Reveley seen as a "personal president"

It's the end of an era for the College of William and Mary.

After a decade, the college's 27th president, Taylor Reveley, is stepping down with the end of his contract in June 2018.

Since 2008, Reveley has lived in the President's House, a red-brick structure nestled in historic campus adjacent to the Wren Building. His commute is just across the lawn to the Brafferton.

Walking to his office, run-ins with students, faculty and the occasional tourist are inevitable.

College alumna Kimberly Renner, the associate director of historic campus, started her career weeks before Reveley became president. His swearing in was the first event she helped with in her new position.

"I will miss his witty banter and his unique way of saying things, … it's genuine, it's who he is," Renner said. "He's very clever and I think he's made it his focus, it's his passion to do the best he can do for this school."

Renner runs into the president frequently in the course of her work, but he is accessible to students, too.

For some, Reveley is a personal president. Although his primary job is fund raising and attracting big donors, he became an icon for students.

His face is splashed on homecoming tee-shirts. He reads "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to students each winter, lets them trick-or-treat at his house each Halloween.

Incoming freshmen sing the Alma Mater at his doorstep during orientation in the fall.

"I definitely think I will miss his leadership and miss his ability to connect with students," student government president Eboni Brown said. "It's difficult to connect with every student on this campus because we're all so unique and so different, but President Reveley had a way of talking to you, and talking specifically to you."

Brown said Reveley is a campus celebrity. When students see him around campus, they'll scramble for a photo.

Reveley counts the $1 billion For the Bold fund raising campaign among his accomplishments, but admits he could have responded better at a meeting with the college's Black Lives Matter Conference last week.

Senior Erica West, who helped organize the conference, doesn't see that same personal connection that Brown does. She said the meeting with Reveley "did not go well."

The college has grown more diverse during Reveley's tenure, reflecting the changing demographics of the country. West said Reveley doesn't speak to the campus climate well — particularly with race relations.

"To me, president Reveley represents the end of an era for the college," West said. "His communications — his tone-deafness at times — it seemed almost like a lack of awareness when speaking to the campus, speaking to campus climate."

The college's demographics are diversifying, and so should the office of the president, West said.

"I think the college is more than ready for a person who is not a rich, white man," West said. "I also think to some degree it's necessary. I'm looking forward to have a president who can communicate and hear the student voice."

Brown said she's excited for the college's future and Reveley deserves his retirement — he'll be 75 next June. Renner said the next president has big shoes to fill.

"I think that's what we'll miss, having that grandfather that's there and that cares," Brown said.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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