Five takeaways from the W&M Board of Visitors sessions

The College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors met this Thursday and Friday for two days of presentations and discussion.

Discussions largely focused on the university’s financial state approaching the end of the For the Bold campaign, along with separate presentations on university rankings, athletics and the affiliated Richard Bland College.

With the university’s school year beginning Aug. 29, here are five takeaways from the sessions.

Beyond For the Bold

William and Mary just eclipsed the $800 million mark in its billion-dollar For the Bold campaign, and while Vice President for University Advancement Matthew Lambert said the last $200 million will be the hardest, they are also beginning to look ahead.

Unlike some universities that rely on large endowments, William and Mary is heavily dependent on tuition, accounting for 43 percent of its total revenue along with other student fees.

In-state undergraduate tuition has almost doubled in the past seven years, but so has undergraduate financial aid. Out-of-state students, who pay more than double the tuition of in-state students but have less available aid.

When searching for future revenue sources, the board wants to balance affordability with profitability. Relying on tuition so heavily helps them escape the dangers of a stock-market-dependent endowment, but it also limits their options for raising money in the future.

Other potential revenue sources discussed in the meetings were auxiliary fees, like dining and athletics.

In 2016, the board asked itself what it wanted to look like in 10 years, and now, eight years from 2026, they are still trying to make sure they have the right physical and fiscal infrastructure necessary if they want to increase enrollment or change another aspect of the university.

Following hours of discussion, the group agreed to table further talk until later meetings.

Rowe’s first meetings

After Taylor Reveley retired this summer, Katherine Rowe, the university’s new Frisbee-playing, Shakespeare-reading and cat-owning president led her first series of meetings with the Board of Visitors this week.

Rowe opened the sessions on Thursday with a discussion of her leadership style and the presidential transition process.

She said her approach begins with listening and she has started an active effort to reflect on the university’s past and present with a fresh perspective.

“I do my best thinking in company,” Rowe said. “I want to use the asset of being new.”

Rowe hsa spent the summer in meetings and on the phone, with veterans of the College and current students.

She emphasized that the university needs to prioritize a long-term view and outlined three domains to explore in the coming year: the future of knowledge, work and service.

True to her word, Rowe spent much of the remaining sessions silently taking notes.


The Thursday meetings took place at the Moton Conference Center at Holly Knoll across the York River in Gloucester. The conference center campus was the plantation-style retirement home of Dr. Robert Russa Moton, an early 20th century civil rights activist.

According to its website, the campus has entertained many prominent civil rights leaders in its history, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is said to have written portions of his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on the lawn.

The center is now owned by the Gloucester Institute, which uses the site to host events for emerging student leaders from historically black universities.

“We’ll see if the campus can work its magic on us,” said Rector John Littel at the start of the session.

This was the board’s first visit to the Moton Center.

On Friday, the meetings transitioned to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the university’s graduate school for marine science, located in Gloucester Point. This was the board’s first visit to the institute in four years.

During breakfast, the board heard quick presentations on the institute’s outreach programs.

Richard Bland

Representatives from Richard Bland College, the two-year junior college affiliated with William and Mary, outlined a recovery in enrollment after a large decrease last year, due to its raised academic standards.

Without offering any specific numbers, Richard Bland Provost Kenneth LaTessa said that they experienced a significant decline in enrollment but have recovered since then, though finalized numbers will not be available until September.

In addition, they discussed issues the college continues to face. First among those is marketing, which they said continues to be the college’s greatest challenge.


After a Thursday and Friday spent in meetings, President Rowe will move into the President’s House this weekend.

Along with her husband, Bruce, and her cats, Rowe lived in the university’s Plumeri House this summer, with her things scattered across four locations.

“I’ve been living out of suitcases for almost two months now,” she said.

Both the President’s House and Office will look different than in President Reveley’s time; it will feature a new whiteboard for the office and Rowe’s own piano for her house.

Petersen can be reached by phone at 757-345-8812 or by email at

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