The Transformer

Taylor Reveley III ’68 Helped Transform William & Mary’s Law School, Then the Entire College
Taylor Reveley
May 2, 2017

In 2008, Taylor Reveley was sworn in as the 27th president of the College of William & Mary, the second-oldest university in the nation. Though he was a lawyer for many years at Hunton & Williams in Richmond — nine of them as managing partner — you might say higher education was in his blood. His father, W. Taylor Reveley II, was president of Hampden-Sydney College from 1963-77, and his oldest son, W. Taylor Reveley IV ’02, was appointed president of Longwood University in 2013.

Reveley graduated from Princeton University before studying law, and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. after law school. As a lawyer at Hunton & Williams, Reveley worked on energy matters, especially those involving commercial nuclear power. He served as dean of the William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, the oldest law school in America, from 1998-2008. His scholarship has focused on the war powers between the president and Congress.

Reveley’s presidency at William & Mary has concentrated on building a sustainable financial foundation for the public ivy. His launch of a strategic planning effort soon after he took office revolutionized how the university approached long-term planning, as well as its vision and direction. Under his leadership, the school has set records in fundraising, even during the U.S. financial crisis.

‘Unwavering Focus’

Bob Scottby Robert E. Scott, Alfred McCormack Professor of Law and director of the Center on Contract and Economic Organization at Columbia Law School, and ninth dean of UVA Law

I first encountered Taylor Reveley when, as the UVA Law dean, I went to visit him in Richmond in 1993 to seek his help in raising a significant gift for our new law grounds project from Law School graduates who  were members of his firm, Hunton & Williams. At the time, Taylor had recently stepped down as the managing partner of the firm, having been named to that position at the age of 38. What struck me then, as he willingly volunteered to help our efforts, and as is most apparent even after a short conversation with Taylor, is that he is exceptionally smart but never lets you know that he knows this is true.

Taylor and I came to know each other better when he was named dean of the William & Mary Law School in 1998. We had recently reached an informal agreement with the central University at Virginia on a new economic model for the Law School, one that gave the school more autonomy over its own affairs and permitted increases in in-state tuition in exchange for a commitment to share some of the increased tuition revenues with the central University. Taylor was intrigued and immediately worked his magic in creating a similar arrangement at William & Mary, thereby providing his law school a major financial boost that led quickly to significant enhancement in student and faculty quality and, in short order, in national reputation.

In 2008, Taylor was named the president of William & Mary following the resignation of Gene Nichol. For the next eight years, as a member of the William & Mary Board of Visitors, I had the great pleasure to watch President Reveley in action, up close and personal. Taylor drove his diverse constituency of students, faculty, alumni and board members toward a single objective — restoring William & Mary’s proper place as the “alma mater of the nation.” This goal required instilling a sense of pride that was all too lacking in the alumni population, encouraging higher levels of productivity from the faculty, and spearheading the drive to enact the William & Mary Promise that permitted dramatic increases in faculty salaries while maintaining affordable educational opportunities for middle-class residents of the commonwealth. Throughout this period, even while calmly weathering all the crises attendant on his job, Taylor maintained his unwavering focus on enhancing the educational quality and national reputation of William & Mary. It is no accident that he is universally beloved by all of those constituencies that he has led through these past eight years.

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