When Interim College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley addressed the Board of Visitors during its April meeting, he classified the campus environment following former President Gene Nichol’s February resignation as a “class triple-A psycho drama.”
Now, just over six months since Nichol resigned, the campus is undeniably changed.
“One of the most reassuring things about the last six months — the six months between [Nichol’s resignation on] February the 12th and now — has been how quickly and how meaningfully the various parts of the campus community came back together,” Reveley said.
“There’ve been a lot of relationships where these ties of trust … needed to be restored,” he said. “And it’s happened, more quickly and more completely than I expected.”
BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 agreed.
“I think there is a positive sense of momentum,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Flat Hat. “President Reveley has been simply remarkable in bringing the campus together and tackling our challenges.”
The search for the next president, however, has not yet begun.
“It’s looking much more unlikely that there will be a search process this year,” Student Assembly President Valerie Hopkins ’09 said.
Hopkins said she is working to give a voice to students in the search process. She will serve on the search committee in her capacity as SA President.
Hopkins said she is especially concerned because she believes it is unlikely that students present during Nichol’s resignation will still be undergraduates when a new president is chosen. She wants to give them a voice because those students have learned a good deal about the College presidency.
Reveley, who declined to discuss the search process or comment on how long it might take, hinted last week that he might seek the position permanently.
“[The presidency] evolved from being a pretty grim civic duty to pretty engaging challenge where I actually was having some fun,” he said. “What that ultimately means, we shall see.”
Hopkins said she could imagine Reveley remaining president for several years.
“I think that he’s made a commitment to the College,” she said. “It would be strange to see him working so tremendously hard for what remained of last year and this year and then to stop.”
During the interview, Reveley discussed at length the College’s finances.
“The state has been generous on the bricks-and-mortar front,” he said. “The state has produced a lot of money to help us build buildings that we would not have been able to build if not for the state. The ISC complex is a good example.”
The state also provided funds late last semester for the new School of Education.
“State appropriations are welcome, but state funding is too unreliable to fuel our ambitions,” Powell said.
Despite those funds, the College is still facing budget crunches.
“When it comes to the operating budget … the state, it has become clear, will no longer be a really dominant element in support,” Reveley said. “Before the cuts that are coming almost certainly down the road, we had thought the state would provide about 18 percent of our operating budget this year. Eighteen percent is a lot of help, but it leaves 82 percent that has to come from private sources: from tuition and fees, from the yield on our endowment, from annual giving, from grants, from anywhere we can cage private money.”
Reveley said the loss of funds is actually changing the College’s fiscal strategy.
“We are moving from a financial model that was publicly supported and privately assisted to one that is privately supported and publicly assisted,” he said. “The era of being state supported and privately assisted is over, is dead as a doornail, is never coming back, and … we have no alternative but to figure out how to make an era of privately supported, publicly assisted work for this college in this town.”
That change has prompted several new initiatives. First, Reveley is planning a follow-up to the recently finished Campaign for William and Mary, which raised $500 million for the College.
“The rhythm of college and university campaigns is: You start one, you finish it, you start planning the next one — if you have your act together,” he said. “It’s relentless.”
The campaign is still in early planning stages and will likely not begin for at least several years. Reveley declined to comment on the campaign’s financial goal. Powell previously called for a billion-dollar campaign, but remained doubtful of Nichol’s fundraising abilities.
The College also is actively developing a strong strategic initiative. In May, Jim Golden was named the vice president for Strategic Initiatives and will work to create a financial plan for the College and lobby Richmond for more funds.
Reveley’s third initiative is to describe the College — a deceptively simple task.
“What is it, really, that is so important, so special about this particular institution?” he said. “[We are trying] to capture that in words and get that message out in ways that really resonate with alumni, resonate with politicians.”
When Reveley addressed the Class of 2012 last Friday, he was looking at the most diverse class ever — with 24.9 percent students of color. Increasing diversity was a major goal for Nichol, and the interim president is continuing that initiative.
According to Reveley, the best way to promote diversity is to increase need-based aid, especially the Gateway program, which increased grant allowances for low and middle income students.
“We’re trying to raise a $10 million endowment for it, which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a large enough amount for it, but it certainly beats the stew out of no endowment for it,” Reveley said. He added that the school’s current overall aid situation is “grossly inadequate.”
Nichol founded the Gateway program; however, it became public that he had not secured funds for it beforehand, and was simply diverting money from other aid initiatives.
Like Father, Like Son
Reveley’s father, W. Taylor Reveley II, served as the president of Hampden-Syndey College from 1963 to 1977.
“I learned an enormous amount from my dad. One important element is; if you’re really going to throw yourself into it heart and soul, if you’re really going to do a good job, you have to believe in the mission, you have to believe in the institution, you have to really care about the institution. And if you don’t, find something else to do. And Daddy did care an enormous amount.
“And he was better at this than I; if you can get yourself to stop talking and to listen to what other people are saying, listen to what they’re telling you, you are more likely to pursue wise policies and avoid falling into pits.”