Katherine Rowe, the 28th president of the College of William and Mary, will be inaugurated during the college’s annual Charter Day Ceremony Friday.
The event celebrates the university's founding by British royal charter in 1693. Rowe is the first woman to serve as the college’s president in its 326 years.
“Being inducted as the 28th president of this great institution is an incredible honor,” Rowe said when she was sworn in July 2, 2018. “In 1918, we became the first coeducational public university in the commonwealth, a 100-year anniversary we celebrate this year. And I discovered there are so many firsts here. More than any other school, William and Mary has shaped the character of our country of the last three centuries.”
Before coming to William and Mary, Rowe was the provost at Smith College, a small, private, liberal arts college in Massachusetts. One of Rowe’s main accomplishments there was diversifying the staff.
“I do take (diversity) very, very seriously, and the reason is — and this is true in many areas of our society, we see it in business, we see it in the military — that when you increase diversity, you increase your effectiveness in problem-solving, you increase the rate of innovation in any field,” Rowe said in an August interview. “We see that in academia as well, and so I think a community that is rich in diverse perspectives, experiences and values is the best preparation for citizenship and professional life in a pluralistic democracy.”
Rowe was unanimously selected by the Board of Visitors to succeed Taylor Reveley on Feb. 20, 2018.
Monday morning, Rowe announced that Gov. Ralph Northam would no longer be part of the school’s Charter Day activities, including her official inauguration, because of the controversy surrounding a picture in Northam’s medical school yearbook featuring a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan costume.
“However, under the circumstances, it has become clear that the governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event,” Rowe said in a prepared statement. “We have conferred with the governor’s office, and he will not be part of Friday’s program.”
One guest speaker still attending is Ayanna Thompson, a classmate of Rowe’s from Harvard and the current head of the Shakespeare Association of America. Suzanne Clavet, a spokeswoman for William and Mary, said she will introduce Rowe at the ceremony.
Also in attendance will be more than 140 delegates representing academic institutions and societies from across the world— including Harvard University, Bryn Mawr College and Smith College.
While Friday is Rowe’s inauguration, she has been working as the college’s president since being sworn in July 2. One of her first initiatives was seeking community input on the future of the university.
Rowe hosted in-person discussions, Twitter chats and accepted suggestions and comments through the William and Mary website.
The college will present its plans on how it’s preparing students for the future in three sessions on Friday in Miller Hall:
- Future of Work: Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking, 9:30-10:15 a.m. in the Ukrop Innovation and Design Studio and Alan B. Miller Entrepreneurship Center.
- Future of Knowledge: Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, 10:30-11:15 a.m. in the Brinkley Commons.
- Future of Service: Veterans Initiatives and Civilian Connections, 11:15 a.m. to noon in the Brinkley Commons.
In addition to Rowe’s inauguration, Robert Gates will be re-invested as William and Mary’s Chancellor.
Gates was first installed as the college’s 24th Chancellor in 2012, making him the first alumnus to serve in that role chancellor in the modern era.
Previously, Gates was the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2006-2011 and is the only person in American history to serve in this role under presidents from two different political parties.
Want to attend?
The Charter Day ceremony and inauguration will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Kaplan Arena on 751 Ukrop Way. The ceremony is free and open to the public.
If you can’t attend, you can stream the ceremony at wm.edu/sites/charterday/watchtheceremony/.
For a list of other Charter Day activities, see Page 4A.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.