athletes who have sustained concussions, improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and shield first responders from communicable diseases. He ran successfully for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013 and spent the next four years focused on economic development, early childhood education, mental health reform, women's health care access and stewardship of Virginia’s environmental resources. He also chaired the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success and the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Mental Health Services and Crisis Response.
In November 2017, he was elected the 73rd governor of Virginia.
Smith graduated from William & Mary in 1951 with a degree in philosophy. She has maintained her ties to alma mater over the years.
A native of Martinsville, Virginia, Smith is a strong advocate for the William & Mary educational experience that involves close interaction between students and faculty. She has made sure that current students at the university continue to benefit from such experiences through the Hunter J. Smith Endowment for Freshman Seminars, which are an integral part of the university’s undergraduate curriculum and a distinguishing component of a W&M liberal arts education.
As a student, Smith was an active member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. Her generosity recently made possible the renovation of its sorority house. An avid sports fan, she also helped fund the renovation of Zable Stadium.
Her support for the expansion and renovation of the Alumni House has been crucial to the project and was the largest gift ever given to the university for alumni engagement.
Smith has also been a significant supporter of the University of Virginia as well as UVA at Wise and many other organizations. She has served on the boards of the Foundation for Recovery, the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She is an emeritus trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and a longtime supporter of the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, Shelter for Help in Emergency and Camp Holiday Trails.Like the McGlothins, Smith is an honorary co-chair of the university’s For the Bold campaign.