Reveley Is His Own Best First Impression

Published 5:23 pm Thursday, April 4, 2013

W. Taylor Reveley IV did not huff.

Longwood University's president-elect did not puff.

And he did not try to blow anybody's house down during last week's campus unveiling to the community.

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The breezy March wind whipping around the Rotunda above the Blackwell Ballroom last Tuesday was given no loud sound bites to carry away for anyone to get carried away with.

Reveley-pronounced Reeveley-does not rhyme with reveille and the 38-year old's first public words did not resemble a bugle call or trumpeting to awaken the troops and spur them on to battle.

The understated entrance, therefore, was perfectly pitched.

Longwood University does not need to be roused from sleep. Longwood is wide awake and eager. The university is waiting for its next president to accept the baton from interim president Marge Connelly who, it must be said, has done a superb job of providing the leadership so vitally necessary following the unexpected resignation as president, for health reasons, of the immensely popular Patrick Finnegan last spring.

Moreover, my impression is that Reveley's understated debut will undoubtedly prove to be authentic and true of who the man is down to his bones.

Genuinely W. Taylor Reveley IV.

Which makes it better yet.

Longwood's next president seems clearly a very thoughtful man, a mind of great depth, a character of humble strength, and one who does not feel compelled to bring on bells and whistles as props for the stage.

As a first impression, that is a very definite take-away.

Longwood and this community won't get an act with W. Taylor Reveley IV.

Sound and fury most often do signify nothing very much exists within the noise.

We will, one feels comfortable predicting, get substance.

Value, not vanity.

The Longwood community, I believe, will be given authorship, direction and production that does not feel driven to craft a stage performance to hold sway over an audience.

That is because one feels comfortable predicting there will be no audience, either. Everybody is going to be working together as a team. The future of Longwood University is not a spectator sport or piece of dramatic entertainment with its president putting on a one-man show.

Collective collaboration, focused on creative problem-solving and the university's continued journey of dynamic evolution across the landscape of higher education, will be most important to Longwood's success.

Reveley, make no mistake, is going to lead Longwood University. The door to the office of president has been opened to him and he has been given the key. His footsteps are taking him closer to June 1 when he calls the university and this community home. The buck will stop at his desk. But ideas won't. Suggestions won't. And neither will Reveley.

In a brief interview last Tuesday, I asked him which of his qualities he believes will be most important to Longwood. His answer was “perspective.”


That's not an answer you find around life's corner every day.

But it's an answer that life's corners, and our turning them, could use a lot more of on a daily basis.

“I've seen higher education in a number of different roles,” he told me. “I've seen it as an administrator at UVA, at the Miller Center. I've seen it as a board chair at Virginia Intermont. I've seen it through the eyes of the Commonwealth as I worked with them to get the New College Institute started at Martinsville. I've seen it through the eyes of an alum too. I've done a lot with UVA and with Princeton as an alum and I think it's that broad perspective that will be especially helpful.”

The more viewpoints you have of something, the better you understand it. We understand the mountain better after climbing it to the top than we do holding a postcard of it in our hands.

People sometimes write, “Wish you were here” on postcards. Longwood won't need to. Reveley will be here on June 1 and Longwood's ascension toward the mountaintop will continue. Perspective will be essential. Reveley's and, he knows quite well, the perspective of others, too.

Reveley's grandfather, W. Taylor Reveley II, was president of Hampden-Sydney College from 1963 to 1977, and his father, W. Taylor Reveley III, is president of the College of William and Mary. Longwood's president-elect understands the importance of perspective on a college campus.

Asked what advice his grandfather would give him, Reveley answered, “To listen a lot. He was always a great listener. And to celebrate traditions, too. He knew how to celebrate traditions at Hampden-Sydney.”

Listening, even just a little listening, is hard to do if you are huffing and puffing and trying to impress someone by blowing their house down.

Reveley's low-key appearance last Tuesday holds the promise of a man who will fit the lock and open the door through which the university needs to pass at this stage of its life.

The most revealing feature of Reveley's unveiling may have been the one moment when he made things loud, the one instance where he turned on the spotlight.

That is because he made it loud about Longwood.

Because he put Longwood in the spotlight.

Not himself.

He led the gathering in a cheer for Longwood University.

That was the bell.

That was the whistle.

And it was simply everyone putting their voices together into one voice about something other than themselves. The breezy March wind swirling above the Rotunda would have carried that away.

No one person's back is strong enough, nor are any one person's shoulders broad enough, to carry a university even one foot into the future-most of us need help moving our desk three feet to the left.

Everyone must lift and move forward.

At Longwood, the lifting and the forward movement have already begun.