Editor’s note: The following are the remarks that President Reveley had prepared for Convocation, which was cut short due to rain.
Despite the depredations of the Weather Gods, Opening Convocation went forward late yesterday afternoon. It was great to see so many members of the Tribe brave the rain and join together to greet our new students. And new students, it was marvelous to watch you pass through the Wren Building and emerge in the cheers of a very enthusiastic, if soggy, crowd. Alumna Nancy Gunn gave an unusually powerful Convocation address. After Nancy spoke and as the rain kept falling, I began tossing other parts of the program, including my remarks. There is no lasting escape from them, however. They follow, if you’d like to read them. Here’s what I would have said had we been dry.
In accordance with ancient custom — a custom established at some point between the Punic Wars and the American Revolution — the president gets the last word at William & Mary on occasions like this.
New members of the Tribe, it’s good to note that some older members of the Tribe have been doing quite well recently.
Mary Jo White, class of 1970, just became Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is the preeminent regulator of U.S. markets. Previously, she was the first woman to serve as U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, a major post for U.S. law enforcement.
Jim Comey, class of 1982, just became Director of the FBI. In years past, he served as Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Justice Department.
Ellen Stofan, class of 1983, just took over as NASA’s chief scientist.
That’s quite a run for any school, even one like William & Mary whose alumni include a recent U.S. Secretary of Defense, a recent chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, and the current director of our national parks, plus three U.S. Presidents (four if you count George Washington — I do), four U.S. Supreme Court Justices including the great Chief Justice John Marshall, four U.S. Secretaries of State, four U.S. Attorneys General, and the founder of M.I.T. — just to name a few.
What is it about a William & Mary education that so primes its graduates for such productive lives of service?
I like Jim Comey’s quick answer: “William & Mary trains a young mind to think broadly, reason tightly, and never forget that someone else might have the better of it.”
During the semesters and years to come, our faculty, which includes some of the best teachers anywhere, will push you to broaden the horizons of your mind, to tighten your lines of reasoning, and to challenge your preconceptions. You will be surrounded by talented peers who will on occasion have the better of it, though always as part of a Tribe that does care a whole lot for one another. And, when you get your sheepskin from William & Mary some years hence, you will emerge armed with one of the best educations in the world.
You and William & Mary have already begun a lifelong relationship. It began the first time we communicated with each other, it grew when you stepped on campus, it is about to be reinforced as you walk through the Wren, it will be enormously strengthened during your time as a student, and it will become an important part of your identity as well as an abiding source of pride for you for the rest of your life. Your link to William & Mary will also be a powerful credential that vouches for your ability and opens doors for you. After you graduate, your lifelong relationship with the Tribe will be characterized by visits back to campus to kick the tires of your alma mater and see how she’s getting along without you on campus every day to hold her hand. This lifelong relationship will also entail belonging to a mutually supportive community of William & Mary alumni wherever you end up living.
Lifelong ties also carry the opportunity and the responsibility to give back to your alma mater to help sustain it for generations to come, just as past generations of alumni and alumnae have played vital roles in helping to build and sustain the marvelous facilities and programs that we all enjoy these days.
New members of the Tribe, William & Mary is for life. And what a treasure it is to possess!
Now, we are about to hear the dulcet tones of the Wren Bell sounded over and over again. This always happens at Opening Convocation to welcome the newest members of the William & Mary family.
Some years from now, each of you will have a chance to ring the Wren Bell yourself on the last day of your William & Mary classes. Shortly thereafter, the bell will toll as long as you walk through the Wren Building headed for Commencement in William & Mary Hall.
The Wren Bell is a very busy, hard-working bell. It also peals for weddings in the Wren Chapel, 50th class reunions, the installation of new William & Mary presidents, and the annual Sunset Ceremony in the Wren Courtyard when alumni and alumnae who died during the previous year are remembered by name in a deeply moving ceremony.
When you emerge from the Wren in a few minutes into riotous acclaim this afternoon, know that you now have a place in a long line of William & Mary people reaching back to 1693. William & Mary is now yours for all time coming!