Spring 2019 Issue

Defining Moments

The curtain rises for Rowe

By Jennifer Page Wall

Bold moments are moments that define our lives. For Katherine Rowe, one such moment was her inauguration as William & Mary’s 28th president.

Standing before thousands of people gathered in Kaplan Arena in early February for the historic occasion, Rowe confidently said, “Now is the moment to reflect on the change that will make us more ourselves and make the Alma Mater of the Nation more the global leader we aspire to be.”

More than 140 delegates represented academic institutions and learned societies across the country and globe. Three former William & Mary presidents were also in attendance: Taylor Reveley LL.D. ’18, HON ’18, Timothy Sullivan ’66 and Paul Verkuil ’61, D.P.S. ’17.

During the ceremony, Arizona State University Professor Ayanna Thompson, president of the Shakespeare Association of America and a close friend and colleague of the president described Rowe’s leadership style.

She said Rowe taught her how to be “a scholar who lifts as she climbs.”

“Life, love and work are never seen as zero- sum games for President Katherine Rowe; rather, she operates as if the universe is expansive, and in which everyone can win, advance and thrive. She is the perfect person to lead William & Mary in the 21st century.”

Charter Day and Inauguration

Charter Day Weekend was a significant occasion not only for Rowe but also for the entire William & Mary community. As part of the festivities, Robert M. Gates ’65, L.H.D. ’98 was re-invested as the university’s chancellor and William & Mary saluted 326 years of history.

With so much to celebrate, there was no shortage of fun.

After the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration, there were opportunities for students, faculty, alumni, staff, family and friends to participate in a wide variety of activities and programming. From the Fire & Ice Party, which featured student performances, s’mores and food trucks, to sessions focusing on the future of work, knowledge and service, Charter Day Weekend was full of celebration, reflection and connection.

Another highlight was a conversation with President Rowe and Chancellor Gates titled “The Fine Art of Disagreement & Diplomacy,” a topic that has received significant media attention and also been a hot-button issue on college campuses. Moderating the discussion was Jaime Settle, associate professor of government at William & Mary, who asked Rowe and Gates to provide their thoughts on the role of higher education in encouraging civil discourse around difficult issues and contrasting viewpoints.

Noting that this should be an area of ongoing conversation across university campuses and in public life, Gates said, “The promotion of disagreement is a critical tool of leadership. Any leader at any level who wants to be surrounded by people who agree with him or her is taking a gigantic risk. I have always found, in the different institutions I’ve led, that forcing disagreement — making people disagree with me — has been a powerful tool.”

While the weekend wound down, another effort was just beginning. President Rowe transitioned her Thinking Forward effort to Moving Forward — and started to prepare for her strategic planning process, which will formally commence in August.

Rowe’s overarching goals for strategic planning will be to advance William & Mary’s distinctive excellence in a rapidly changing environment while building a stronger and more sustainable financial foundation for the university.

It was truly an extraordinary weekend. There will undoubtedly be many bold moments for Rowe during her presidency at William & Mary. We look forward to being a part of those moments with her.