Smith College provost named president of the College of William & Mary 

  • Smith College provost Katherine Anandi Rowe has been named the 28th president of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — A Smith College provost has been named president of the College of William & Mary, making her the first woman in the university’s 325-year history to hold the position.

Katherine Anandi Rowe was unanimously elected by the Board of Visitors to serve as William & Mary’s 28th president. Rowe currently serves as provost, dean of the faculty and the Sophia Smith professor of English language and literature at Smith College. Rowe will begin her new role on July 1.

“With Katherine Rowe as our president, I am confident we have found a leader who will help us achieve this shared vision of historical preeminence and contemporary excellence,” university Rector Todd A. Stottlemyer said during the announcement, which was live-streamed online Tuesday morning.

The College of William & Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, is the nation’s second oldest institution of higher education after Harvard University and the oldest in the South. Rowe and her family were in attendance for the announcement and to mark the occasion, the university rang its ceremonial Wren Bell 28 times.

Stottlemyer described Rowe as a “visionary leader deeply rooted in the liberal arts” and “their critical intersections with technology and research.”

Speaking to the William & Mary community, Rowe said she was “deeply honored.”

“My scholarship and the leadership roles that brought me to this moment have been dedicated to the idea that sustained thoughtful innovation is necessary for advancing the core values of the liberal arts, so I feel a deep connection to William & Mary’s history of intentional mission-driven transformation,” Rowe said.

Rowe will succeed W. Taylor Reveley III, who served as the university’s president for 10 years and had been with William & Mary for the past 20 years. She joins the university during a year of milestones: 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the first women enrolling at the university and the 50th anniversary of the first African-American undergraduates in residence.

“It’s an honor to be selected the first woman president in William & Mary’s history, especially as the university begins to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first women enrolled at William & Mary,” Rowe wrote in an email to the Gazette. “I am reminded that a woman, Queen Mary II, co-founded this institution 325 years ago. Since that time, William & Mary has been a place of history, leadership and innovation. It’s an honor to be selected to follow such great leaders in higher education and to be part of the amazing history.”

Rowe joined Smith College in 2014. During her tenure, the college started one of the first statistical and data sciences majors at a liberal arts college, as well as the first at a women’s college. While at Smith, the college added almost 30 new academic positions, about 45 percent of them held by people of color. She also served as Smith’s interim vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity. Leaving the college, she said, was bittersweet.

“I’ve been so incredibly happy at Smith,” Rowe said adding that she was warmly welcomed to the college when she arrived in Northampton.

While Rowe’s position at Smith is very different from the one that awaits her at William & Mary, she said her experience at Smith partnering with faculty in the transformation of the curriculum will help her in her new role.

Smith College President Kathleen McCartney called Rowe “a change leader with endless energy.”

“Her legacy at Smith will be felt for years to come — new majors, new processes and new programs. William & Mary will be in great hands under her leadership,” McCartney said in a statement.

Before her time at Smith, Rowe spent 16 years at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania as an English professor and department chair and the director of the college’s Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center. She also served as an assistant professor of English at Yale. Rowe holds a bachelor’s degree in English and American literature from Carleton College and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Harvard University.

In addition to her academic achievements, Rowe has spent more than a decade coaching ultimate Frisbee and led multiple teams to state championships in Pennsylvania. She was a World Ultimate Club finalist and a Women’s Nationals finalist. She is also a published author and cofounder and CEO of Luminary Digital Media, which developed a series of educational apps aimed at enhancing student engagement and learning of classic Shakespearean texts.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.