The College announced Friday that James B. Comey ’82, the former deputy U.S. attorney general, will be the guest speaker for this year’s Charter Day ceremony Feb. 9 where he will also receive an honorary doctorate of law.
p. Also in attendance will be retired Supreme Court Justice and current Chancellor of the College Sandra Day O’Connor, as well as Harriet Mayor Fulbright, president of the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center, and James C. Rees ’74, executive director of Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington. Both Fulbright and Rees will also be awarded honorary degrees at the ceremony, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall.
p. Though the ceremony is almost a month away, Comey has some ideas for his speech.
p. “I’d like to talk about public service, and how William and Mary prepared me,” Comey said. Comey graduated as a double major in chemistry and religious studies, but during his time at the College, which he describes as “four of the most important years of [his] life,” he realized that he wanted to explore his interest in reading, writing and public service.
p. “I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I took biology, chemistry, all the hard things.” Comey said. While on his way to one such class, he stumbled upon an opportunity to take a religion class titled Death.
p. “I took it, and it was taught by this amazing ethicist who recently retired. So I took another class, another class and another, until I had enough for a major,” Comey said. “What I liked most about religion is that it offered classes in ethics — ethics in warfare, religion, ecology. It taught me about ethical decisions, and how to make hard decisions in life.”
p. Comey applied this education to his career, and following a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, he became a federal prosecutor, serving as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He also served as Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Richmond Division of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Currently, he is the senior vice president and general counsel of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, where he acts as legal counsel for the corporation’s Board of Directors.
p. Comey hopes to apply the lessons he learned at the College to his speech Feb. 9. “Not to sound sappy, but [the College] had a huge impact on my life. Anybody’s college education is a huge part of who they are.”
p. When asked about recent events at the College, such as the logo change, Comey remarked that, “Every decision needs to have broad involvement, not just from alums and faculty, but from students currently at the College. It’s easy as an alum to picture the College the way it was, and in a lot of ways it’s still like that, but it’s your College now, and you live there, in a way you know best.
p. “As long as students are represented, that is the best way to make decisions,” he said.