Mitchell B. Reiss has been in the process of adjusting to his new role as President of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, since Oct. 6, 2014.
The CW Foundation encompasses the not-for-profit historic area nestled beside the College of William and Mary, as well as the corporation — including the hotels, restaurants and golf clubs — surrounding the town. Reiss will now serve as both President and Chief Executive Officer of these sectors. He succeeds Colin G. Campbell, who held the position for 14 years.
Reiss found out about the position when Campbell called him one day and urged him to apply for job. Reiss, familiar with the College’s campus and administration due to previous work with the school, decided to apply. Over the past few months, he has made the transition to President.
“I was flattered and honored,” Reiss said. “Trying to understand how the units [of CW] work separately and together is a full-time job.”
Reiss previously served as the President of Washington College and held several positions at the U.S. State Department. Beyond these various roles, he has deep ties to the College community. At the College, Reiss has served as dean of international affairs, director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center, vice provost for international affairs, diplomat-in-residence, and professor of both law and government.
In his years at the College, he worked with several professors to expand international relations. His close ties to many faculty members and administrators were a factor in drawing him back to Williamsburg.
“I had been a longtime supporter and admirer of CW,” Reiss said. “This was it.”
Several administrative officials, too, were eager to have Reiss return. Director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center and Vice Provost for International Affairs Steve Hanson, who joined the College in 2011, sought out Reiss for advice when he took his position. Since then, Hanson has kept in close contact with Reiss to discuss projects at the Reves Center, such as its 25th Anniversary Gala.
“I know that he greatly respects the history, traditions, and achievements of William & Mary as an institution,” Hanson said in an email. “I’ve already begun to talk with Mitchell about ways in which CWF and Reves can collaborate in the future, and I really look forward to those collaborations.”
The CW Foundation and the College are neighbors in proximity and are collaborators on many events. Although the CW Foundation focuses primarily on the sustainability and progress of the historic area, the members of the organization work with College officials on certain events, such as orientation. Assistant to the President and Provost Jeremy Martin said that Reiss is a good choice for leading the Foundation due to his experience with the College.
“The proximity has naturally created a friendship between us,” Martin said. “I think [Reiss] was terrific for [the College]. I think it’s a great thing for both of us.”
Although Reiss only began his term a few months ago, he has already prepared initiatives that he and the CW Foundation will work on. Reiss said that his goals include making the foundation financially sustainable, as well as propagating the larger conversation about Williamsburg’s historic importance.
Some of his other ideas include increasing the lighting in the historic area at nighttime to make students and visitors feel more secure, and transforming Josiah Chowning’s Tavern into an alehouse featuring signature Virginia brews.
“We’ve got some surprises,” Reiss said.