Board of Visitors elects Katherine Rowe to be College’s 28th president

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Katherine Rowe, the provost of Smith College, was unanimously elected to be the College of William and Mary's 28th president. COURTESY PHOTO / STEPHEN SALPUKAS

When the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors unanimously voted to elect Katherine Rowe to serve as the College’s 28th president, the months-long search to fill the soon-to-be empty seat came to an end. With this vote, Rowe also became the first woman in the College’s history to serve as president.

Rowe will succeed College President Taylor Reveley, who will retire June 30 after two decades as a part of the College faculty, including one decade as president. After his announcement last April that he would retire after the 2017-2018 academic year, the College’s Presidential Search Committee began a months-long process to find a new president.

“The Board is thrilled to make this announcement and welcome Katherine Rowe to the William & Mary family,” Rector Todd Stottlemyer ’85 said in a press statement. “Katherine is a widely respected and recognized leader, teacher, researcher, scholar, innovator and entrepreneur, and she is a passionate and articulate advocate for the importance of the liberal arts and their critical intersections with technology and research. We had a difficult mission: to find a leader to whom Taylor Reveley could pass the reins. In Katherine Rowe, we have found the ideal person to lead William & Mary at this point in the university’s history.”

“The Board is thrilled to make this announcement and welcome Katherine Rowe to the William & Mary family,” Rector Todd Stottlemyer ’85 said in a press statement. “Katherine is a widely respected and recognized leader, teacher, researcher, scholar, innovator and entrepreneur, and she is a passionate and articulate advocate for the importance of the liberal arts and their critical intersections with technology and research. We had a difficult mission: to find a leader to whom Taylor Reveley could pass the reins. In Katherine Rowe, we have found the ideal person to lead William & Mary at this point in the university’s history.”

Rowe has served as the provost and dean of faculty at Smith College since 2014. The areas of her research include Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, medieval and renaissance drama and media history. Her academic passions include design thinking, entrepreneurship and the digital humanities. Before working at Smith College, she was a member of the English faculty at Bryn Mawr College for 16 years and at Yale University for six.

“It is an honor to be called to serve as the 28th president at William & Mary,” Rowe said in a press statement. “Under President Taylor Reveley’s outstanding leadership over the past decade, William & Mary has become a model of intentional, mission-driven innovation in higher education. The vision of William & Mary conveyed to me over the past months, by everyone I met in this community, is so compelling: a deep appreciation of history and tradition; a commitment to fostering inclusive communities of teaching, learning and research; and an understanding of the value of change and innovation to advance a liberal arts mission. These commitments are essential to a university’s continued excellence in the 21st century. I am resolved to further that vision as we work together in the coming months and years.”

Rowe said that one reason she is drawn to the College is because she believes the College’s faculty and staff are dedicated to contributing to the community of learning.

“I am so excited to lead an institution that has — in addition to a premier academic program for undergraduates — distinguished graduate and professional schools, championship athletic teams and a strong alumni culture of engagement and philanthropy,” Rowe said in a press statement. “As someone who has spent 20 years at institutions with a deep commitment to educational access for students from all incomes and backgrounds, I am particularly drawn to William & Mary’s abiding commitment to serving the public interest. I look forward to working with — and learning from — the dedicated faculty and staff, talented students and William & Mary’s passionate alumni, parents and friends.”

In her current job at Smith College, Rowe leads a nine-person senior team administering over 600 faculty members and staff. During her tenure, she has also increased diversity in faculty hiring, created a data science major and broke national fundraising records for women’s colleges. While there, she also served as the interim vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity.

Reveley said that he believes in Rowe’s leadership capabilities and he is looking forward to what she will do in her new role.

“I look forward to Katherine Rowe’s presidency with great enthusiasm and confidence,” Reveley said in a press statement. “A proven leader, Dr. Rowe understands American higher education and appreciates the vital role played by historic universities rooted in the liberal arts. She knows as well that we must be intensely entrepreneurial these days, open to new possibilities and willing to change. She has a keen appreciation for the part that alumni, in league with the campus community, play in William & Mary’s progress.”

Rowe is also the co-founder and CEO of Luminary Digital Media, and has been a guest editor for the Shakespeare Quarterly, one of the first major humanities journals to experiment with open peer review. She has been recognized by The New York Times and The Atlantic for this work.

“Dr. Rowe is a wonderful choice to lead William & Mary,” Chancellor Robert Gates ’65 said. “Taylor leaves a strong foundation upon which to build, and I look forward to supporting and working with Katherine as she moves the university forward.”

“Dr. Rowe is a wonderful choice to lead William & Mary,” Chancellor Robert Gates ’65 said. “Taylor leaves a strong foundation upon which to build, and I look forward to supporting and working with Katherine as she moves the university forward.”

When Reveley initially announced his plans to retire, Stottlemyer appointed a 19-person presidential search committee, which was chaired by Vice Rector Thomas Watkins ’74. This committee included Board members as well as faculty and staff members, recent graduate Yohance Whitaker ’16 and Class of 2018 President Laini Boyd ’18.

These committee members hosted over 150 listening sessions that involved almost 1,600 people. Watkins said that this feedback was helpful in narrowing the list of candidates to a group of finalists to recommend to the Board.

“At every turn, the committee found that Katherine’s experience and expertise complemented William & Mary’s strengths and the direction we heard from the community that the university needs to head in the future,” Watkins said. “We truly believe she will be a transformational leader for this university.”

Watkins also cited her redesign of Smith College’s curriculum, which placed a new focus on interdisciplinary studies, as one of her qualifications.

“Katherine recognizes what William & Mary’s COLL Curriculum affirms: that the liberal arts with its key questions, critical thinking and ability to communicate across disciplines puts students at an advantage, whatever fields they enter after graduation,” English department chair and member of the Presidential Search Committee Suzanne Raitt said. “I look forward to working with her.”

Rowe began her academic career earning her bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from Carleton College and her master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard University. She also completed graduate work in cinema and media studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

“This is exciting news for William & Mary and its students,” Boyd said in a press statement. “Dr. Rowe’s commitment to student achievement and her enthusiasm for the liberal arts are evident. I was impressed with the quality of her ideas and her dedication to promoting and sustaining the inclusive environment that our campus needs. I am optimistic that she will continue to build on the success of our university and carry us forward.”