At noon Friday, in the presence of his family, the Board of Visitors, administrators, students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, Taylor Reveley was sworn in as the permanent 27th president of the College of William and Mary.
The process began earlier that morning as 11 members of the BOV gathered to discuss the presidency. Although the discussion took place in a closed session, BOV Rector Michael Powell ’85 made some opening remarks.
“This is really the culmination of a long series of discussions that have been necessitated since last February,” he said. “We have two choices … whether to initiate a search for the president of the College or whether we should consider eliminating the designation of ‘interim’ for Taylor Reveley and giving him a term of years.”
The BOV debated for 50 minutes in their Blow Hall boardroom before moving to the Wren Building’s Blue Room. Reveley was neither present at the boardroom nor at the Blue Room.
The Blue Room was intended to serve as the administration’s meeting room when the College was originally confined to the Wren, the Brafferton and the President’s House, said Director of the Historic Campus Lousie Kale. Since then, the Blue Room has become the traditional room for announcing presidential news.
Powell commented on the crowded room.
“I’ve sat at this table before,” he said, referencing his time on the BOV during the ’05 presidential search. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen members of the community, senators from our constituencies, students, alumni, staff, administrators.”
BOV Secretary Suzann Matthews ’71 then read a statement declaring that the BOV had elected Reveley as the College’s 27th president. The room erupted into applause and, in accordance with tradition, a docent rang the Wren bell 27 times.
The BOV moved to the Great Hall, where members of the College community had gathered to hear from Powell and Reveley. In attendance were former College President Timothy Sullivan ’66, former Vice President for Student Affairs Sam Sadler ’64 M.Ed. ’71, Provost Geoff Feiss, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Jim Golden, Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler and State Senator Thomas K. Norment. Reveley’s wife, Helen, and three of their four children were also present.
The group stood and drowned the room in applause as Reveley entered and Powell introduced him.
“The Board of Visitors made a very painful, difficult decision [this past spring] and our College community was in turmoil,” Powell said. “And it was against that backdrop that, as rector of the board, I had to walk in to see Taylor Reveley and ask him whether he would be willing to assume the duties of the presidency amidst that storm. He concluded this institution was great, he concluded he could make a difference, and he concluded it was his civic duty to assume those responsibilities.”
Powell praised Reveley for his work diving into the job, bringing the campus back together after the sudden departure of former College President Gene Nichol in February, and working to improve the College’s financial situation.
“He had no luxury of a honeymoon, no inauguration, no ceremony like today to celebrate his willingness to serve,” Powell said. “He had to go to work.”
After Powell poked fun at Reveley’s often odd manner of speaking, Reveley was officially sworn in as president and addressed the crowd. Although he acknowledged the challenges facing the College, he chose to focus on the College community’s commitment.
“William and Mary people are committed, first and foremost, committed always to the abiding good of the College, and this is an enormous strength for the university,” he said.
The new president also touched on the College’s history.
“As we all know, the story of William and Mary is the story of our country, beginning almost 100 years before our country was founded and continuing on powerfully into the 21st century,” Reveley said. “Over the centuries William and Mary has survived the scourge of war … and the ravages of economic loss. But it has come to stand among the most academically distinguished institutions of higher education in the United States. It also stands among the most historically storied American institutions of any sort.”
Reveley thanked his family and various members of the BOV and College administration before concluding his remarks and the ceremony.
Afterward, Powell told reporters that, after speaking with students and others who had reservations about Reveley, he had entered the morning’s meeting with no expectations that Reveley would necessarily be chosen over the option to conduct a national search for a president.
“Contrary to the blogs, this was not some pre-determined plan. I personally don’t think this option was given any consideration until late in the summer and really only suggested itself based on the extraordinary job he’s doing,” Powell said. “But more importantly, this summer we really began seeing what kind of decisions and challenges … Reveley [is] going to have to tackle this academic year that will not wait for you to finish the search.”
Powell added that the closed-session vote had been unanimous. Although only 11 of 17 BOV members were present, the other six — Charles Banks, Janet Brashear ’82, Sarah Gore ’56, Philip Herget, Robert Scott J.D. ’86 and John Charles Thomas — released a statement supporting the decision and praising Reveley.
The details of Reveley’s contract have not yet been determined, but Powell said he expects it will span three years.