When she was 5 years old, Marilyn Ward Midyette ’75 opened the W volume of her family’s new set of encyclopedias and found a picture of William & Mary’s campus. As she sat down with her mother to read the entry, Midyette turned to look at her and said, “That’s where I’m going to college.”
Now back at William & Mary as the executive director of the Alumni Association and associate vice president for alumni engagement in the College’s new Office of University Advancement, Midyette has more than fulfilled her childhood prophecy.
As she grew up, Midyette learned more about the College and its reputation. Her desire to attend became less about a pretty picture of campus and more about the sense of history and the quality of the education. “I took a tour of the campus and the students were really friendly,” Midyette said. “It was a bit intimidating to have read all that history, but then to have the experience of coming onto campus and meeting some of the students, I realized they were just like me.”
During her time at the College, Midyette participated in the choir, was a freshman cheerleader, an RA and a member of Delta Delta Delta. While she found the academic courses demanding, Midyette felt the education she received at William & Mary was a differentiator in her life.
“The first time I pulled an all-nighter was studying for Dr. Coursen’s bio exam,” she said. “I can remember several of us sitting out in the hall of DuPont 2nd East after we’d been up all night, quizzing each other at 6 o’clock in the morning before we had an 8 o’clock exam. That was really a defining moment because I think it was in his class that I really learned critical thinking skills and what discovery is all about. When you begin to view life through those experiences, learn how to apply yourself and understand what excellence really looks like, you realize the quality of education you received. It’s really a gift.”
But her time at William & Mary wasn’t all work. Midyette’s best friends in life are those that she met at the College, including her husband, Payne Midyette ’75.
“A friend in one of my classes introduced us,” Marilyn said. “I think our first date was a bike ride on the Colonial Parkway and then we went for ice cream. He asked me to Homecoming the following weekend and we’ve been together ever since. We celebrated our 38th anniversary in August.”
The couple has two boys. Payne IV, a graduate of Vanderbilt, is starting a master’s program at Georgia Tech. Reade is a senior at the Air Force Academy and wants to fly helicopters for special operations.
After graduating from William & Mary, Midyette went into banking and finance, followed by a career in technology and telecommunications. Before coming to the Alumni Association, Midyette served as CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. Throughout her busy career, Midyette has not forgotten her commitment to the College, serving on the boards of the Alumni Association and Annual Giving. In 2011, she was awarded the Alumni Medallion.
This past summer the board of the William & Mary Alumni Association voted to join the current Alumni Association staff with development staff to form a new University Advancement organization. When Karen Cottrell ’66, M.Ed. ’69, Ed.D. ’84 announced her retirement, Midyette was a natural choice to lead the association and alumni engagement. “When the Alumni Association board and senior administration began discussing who a replacement might be, apparently there were several people who suggested me,” Midyette said. “I remember distinctly when I told my husband I had gotten a call, he said, ‘Marilyn, you know this has your name written all over it. This is your dream job.’”
The goal of the merger is to maximize resources and to improve the ways in which the College engages and serves William & Mary’s alumni. The University Advancement model allows for enhanced coordination across university departments, which strengthens the College’s ability to be more strategic, thoughtful and effective in its interactions with alumni and friends. The new model will enhance the potential for alumni involvement in W&M admission, job placement and mentoring, and it will expand career services and engagement opportunities for alumni.
“As a community we know the power of unity, the power of collaboration, and that the only path forward is together. In order for William & Mary to sustain itself and continue to deliver that quality experience, it requires all of us. That’s what alumni engagement is all about,” Midyette said.
In her previous position with the Girl Scouts, Midyette helped lead the organization through a rebranding initiative. This effort is analogous to her new role at the College.
“At the Girl Scouts we were focused on identifying what girls want and need in order to develop leadership skills in the 21st century and to deliver effective programming,” Midyette said. “Our new advancement model at the College is about creating world-class alumni engagement, identifying what alumni perceive is value-added programming and delivering it in ways that they want.”
Midyette knows that William & Mary’s ability to advance as a topnotch institution is dependent on its ability to foster lifelong relationships among constituents. “It’s important that all of those constituents know that they matter,” Midyette said. “We have to continue to engage our alumni through their time and talent as volunteers, advisors and mentors, as well as through their treasure as donors.”
In her new position, Midyette is excited to reconnect with alumni and pursue the world of possibilities in creating world-class engagement. And the best part is that she’s doing it at William & Mary, a place that has meant so much to her since she was 5. “It doesn’t get much better than that,” Midyette said. “It’s an important time in the life of the College. As we look at the ability of the College to continue to thrive, to continue to be a world-class institution, we need all of us. We are a family.”