Thomas A. Graves Jr., who served as William & Mary’s 23rd president from 1971 to 1985, died in Williamsburg on June 17. He was 91.
“President Graves came to the Alma Mater of the Nation after a distinguished career at Harvard and Stanford,” said President Taylor Reveley. “William & Mary grew in every significant dimension under his leadership. In many ways, he charted the course and built the community that defines us today. William & Mary has lost one of its great leaders and steadfast friends. He will be deeply missed.”
During his presidency, William & Mary launched its largest fundraising campaign to that date, raising more than $20 million in private gifts; W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science was fully integrated into the university; the first language house on campus was established; the President’s House underwent a major renovation; the Muscarelle Museum of Art opened; and construction of a new William & Mary Law School building was completed.
He regularly attended fraternity parties and made the President’s House a popular spot for meetings and social events. During his tenure, he welcomed such celebrities to campus as Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, entertainment legend Pearl Bailey and Prince Charles, among others.
Graves attended Yale University as an undergraduate, interrupting his studies after freshman year to serve with the U.S. Navy in World War II. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1947, he went on to receive a master’s and doctorate from Harvard University.
Graves served on the faculty of Harvard’s business school, as director of the IMEDE Management Development Institute, as associate dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and as associate dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration.
After William & Mary, Graves worked with the Winterthur Museum and Garden in Wilmington, Del., and became the director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and a member of the MBNA America Bank Educational Board.
The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching, presented every year at Commencement to a William & Mary faculty member, was named in his honor.
After retiring in 2004, he and his beloved wife, Zoë, moved back to Williamsburg. Graves received an honorary degree at the 2015 Charter Day ceremony.
At age 90, he fondly remembered his time at William & Mary. “All the memories were happy. The best, of course, was walking across the campus. Seeing the buildings. Seeing the faculty. Seeing the students. Most important of all, I had a wonderful wife and a good time.”
Anyone wishing to make a donation in honor of President Graves can support the Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching endowment. Please call Donor Relations at 757.221.1001 for more information.