The College of William & Mary has commemorated recently the 321st anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter. It was a festive occasion that included also the conferring of an honorary degree on the newly elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Terence R. McAuliffe.
But what made the celebrations special was a retrospective on William & Mary's achievements in creating leaders who, after graduating from the college, have entered public service and attained leading positions in their fields.
Taylor Reveley, president of William & Mary, in his report to the college community noted that "our storied history included three U.S. presidents (four if you count George Washington - I do), two vice presidents, four members of the U.S. Supreme Court including the great Chief Justice John Marshall, four U.S. secretaries of state, four U.S. attorneys general, and the founders of M.I.T. and the University of Virginia."
Taylor Reveley, president of William & Mary College
Being known as the alma mater of the nation is a pretty distinctive reputation. But what seems to make Reveley extra proud is the fact that so many graduates of the college have been chosen to leading positions in our country, in recent years.
He named just a few: James Comey, director of the FBI; Ellen Stofan, NASA's chief scientist; Mary Jo White, head of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Jonathan Jarvis, leading our country's national parks; Congressman Eric Cantor elected majority leader in the House; and Christina Romer, chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers. Another, alumnus, Robert Gates, became the only secretary of defense serving two presidents, from different parties. He is now William & Mary's sitting chancellor.
"In a recent study, William & Mary ranked first nationally in the percentage of graduates entering careers in public service over the last decade," Reveley wrote. "But leadership in all walks of life, not just public service, is in our DNA. In addition to the names we know, there are also countless unsung heroes among our alumni who lead in their communities, state - even the world."
Those results have been achieved by a rigorous adherence to proven teaching methods. The U.S. News & World Report ranked William & Mary first among public universities for the excellence in undergraduate teaching and the third among all universities - private or public - behind only Dartmouth and Princeton.
The Reves Center for International Studies, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of its establishment this year, coordinates all global activities across the university's five schools. It made William & Mary rank first among public universities in the country for the percentage of undergraduates having global experience during their college years. It also attends to the needs of 580 international students on the campus, from 55 countries, this year.
Reveley also pointed out that the Muscarelle Museum of Art continued to present exhibitions of amazing caliber. It featured some of Michelangelo's most rare and precious drawings. It has attracted some 50,000 visitors to the campus. Other major exhibits have included Medici collections, Andrew Wyeth's paintings, Tiffany glass and also a selection of costumes from the personal collection of actress Glenn Close, an alumna.
All this, according to college reports, was achieved by using financial resources in an effective way. William & Mary was ranked 114th among major U.S. universities in financial resources, but 32nd in providing quality services.
It is first among universities in efficiency in both academic and business dimensions.
All in all, not a bad report card for an institution of higher education in its 321st year of existence.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.