p. College President Gene Nichol sent the following message to students Tuesday afternoon announcing that Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler will be retiring this summer:
p. Dear Students:
p. Welcome home. I hope you had the best of breaks. Belize and the Dominican and Northern Virginia need you, I know, but the College misses you when you’re away. I am not traditionally given to interrupt your unpacking and reconnecting with a before-classes message from the Brafferton. But I’m guessing you’ll forgive me in this case. There’s much to share, and for those of you close enough to hear the Wren Bell’s forty-one noontime peals, much to explain.
p. First, I hope you’ll help me welcome Governor Kaine to campus on Friday at 5 p.m. in the University Center Atrium. The governor has heard me proclaim your ennobling spirit of service–in Williamsburg and far, far beyond–often enough that he’s decided to come see it for himself. We’ll discuss with him exciting new frontiers in William and Mary’s approach to civic engagement. Help us give him a welcome worthy of the Tribe.
p. I wish, beyond wishing, that was all I had to report. It’s not. I’m also writing with news that has been, for the better part of five decades and the tenure of five presidents, uncongenial to consider. Sam Sadler, our vice president for student affairs, literal spirit of the College, my great colleague and beloved friend to many of you and many of your predecessors, has told me of his intention to retire this summer.
p. He also happened to mention, not too long ago, that he hadn’t rung the bell after his last class as a student. An impossible oversight. So Sam and I and a few of his closest colleagues gathered at noon to ring the bell forty-one times, once for each year of exceptional service to his alma mater.
p. In the near half-century since Hampton gave us W. Samuel Sadler, the College of William and Mary has journeyed from a modestly well-thought-of state school to a university of real and worldwide renown. To say it plainly, he’s more responsible for the William and Mary we love today–the attention to challenging and nurturing young women and men, the unfailing spirit of community, and the ceaseless pursuit of excellence and innovation in service to others–than anybody else we know. And while there may have been “Tribe Pride” before Sam Sadler, it’s somewhat tough to imagine. The pictures of his work as head cheerleader in the mid 1960s bear me out.
p. From the first, Sam was called to positions of leadership. He served as orientation aide to a young man from Ohio we now know as President Sullivan. While dean of men, he literally wrote the Student Handbook–not, as some might have accomplished it, with a group heavy-laden with administrators, but with two students. Twenty years ago, his experience and expertise were deemed broad enough to create an altogether new position, the vice president for student affairs. He helped lead the College’s Tercentenary, welcomed presidents from Nixon to George H.W. Bush–his knee accurately predicted the weather on both occasions–and, as you may have heard, sent an e-mail or two in service of the College.
p. Much of Sam’s work is conducted in the public eye. He’s managed crises large and small, presided over our most complex events, and expertly served as the College’s de facto spokesman. He’s had a “palooza” and a handful of Facebook groups christened in his honor. (My favorite is “Sam Sadler, Will You Be My Grandpa?”) But just as much of his work, of surpassing value to me and his alma mater, is undertaken out of view. He’s the first fellow on campus from whom I expect an update, and the best counselor one could hope for on matters in his bailiwick and beyond. His flawless calm, careful intellect, and Wren-to-Matoaka knowledge of this place are utterly irreplaceable.
p. Words, in fact, are little help in describing Sam’s contributions. And we won’t depend on them in months to come. I’ll be in touch about our plans, undertaken with the help of student leaders and alumni friends, for events that appropriately recognize Sam’s decades of work with us and his mark on this place. In the short term–and it’ll be tough to keep this part a secret, I suppose–I hope you’ll send me a written expression of your esteem for Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll collect these into a handsome volume and present it to him in weeks to come.
p. There’s another thing you can do for Sam in the short term. I know you, like me, will remember him in your thoughts as he faces surgery later this week, and a recuperation of several weeks following. His prognosis is excellent, and the timing of his retirement is little more than coincidence. He’ll be back in the Campus Center by spring break and will preside over Commencement, walkie-talkie in hand, as usual, in May.
p. Clay Clemens, Chancellor Professor of Government and newly elected member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, has accepted the unenviable task of chairing the committee that will select William Mary’s second vice president for student affairs. I’ve asked him and the students, faculty, staff, and alumni who will comprise his committee to recommend a candidate to me who could be in place by July 1. I appreciate Clay’s leadership in this effort.
p. Send me a word of congratulations for Sam. Send one to him, as well. Thank his wife Mary Liz for sharing him with us since they married in the Wren Chapel the day after her own William and Mary graduation–along the way raising two daughters who follow their dad’s example as successful educators. And if you’re like me, think, for a moment, how much he’s taught us about what it means to say, Go Tribe, and Hark upon the Gale.
p. Gene Nichol