YOUR FIRST FOUR YEARS have been eventful, from the adoption of a new campus master plan and core curriculum to hosting the Vice Presidential Debate. Looking to the future, what are your main priorities?
THESE LAST FOUR YEARS, Longwood has become an increasingly powerful voice not only in Virginia but more broadly. We are in a divisive and tumultuous time in the nation, perhaps everyone would agree, and I think that makes Longwood’s distinctive mission of cultivating citizen leaders all the more important. That is the powerful thrust of what I think about when considering Longwood’s future— how do we do that better?
Making the new core curriculum as powerful as it can be for the future has been very much on the faculty’s mind for a long time. The thought that occurred to me and a number of people was to marry it with our mission in a deep way. Citizen leadership has been an animating idea in student organizations and life on campus, but it hadn’t necessarily been at the heart of the curriculum. Now it will be, and it really will shape generations of students in a unique and powerful way.
Looking back over this past fall in particular, the most important long-term legacy of the Vice Presidential Debate will be kickstarting the new curriculum. But it also produced all sorts of connections across campus— people who hadn’t necessarily had great cause to work together have been in the crucible together now, which will be instrumental for all sorts of endeavors Longwood undertakes in the future. I think we learned a great lesson about ourselves, too: that there is untapped potential here. Longwood hadn’t entirely grasped all the things it had the wherewithal to do, but doing the debate so well has given everyone a sense of what we can do in the future.
YOU OFTEN TALK about having Longwood in your bones—several generations of your family have been part of Longwood. How have you found that affects you as president?
IT MAKES THE MOST difference with regard to the perspective that I have on Longwood. When I sit at my desk, I look right across my office at a portrait, from Longwood’s art collection, of my great-grandfather Thomas Eason, who was the chair of the biology department here at the turn of the 20th century. And I was particularly close with my grandmother, Marie Eason Reveley, his daughter, Class of ’40, first lady of Hampden- Sydney during my granddad’s presidency there from the early 1960s through late ’70s.
It’s really wonderful to look across my office and see that portrait and wonder about my great-grandfather’s thoughts and perspective in the early days of what felt like a very new century a hundred years ago. There have been dreams for this place, culminating over the generations, for a very long time. When I think most deeply about Longwood, I tend to think in long sweeps of time— what will this place be like a century from now, more so than just a year from now or even a decade from now.
YOU TEACH a course each fall and host regular lunches with Longwood students. What sticks out to you about them
TEACHING the course on the U.S. presidency every fall with the iconic Dr. Bill Harbour is one of the great joys of being here, drawing on my own background and work regarding the White House. It’s a wonderful thing to see young Lancers thinking about how the past has enormous bearing on the future and how it can be a source of wisdom, solace and strength. When I meet with students or see them out and about on campus, there’s a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, care for one another and a remarkable sense of optimism in the face of the country’s challenges.
THIS IS A TUMULTUOUS TIME for public institutions. How strong is Longwood financially, and what needs to happen over the course of the next decade for it to thrive?
WE ARE REMARKABLY STRONG, and that’s a testament to the people who have built that strength over many generations, something the Board of Visitors and I think about often. That said, all states across the country face a challenge in funding public higher education, and Virginia, despite enormous goodwill on the part of state officials and leaders, is no exception.
Over the next decade, we can expect public funding for Longwood to be most likely at roughly its current level, which is to say a good bit less than a decade ago let alone in prior times. That’s a real challenge when you think about the prevailing issue of the cost of higher education, which simply cannot continue to escalate the way it has. The solution is to really engage every engine to make sure we have enough student scholarship funding philanthropically in the future to make sure Longwood remains affordable.
WHERE ARE WE compared with similar universities on that front?
WE HAVE SOME GROUND to catch up. We award roughly $1.5 million in philanthropic scholarship funding each year, which is a small fraction of what students and families bear. Many of our peers are providing double or triple that amount.
WHY ARE WE BEHIND?
THE HABIT OF PHILANTHROPY across alumni and friends of an institution is almost a generational matter. UVA or William & Mary, for example, began that habit almost a century ago. Longwood, on the other hand, did not create the Longwood Foundation until the 1950s, and it’s been only in the last generation or two that we have strongly nurtured the habit of philanthropy.
That’s why I’ve made the alumni giving percentage a key barometer of how the university as a whole is doing. There is almost a direct correlation of that measure with the momentum of an institution. The simple act of making a contribution—no matter if it’s $10, $100 or $1,000—involves you powerfully with the alma mater. The better Longwood does at involving and engaging alumni, the stronger we will be.
YOU’RE ALSO WORKING to get more alumni coming back to campus, and part of that is shifting the way we do reunions (see story on Page 45). What is the hope behind that effort?
ONE OF THE GREAT JOYS in life is going back to the alma mater and seeing the things you loved and cherished during your time, and how they remain part of the fabric of the institution. That’s a powerful experience, especially when shared with alumni throughout the years and eras.
Perhaps even more important is how those coming of age now develop a real sense of what their own future can be like when they engage with alumni further established in life. We can all remember a time when we got help or advice along the way, and alumni can be in that great role of providing encouragement, assistance and connections going forward. One very practical step we’ve also taken in that regard is integrating our alumni and career services offices to work hand-in-hand.
WHEN PEOPLE DO COME BACK, they are often surprised by the number of things going on in Farmville. What are some things people can expect in the next few years?
IN A WAY THAT’S RELATIVELY RARE in American higher education, our campus and the downtown of Farmville are cheek to jowl with one another, and the work that the town and Longwood are doing to ensure a natural, walkable flow back and forth will have a great impact over time. In the next year and a half, alumni who come back will see our bookstore moved to its new location on Main Street, a new brewery, a recently opened wine bar, likely some new restaurants and the Weyanoke Hotel in full cry, which will be springing back to life as a boutique hotel right across High Street next year.
VISITORS THIS YEAR will also find a lot of construction on the central campus, like the new Upchurch University Center. Will Longwood’s campus continue to have that distinctive feel alumni cherish?
IT ABSOLUTELY WILL. Altogether, about $150 million in construction projects are shaping campus for the next generation. Maybe the foremost principle when we think about construction is to make sure the spirit and the beauty of Longwood are reflected in the new buildings, so that they have the same classical elegance as the Rotunda. If you haven’t been to campus recently, when you’re back next you’ll find that Longwood’s new buildings certainly do reflect that.
I am enormously excited about the momentum we have. Applications have been rising and rising—up almost 40 percent compared with four years ago.President W. Taylor Reveley IV
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST about the years immediately ahead? Where do we need to push ourselves to get better?
I AM ENORMOUSLY EXCITED about the momentum we have. Applications have been rising and rising—up almost 40 percent compared with four years ago. Longwood’s profile around Virginia and the country is increasingly robust. And a truly distinctive new curriculum that so strongly reinforces our mission is really going to strengthen this place. That, in combination with the new Brock Endowment for Transformational Learning (see story on Page 24), is genuinely going to strengthen the experience of teaching and learning that takes place here, in so many ways.
With that momentum, I’m particularly attentive to three things. First, that we do all we can to make sure our students have a strong network here and a strong pathway to graduation. Those personal connections with staff and faculty and fellow students are so important. Second, with the challenges of state funding, we have to ensure—with scholarship funding in particular—that we are doing our best to keep Longwood affordable. Third, we must ensure we continue to attract great faculty to Longwood—the future Jim Jordans, the Bill Harbours, the Susan Mayses. Our success depends fundamentally on the continued excellence of our faculty.
ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE, what is it like raising young children in Longwood House and on a college campus? And as a parent, husband and president, how do you manage everything? And how do you relax?
RAISING CHILDREN around our campus is a magical experience. There is this evocative phrase I came across not long ago that a campus is like a temporary paradise. So to be able to raise your family around a college is a great thing, especially Longwood, which my family has cherished through the generations. The twins in particular love being in the house, and racing all through the backyard on warm summer days.
Marlo and I have actually been together now for 20 years, since right after we were finishing college ourselves, and married for 15 years. We got married my last year of law school and Marlo’s last year of business school at Darden. And we are in the midst of the great modern juggling act now of balancing two careers and our family: keeping a watchful eye over the increasingly creative twins, while supporting each other’s careers and their demanding travel schedules, and also finding time to genuinely and simply enjoy the moment.
When the particularly quiet junctures come, I’m a voracious and omnivorous reader of things high and low. I often find myself reading a lot of poetry, which usefully comes in consumable pieces. And a great bit of advice I got from a favorite Greek professor once was that, if you really want to relax the brain, go to a movie—even better if it’s a matinee. So every once in a while that’s what I do.