Feelings on Powell mixed

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April 21, 2009

1:32 AM

Reflecting upon the appointment of Michael Powell ’85 as rector of our Board of Visitors, former College President Gene Nichol had these words for The Flat Hat: “He will make a very large mark at the College.” Well, what an understatement that was. While we thank Powell for his unquestionably committed service to the College of William and Mary, in a sense we are glad to see him go, if only because his departure is yet another reminder that the tumult characterizing last year has finally come to an end.

Once a nationally divisive Federal Communications Commission chairman, Powell wound up being no less controversial as BOV rector. In retrospect, we should not have been so surprised when a notorious censor — or a stalwart culture warrior — and an American Civil Liberties Union attorney found ground over which to square off. But square off Nichol and Powell did, and even though it probably is not fair, Powell will likely be remembered, praised or loathed by most students for his stance on a single issue: the BOV’s renewal of Nichol’s contract.

Despite attempts at dialogue and communication, that most of his work on the students’ behalf remains invisible to them is the unfortunate nature of a BOV rector’s job. Powell oversaw the plans to update our campus with an eye toward sharpening our competitive edge now and into the future. We thank him for his time here, and look forward to getting to know his successor, Henry Wolf ’64 J.D. ’66.

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