College’s Washington Center to host class co-taught by former FBI Director James Comey ’82

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William & Mary's new students aren't just embarking on their college careers, they are joining a family, James B. Comey '82 said at the College's annual Opening Convocation ceremony Friday. "Your membership in this family will change your life," said Comey, a former U.S. Deputy Attorney General. "But the nature of this family, this Tribe, is a gift, purchased for you at huge personal and financial cost by those who went before. As a new member of the family that has always guided the life of this great country, you have obligations to which you must be faithful."Comey spoke to more than 2,000 William & Mary students, faculty and staff members who gathered in the Wren Yard for the annual event despite a rainy afternoon. The ceremony welcomes William & Mary's new students to the campus and officially marks the beginning of the academic year.

Former FBI Director James Comey ’82 will begin teaching a three-credit course on ethical leadership for the College of William and Mary beginning in the fall 2018 semester. Classes will be held at the College’s Washington Center.

For the last 11 years, Comey has maintained a relationship with the William and Mary Washington Center, and for three years, hosted students at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Starting this fall, he will co-teach with Assistant Vice President for Student Leadership Drew Stelljes, and will teach during the fall 2018, spring 2019 and summer 2019 semesters.

Jim Comey is among William & Mary’s most distinguished alumni,” College President Taylor Reveley said in a press statement.

“Jim Comey is among William & Mary’s most distinguished alumni,” College President Taylor Reveley said in a press statement. “Over the years, he has been deeply committed to his alma mater. He understands to the core of his being that our leaders must have an abiding commitment to ethical behavior and sacrificial service if we are to have good government. Our students will benefit significantly from his experience and wisdom.”

According to Executive Director of the William and Mary Washington Center Adam Anthony ’87, the idea for the course came from Comey’s consistent involvement with students at the Washington Center. He said that Comey has always been a popular guest lecturer.

“We have been doing these [programs in D.C.] since 2006, and Comey has been coming since then,” Anthony said. “I have lost count of how many times he has spoken to our students. When he became FBI director, he hosted our classes three different summers. Then, he came last winter and spoke to our winter class and spoke in March to our spring break class. The students absolutely adored him, and after he spoke they were hanging out with him and talking to him — it looked like they were ready to hoist him on their shoulders. … It started us here thinking that maybe someday we could think about having him teach a class.”

Anthony said that ethical leadership, the focus of the class, is a topic that Comey has previously discussed with students at the Washington Center. Additionally, Anthony said that leadership is touched on in Comey’s forthcoming book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” which is set to be released in May.

I am thrilled to have the chance to engage with William & Mary students about a vital topic — ethical leadership,” Comey said in a press statement.

“I am thrilled to have the chance to engage with William & Mary students about a vital topic — ethical leadership,” Comey said in a press statement. “Ethical leaders lead by seeing above the short term, above the urgent or the partisan, and with a higher loyalty to lasting values, most importantly the truth. Building and maintaining that kind of leadership, in both the private sector and government, is the challenge of our time. There is no better place to teach and learn about it than the W&M Washington Program.”

Comey and Stelljes will administer online discussion and research paper components for the course. Stelljes will also prepare lectures and provide background information on Comey’s classes for students. While the curriculum for the course is not yet set, Stelljes said in a press statement that students will be using historical texts and contemporary critical theory to map leadership paradigms and analyze relationships between leadership education and democratic engagement.

The course’s sessions will be held at the Washington Center, with the exception of one session which will be held at the School of Education in Williamsburg. According to Anthony, hosting one session in Williamsburg will help students based in Williamsburg by easing the burden of traveling for the class.

“We will have students from the D.C. semester program, and students from campus, they will be doing a lot of traveling,” Anthony said. “It will help ease the burden to have him come down once. We thought maybe it would be a nice mix to have students who were going to be down on campus be able to engage on campus.”

Students who are undergraduates enrolled in the Washington Center’s fall 2018, spring 2019 and summer 2019 programs; graduate students in the School of Education’s Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership Program; and undergraduate students minoring in educational studies will receive priority registration for the class. According to Anthony, final numbers for enrollment are not set, but it will most likely be a small class to allow for maximum engagement between students and Comey. If there is available space, other students will be able to enroll in the course if they are able to travel for sessions held in D.C.

While on campus, Comey was a chemistry and religion major. Since graduating, he has spoken at both Convocation and Charter Day ceremonies and received an honorary doctor of laws degree in 2008. In 2014, Comey received the Alumni Medallion, the highest honor given by the Alumni Association.

Before serving as director of the FBI from 2013-2017, Comey held senior leadership positions in government including U.S. attorney and deputy attorney general.

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