The following are the prepared remarks of Virginia Supreme Court Justice William C. Mims ’79 for William & Mary's 2019 Inauguration and Charter Day ceremony. - Ed.
I bring greetings from a grateful and hopeful Commonwealth.
President Rowe, we are grateful that you have brought your vision, your passion — and yes, your Frisbee — to the Commonwealth. Chancellor Gates, we are grateful that your lifetime of splendid service will continue to include your alma mater.
For 326 years, the College has sent its graduates to serve the Commonwealth. We have become judges, legislators and governors. We are also social workers, counselors and teachers. Our lasting significance is measured not by fame or fortune. Rather it is measured by the sincerity of our service and the depth of our care for others.
The Commonwealth, and indeed the nation, is bruised today. These are troubled times, in Richmond and in Washington. Yet we can gather in Williamsburg and look to the future with hope. While our gaze today is firmly fixed on the future, and the bright promise of the Rowe years, it is right and proper to look back as well, for enlightenment.
One of William & Mary’s scholars from antiquity, who served the Commonwealth and can light our path forward, is George Wythe. Beloved professor of law and classics. Mentor to Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. A founder of the Republic. Lawyer. Judge. A gentle soul.
Hear Jefferson’s praise for Wythe: “No man ever left behind him a character more venerated ... His virtue was of the purest tint; his integrity inflexible, and his justice exact; … [D]evoted as he was to liberty, and the natural and equal rights of man, he might truly be called the Cato of his country.”
A courageous man who swam against the tide of his times, Wythe struggled with slavery. Eventually, the arc of his moral beliefs bent toward justice as he freed his slaves and spoke forcefully against the institution.
President Rowe, during your administration may the College send forth many women and men, imbued with the spirit of George Wythe, to serve the Commonwealth.
One final thought. I mentioned your Frisbee. You and your husband, Bruce, are among the foremost practitioners of Ultimate. I was intrigued to learn it is self-officiated. There are no referees. Here is a passage you know well from the game’s official rules:
“Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the … rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.”
President Rowe, please teach the entire William & Mary family these principles for life — fair play, mutual respect, and joy. We will be the better for it, as will the Commonwealth. May God bless your tenure.