Charter Day 2020: President Rowe’s remarks

Charter Day 2020: President Rowe’s remarks

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[Applause.] [KATHERINE A. ROWE] We mark our
university’s 327th birthday during an important year. We are engaged in strategic planning, taking a long view to advance what we
value most. This long view is my theme for today as
we call to mind William & Mary’s charter
and history. We began the planning process focused on
our vision, mission and values,
as you’ve heard. Together we affirmed who we strive to
be as a vibrantly diverse community. The full vision, mission and values
statement appears on the back of your
program. I hope you will read it and digest it. For now, I want to focus on the
conclusion. Here it is. We reflect on the lessons of history to
meet the challenges of a rapidly changing
world. We engage diverse perspectives and seek
wisdom in bridging differences. Today we are unceasing in our efforts to make a meaningful difference in our
communities, the state, the nation and the world. Since last year’s Charter Day, I have often been asked the question “How might we make William & Mary’s long
history an asset in the decade to come?” One answer: We are building on 327 years
of innovation, and we’re not done yet. As we chart our path, we have a
responsibility to take the approach both of the historian and the
entrepreneur with curiosity and firm commitment
to excellence. This is an exciting year for another
reason. As many of you know, 2020 is the
centennial anniversary of the 19th
amendment. The amendment reflected passionate and
sustained advocacy from trailblazers
such as Mary Church Terrell. My fellow president and Shakespeare
scholar Dr. Ayanna Thompson invoked
Ms. Terrell’s famous maxim to “lift as you climb” at last year’s
Charter Day ceremony. At the 1898 National American Women’s
Suffrage Association convening,
Ms. Terrell said, “With courage, born of success achieved
in the past, with a keen sense of the
responsibility which we shall continue
to assume, we look forward to a future large
with promise and hope.” The 19th amendment dramatically expanded
suffrage. However, its success at the time
was limited. It was not until 1965 when the
Voting Rights Act expanded the franchise. We look back on this history in order to
grapple with weighty questions
we now face: who is enfranchised today? How might we advance prosperity for all
by inviting new partners into our
political, social and economic systems? Into the ways we tell history and the
ways we innovate. Charter Day calls us to reflect on our
university’s history at a key moment
in strategic planning. We have completed a robust external scan
of challenges and opportunities ahead. The results are available on the
planning website. Now, as we engage the findings of that
scan, we will formulate problem
statements about those challenges and
opportunities. And those problem statements will
drive our strategy in the decade to come. So, we need to hear from you. What do you find powerful in those scans?
What would you add? Let me close with three pressing questions
that are front-of-mind right now, and give examples of the ways
that we’re beginning to answer them. First question: How might we welcome and
amplify new voices in our
learning community? Our new Entrepreneurship Hub in Tribe
Square invites students, faculty and staff
from all areas into the mindset of successful
change leadership. Diversity accelerates innovation. This year more than 50 percent of those
participating in the Hub’s programs
will be women; more than 40 percent underrepresented
minorities, and more than 60 percent come from
majors outside the business school. And this spring, William & Mary launched
an Institute for Integrative
Conservation. The institute combines the expertise of
academic, public, private and non-profit
sectors with a key goal: to build a pipeline of underrepresented
scholars pursuing sustainability and
conservation. We’re growing partnerships with
international conservation organizations such as Nat Geo, Conservation
International, the Wildlife Conservation
Society and Rainforest Trusts, in order to build capacity in the regions
where conversation and resilience
are most necessary. Second question: How might we strengthen
our connections and our collaborations
across this campus and beyond? I’ve just given you one example of an
answer with the IIC. Here’s a second. We will revitalize Kaplan Arena as part of a re-imagined William & Mary
athletics complex. This renovation creates a crossroads for
our campus, where we can gather, welcome
new students and cheer on our teammates. The renovation also recognizes how
important the City of Williamsburg is
to this campus. We see it as a crossroads for the
community, as well. If we do our jobs well at William & Mary, we create lifelong relationships. We’ve learned how durable those can be
during the course of our For the Bold
campaign. Remarkably, we have grown alumni
participation dramatically, in spite of precipitous drops around the
nation at other institutions. We only have 4 months left to reach our
1 billion dollar goal. It will take all of us to close the
campaign triumphantly. Thank you for being such great teammates
as we sprint across the finish line. Charter Day takes a long view of
William & Mary. The past three-and-a-quarter centuries
embolden us to lift as we climb. We plan our future in service to our
commonwealth, the nation and the world, imagining a place of universal study
and belonging for all times coming. [Applause.]

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