Blazing the Trail with the Class of '66

by Ashley K. Speed

Giving back to William & Mary is a big deal for the Class of 1966. The class set a new record by raising $27.8 million — the largest 50th Reunion gift ever given at William & Mary.

The $27.8 million encompasses gifts that were given to numerous areas of the university, including $1.7 million for the 1693 Scholarship Endowment and $642,019 for the expansion of William & Mary’s Alumni House.

The record-breaking total was announced during a luncheon in April at the Sadler Center. The class not only set a new giving record, they also boosted alumni participation numbers among their classmates.

“The For the Bold campaign is aimed at reaching 40 percent alumni participation,” says William & Mary President Emeritus Timothy Sullivan ’66, a reunion committee co-chair. “Well, the Class of 1966 has blazed the trail by reaching 48 percent alumni participation.”

The class exceeded their commemorative gift goal of $27 million. The Class of 1965, which raised $20.6 million for their 50th Reunion gift, held the previous record.

Throughout the luncheon, classmates exchanged memories about their individual journeys as students at the university. They spent the time catching up with old friends and meeting new classmates they never crossed paths with while on campus. They talked about favorite professors and both small and big moments that had shaped their W&M experience.

“Fiftieth reunions are joyous occasions,” William & Mary President Taylor Reveley says. “They are proof that the College lives and breathes across the decades. Reunions remind us that people are at the heart of the College.”

During the luncheon, attendees watched a slideshow of about 100 photos of life on campus during the 1960s. One photo showed a room packed with W&M students huddled around a TV inside the Campus Center watching news coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination. Other photos were of happier times: a Homecoming parade, football games, pep rallies, Commencement and couples dancing in the Sunken Garden.

Dr. Robert Gatten Jr. ’66, M.A. ’68 took the slideshow photos when he was an undergraduate student. Gatten, an emeritus professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, taught undergraduate and graduate courses in animal physiology from 1978 to 2005. Gatten, also a reunion committee member, said he was grateful to be a part of the effort to move William & Mary forward financially.

“This effort has shown me how many people from our class are deeply engaged,” Gatten says. “This relationship building is going to have an impact as our class moves into the Olde Guarde. We raised more than $27 million. That’s an incredible record showcasing alumni engagement, and I think we can all be proud of that.”

Dr. Virginia Rose Cherry ’66, a reunion committee member, says that her William & Mary education has served as the foundation for her success. Cherry worked as an academic librarian for 43 years in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Virginia. Nineteen years of her career were spent as director at William & Mary’s Richard Bland College Library in Petersburg, Va. Cherry was also the first librarian of the Chesterfield County Public Law Library.

“With state funding going lower, we need the support of everyone,” Cherry says. “It doesn’t have to be a great deal of money. It’s just about giving consistently.”
Reunion committee co-chair Peter Nance ’66 says it was important that one of the gifts go toward scholarships to impact future scholars.

“I am constantly reminded when I come to campus and interact with the students what a fabulous institution this is, and how it’s evolved to become a better institution for young women and men to contribute to the world,” Nance says. “I give to help affect that and to help perpetuate that.”

Nance retired from General Reinsurance Corporation as a senior vice president after more than 36 years working in various positions at the company.