We had our first President’s Aide meeting with President Reveley tonight. There are about 15 students who meet with him once a month so he has a better understanding of student sentiments and the happenings on campus. The meeting was like nothing I could have expected. It was held on the third floor of his house, and while climbing the stairs, my mind drifted to those who had walked up the same steps or slept in the beds that were visible from the slightly ajar doors. William and Mary has such a rich history that imagining Thomas Jefferson or George Washington in one of the rooms is no longer a dream but a past reality.
We ate Cheese Shop and talked about how we could encapsulate the College and what makes her unique. Some students talked about William and Mary as the “Alma Mater of the Nation.” Others talked about the school as “the best of the old and new.” Describing what makes William and Mary so special is something I struggled with all summer when talking with prospective students and families at Admissions. Sure, you can give them the stats and numbers: You could mention the level of civic engagement on campus by citing our unparalleled number of international service trips and the 300,000 hours of service that students commit annually. Or you might talk about the history by stating that we are the second oldest college and oldest university in the nation and that the Wren building is the oldest academic building still in use in the country. You could talk about the community and relationships fostered by students and faculty by describing the small faculty-student ratio (12-1) and ways in which professors go out of their way to better know their students. Yet even these facts or stories don’t do our College justice.
How can you describe the feeling of walking through the Wren on Convocation Day and having 2,000 students cheering on the other side for you, welcoming you to campus? Or the frenzy and excitment as you watch the fireworks illuminate Colonial Williamsburg for Grand Illumination? How do you make tangible the deep friendships and the genuine, intelligent, and compassionate students that pervade our campus? How might you describe the lure and enchantment that accompanies sitting in a three hundred year old classroom? Or the comfort that comes from the smile and wave that always greets you on your way to class? How do you explain that pain in your stomach that prevails whenever you imagine your life after leaving William and Mary? It’s difficult. Extremely difficult.
So all I can say for now is this: Come. Come and experience if for youself. And if, per chance, you find a way to adaquetely express these values of community, service, history, and engagement that make us unique, please fill me in on your secret.