To the newest William & Mary alumni:
Close your eyes and picture this campus. The William & Mary you see is the one you’ve built over the last however many years it has taken you to get to this point. You’ve certainly had help along the way. This place is filled with people who worked to make your life better from day one: family, faculty, staff, classmates, the Griffin. You’ve had help along the way, but it’s been your W&M you’ve built. All the people and experiences you’ve discovered here have made this place what it is for you. And that is the William & Mary you get to keep with you, even as life changes, as your geography, social circles, job, hairstyle changes. The W&M you’ve built abides. Even as one of the things that changes is this campus.
As a young alumna who never really left this place, I’ve seen it happen and been a part of it happening. This campus remains alive. New buildings, new people, new thoughts, ideas, failures and successes. This place changes because of you. Because each of the incoming students has a W&M to build as well. And that’s one of the incredible parts of being an alum. You now have ownership over two William & Marys. The magical place you’ve experienced from freshman memories, GER struggles, final papers, people you’ve loved and people you’re ready to take some space from. That W&M is carried by you. And you also have this place that has been around a long time, that you can always return to. You now get to be that alum who jumps on a campus tour to say, “When I was a student here…” But you also get to be a part of honoring the change this campus undergoes, supporting the William & Mary new students are trying to build.
The W&M you carry with you from this day forward and this one right here that you can return to, they are not the same. Your relationship to this college is different now. Life is different now. Thankfully, W&M has prepared you for that change. Maybe some of you feel less prepared than others. Perhaps there is stress and intimidation about leaving these brick pathways. I can’t offer you a certainty of what comes next, but you can carry with you the certainty of these brick pathways. And of the helpers. There are so many alumni excited to support you in this part of the journey. And you’re a helper now too, someone current students will reach out to with their own uncertainties.
This place will be here and this place will always change. I encourage you to honor that because the same is true for you. The things you built into who you are while you were here – the friendships, the knowledge, the values – you get to carry that with you, and you get to change. You get to experience the shifts that happen with time passing. That can be hard and that can be incredible. Just as this place remains, who you were here is captured within you and within the friends, faculty, and staff you knew here as well. As an alumna, though, I welcome you to change because those changes will be part of your W&M alumni story. I am so grateful that I can welcome you to this branch of the family, and I want to congratulate you on your time at W&M. I know you’ve done incredible things here because this campus remains incredible and vibrant. This college is the powerful, beautiful, life changing, sometimes overwhelmingly daunting, but also loving place that it is because all of us, including alumni, join in making it.
So congratulations on being part of creating the W&M of today. Congrats on coming into the great unknown. And congratulations on now joining a new phase of building the W&M of years to come. Through all that comes next, this place is always your home. You’ve earned that above all else. (Although the diploma’s nice too.)
Goodbye and welcome all rolled into one.