Well into William & Mary’s 324th year, the nation’s distinctive “Public Ivy” keeps pushing toward what we want to become, not simply what we want to maintain.
As I wrote in the summer issue of the magazine, William & Mary is moving from being known simply as a preeminent liberal arts college to being recognized as what Dennis Manos, our vice provost for research, calls a “leading research university driven by the beating heart of the liberal arts.” In this vein, the past calendar year was one in which we pursued many new initiatives.
For instance, W&M’s schools of law and marine science have joined with Old Dominion University to study coastal flooding, both where it is likely to occur as sea levels rise and how best to ameliorate its physical, economic and social impacts. AidData, a large research lab at W&M involving both undergraduate and graduate students, is seeking ways to reduce HIV/AIDS rates among adolescent girls and women in sub-Saharan African countries. And we are well underway in planning a new program of engineering, design and applied science, drawing on resources already in our curriculum.
Last January, two William & Mary professors were recognized as recipients of the state’s Outstanding Faculty Awards. The award is the highest honor given to faculty in Virginia. W&M’s John Swaddle, professor of biology, and Jennifer G. Kahn, associate professor of anthropology, bring our total number of awards to 40, more honorees than any other university in the commonwealth.
In February, the Chronicle for Higher Education counted W&M among the top producers of students receiving Fulbright grants. Thirteen recent graduates of William & Mary accepted Fulbright grants to go abroad during the 2015-16 academic year.
In April, three students were named as Goldwater Scholars, earning the prestigious national award for math, science and engineering. Three of the eight scholarships granted in Virginia this year went to students at W&M, and a total of seven scholarships have been won by W&M over the past two years, a number matched by only a few institutions across the country.
Big news in physics during 2016 was announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves. William & Mary was the only school in Virginia to have a part in the work of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) that affirmed a major prediction of Albert Einstein. W&M had an undergraduate co-author on the Physical Review Letters paper describing the groundbreaking observation, in addition to a faculty researcher and two graduate students. Two other students were also working on LIGO projects. At William & Mary, our professors involve undergraduates meaningfully in their research, providing them with experience that is substantially deeper than what is usually available at other universities, while giving our graduate students valuable experience mentoring those coming along behind them.
Each fall, rankings are generated by a teeming horde of sources. The good news is that William & Mary performs well in almost all of these horse races. In the most anticipated list, the U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings of national universities, William & Mary improved two spots to 32nd and remained sixth among all public schools (private schools dominate the list). W&M’s financial resources, however, ranked only 112th overall. The 80-spot gap between our quality and resource rankings is by far the largest among the top 50 universities in the country. We lead the way in doing more with less.
More than 50 percent of our undergraduates participate in study abroad or institutionally supported international research. This year, W&M received a 2016 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization, which recognizes colleges and universities enhancing their students’ exposure to the rest of the world. The award is granted to a limited number of institutions each year — usually no more than five. W&M was one of only four in 2016.
Members of the Class of 2019, the first cohort taking the new general education College Curriculum, are well into their second year and now enjoying the interdisciplinary nature of COLL 200 classes. The courses help students understand how different academic disciplines intersect and the varying ways they approach questions. The general education requirements constitute roughly a quarter of the courses W&M undergraduates take and extend across their four years on campus.
Alumni engagement is a major focus of For the Bold, our effort to raise $1 billion by 2020. Also by 2020, we aim to increase our percentage of undergraduate alumni who give back to William & Mary to 40 percent, which would place us among the leading four or five universities in the country, public and private, along with Princeton, Dartmouth, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. Reaching 40 percent by 2020 will take near Herculean effort, as national trends in alumni giving keep deteriorating.
During the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2016, William & Mary raised a record $143.1 million. This is the fourth year in a row we have exceeded $100 million. To date, For the Bold has secured more than $650 million to help advance our mission. When we celebrated the campaign in New York City in September, the night sky turned green & gold as the Empire State Building beamed W&M colors far and wide.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, venerable Zable Stadium, which came online in 1935, reopened after an acutely needed $28 million renovation that focused on the west side of the stadium. If you have not visited Zable reborn, it’s worth a look. So also is our athletics program, which had another stellar year in 2016. The Tribe advanced to the NCAA baseball tournament, knocking out defending national champion Virginia. All told, W&M brought home six CAA titles this year. With a league total of 130 CAA titles (39 more than any other CAA institution), W&M is the only school in CAA history to win at least one championship every year. In club sports, the men’s gymnastics team, the tennis team and a W&M rower all won top national honors in 2016.
On April 28 this past year, the 258th birthday of James Monroe, we reported something new and significant about the home life of the nation’s fifth president. James Monroe, an alumnus of William & Mary, was long thought to have lived modestly in a small cottage on Highland, a beautiful estate that sits cheek-to-jowl to Monticello, the home of fellow W&M alumnus Thomas Jefferson. Thanks to science – and the determination of Highland’s director, Sara Bon Harper, to literally dig deeper – we determined that Monroe lived in a much larger home. Archaeology, combined with tree-ring dating, showed that a recently discovered foundation near the cottage was in fact Monroe’s home. The smaller building housed guests. Highland is the only U.S. president’s home owned by a university.
Zable Stadium wasn’t the only place on campus to enjoy a dramatic renovation completed this year. Tyler Hall, one of the marvelous Georgian buildings lining the Sunken Garden, was built in 1927 and had fallen on hard times. It underwent 12 months of intense revitalization that added close to 7,000 square feet to its usable space and resulted in a striking, elegant home for public policy, government, economics and international relations.
The magnificent third phase of the Integrated Science Center, dedicated this fall, has added a 113,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility to house the offices, labs and classrooms that remained in Millington Hall after the first two phases of the ISC opened earlier this century. The final phase, ISC 4, will be built where Millington Hall now stands, empty, dark, awaiting the axe.
Not far behind those projects is the James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership at the law school, which will house all nine of our legal clinics. Jim and his late wife, Robin, were 1979 graduates of the law school. In November, we announced plans for The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, which will include an expanded Muscarelle Museum of Art. Martha is a 1955 graduate of the College. Also in the fall, William & Mary Hall was christened Kaplan Arena in honor of Jane Thompson Kaplan ’56 and Jim Kaplan ’57.
At a powerful and moving ceremony during Homecoming and Reunions in October, we renamed two of the Jamestown Road residence halls in symbolic recognition of the significant part African-Americans have played in our history. Jamestown South became Lemon Hall in memory of the enslaved man owned by William & Mary in the late 18th century and the namesake of the Lemon Project, which begin in 2009 to study the College’s role in slavery and segregation and learn from it. Jamestown North has become Hardy Hall, honoring the late Carroll Hardy HON ’12, our first African-American senior administrator, who had a crucial part in bringing campus diversity.
Renaming the Jamestown Road halls were among immediate actions taken following a report by the Task Force on Race and Race Relations. Last spring, the task force issued a comprehensive report whose recommendations are now being implemented. Other immediate actions included committing $1 million annually to improve the diversity of faculty and hiring an outside consultant to learn more about the concerns of African-American employees.
Similar efforts are ongoing to build on the work of the Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment, which released its initial findings in fall 2015. In the past year, two new investigators have been brought into the Title IX office, a sexual violence prevention specialist has been hired for the university and a director brought on for the Haven, a confidential resource center for students. Educational programs for students, faculty and staff are being improved and expanded, as is W&M’s sexual violence website.
We have also made major strides this year in promoting the mental health of our students, including bringing on board our full-time psychiatrist. These efforts were recognized by the larger community this year when William & Mary received the 2016 Williamsburg Health Foundation Award. Construction has also started on the McLeod Tyler Integrative Wellness Center, named in recognition of Bee McLeod ’83, M.B.A. ’91 and Goody Tyler HON ’11. Scheduled to open in fall 2017, the facility will house the counseling center, student health center, health promotion and the wellness aspects of Campus Recreation. Despite enormous challenges to the nation’s colleges and universities these days, William & Mary included, and even greater challenges faced by the commonwealth and the country, those of us at the Alma Mater of the Nation are proceeding with confidence and ambition. I firmly believe this century, the 21st, is going to be the most productive and successful in William & Mary’s long history.
You have my best wishes.