President Katherine A. Rowe to serve as keynote speaker
William & Mary’s 2019 Charter Day ceremony will include two important moments in the university’s history: the official inauguration of William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe and the re-investiture of Chancellor Robert M. Gates ’65, L.H.D. ’98.
The annual Charter Day event, which will be held on Feb. 8, 2019 in Kaplan Arena at 3:30 p.m., celebrates the university’s founding by British royal charter in 1693. The 2019 ceremony will mark the 326th “birthday” of William & Mary.
“As a scholar, educator and an entrepreneur, I am naturally drawn to William & Mary’s royal charter for both its history and its vision,” Rowe said. “So I’m honored to share my inauguration with the celebration of William & Mary’s foundational document. Leading this university’s next chapter is exciting and humbling. I’m also looking forward eagerly to honoring our exceptional chancellor, Robert Gates.”
William & Mary’s Board of Visitors voted unanimously on Feb. 20 to elect Rowe as president of the university. She assumed the role on July 1, becoming the first woman to helm W&M in the university’s history. Gates was invested as W&M’s 24th Chancellor in 2012, becoming the first alumnus to serve as chancellor of the university in the modern era.
“Both President Rowe and Chancellor Gates demonstrate an abiding commitment to William & Mary,” said Rector John E. Littel P '22. “But beyond that, they share a rare ability in leading institutions with deep historical roots during rapidly changing and demanding times. They are wonderful to work with, great partners and will continue to make for a dynamic leadership duo.”
Since Rowe started at William & Mary, she has immersed herself into a listening and learning process about the W&M community. In August, Rowe launched a strategic listening initiative titled “Thinking Forward,” in which she is seeking feedback from the university community around the future of three essential domains: knowledge, work and service.
“To hear from William & Mary in its entirety will mean being in motion every day, all day, so as to reach every part of our community — on campus and around the world — and hear the fullness of your different experiences of William & Mary,” Rowe said when announcing the effort. Since that time, she has met with groups and individuals both on and off campus on each theme. Large numbers of the W&M community have also shared their ideas online and through social media.
William & Mary’s 28th president has been an active champion of the university’s For the Bold campaign. Several leadership gifts supporting new initiatives have been received since Rowe’s arrival, including $10 million for the Raymond A. Mason Business School’s Center for Online Learning, $1.5 million for the President’s Strategic Investment Fund and $2.65 million for the Alumnae Initiatives Endowment. During the scholarships luncheon at Homecoming, Rowe announced that she and her husband, Bruce Jacobson, have created an endowment to support students with financial need. She has also joined the Society of 1918, a giving society by women for women, in honor of the university’s 100th anniversary of coeducation.
Rowe brings a strong background in digital innovation, entrepreneurship, scholarship and leadership to the university. Previously, she served as provost and dean of the faculty at Smith College in Massachusetts where her achievements included the creation and funding of a data sciences major, growing internships, transforming the liberal arts curriculum and increasing diversity in faculty hiring. As a scholar, she focuses on Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Medieval and Renaissance drama and media history, but she is also a leader in design thinking, innovation and the digital humanities. As such, she co-founded Luminary Digital Media, which creates interactive reading apps.
Gates is one of William & Mary’s most accomplished and decorated alumni. He majored in history at the university before embarking on a distinguished career with the CIA, eventually becoming its director. After serving as president of Texas A&M, he became the nation’s defense secretary, serving from 2006 to 2011 under two presidents of different political parties. Gates was president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2014 to 2016 and became chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships this year. He is also currently a principal with RiceHadleyGates LLC, a consulting firm. In 2016, he published a book, "A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service," based on his experiences.
Since becoming chancellor of the university, Gates has spent a significant amount of time on campus. He often participates in W&M’s largest traditions, including Charter Day, Homecoming and Commencement, and he has been the featured speaker at several special events, including the law school’s 2015 ceremony. He has donated his papers to the university’s archives in W&M Libraries, and he and his wife, Becky, committed a $1.5 million gift from their estate toward the Reves Center for International Studies for merit-based awards to outstanding students with a declared major in international relations, global studies or Africana studies for study abroad. A portion of the gift will also go toward cataloging and digitizing his papers.
Gates has received multiple accolades throughout his career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. William & Mary presented him with an honorary degree in 1998 and an Alumni Medallion in 2000.“I’m very much looking forward to returning to William & Mary on Charter Day and accepting a new commitment to the Alma Mater of the Nation,” Gates said. “Interacting with students, faculty, staff and the community of W&M family and friends — advocating for this great university — has been extremely gratifying. I welcome another term as chancellor.”