Earl Granger, III, W&M Class of 1992
Earl T. Granger III arrived at William & Mary in 1988. During his time at William & Mary he participated in theatre, was a President’s Aide, an Admissions tour guide, and served as the President of the Black Students Organization.
He graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and worked as the Assistant Dean for Admission before earning a Master of Education Administration from William & Mary in 1998. As an alumnus, he has served as president of the Hulon Willis Association. He is currently the Associate Vice President for Development at William & Mary.
In his interview, Granger reflects fondly on the impact of Dean Carroll Hardy on his experience and of how her program, the Student Transition Enrichment Program (STEP), helped prepare him for the transition from high school to college. At the time, his class was the largest cohort of African American students in the history of William & Mary, and he recalls that the BSO, “really provided that venue or opportunity for young African American students to express themselves as part of a collective.” His current position with William & Mary allows Granger to examine how diversity and inclusion have grown and changed over the past 30 years.
William & Mary
Interviewee: Earl Thomas Granger, III
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: April 26, 2017 Duration: 01:18:46
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt, the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around 10:00 a.m. on April 26, 2017. We’re sitting in the Alumni House with Earl Thomas Granger, III. So I’m going to start asking you some questions. It’s going to be a little repetitive to start, but…
Carmen: What is your name and then the date and the place of your birth?
Earl: My name is Earl T. Granger, III, born in Richmond, Virginia, November 21, 1970.
Carmen: What years did you attend William & Mary and/or work here?
Earl: Most of my career. I was a student—
Carmen: You’ve been here so long.
Earl: Yeah. I was a student from 1988 until 1992 for my undergraduate studies, and I started working here then. And I worked here from ’92 to ’96 in the admission office as an assistant dean of admissions.
00:00:55 While working I started my graduate studies on my master’s in the School of Education, and ultimately received my master’s in 1998. But I left William & Mary in ’96, went to work at Tufts, and then spent some time at UNC Chapel Hill, and returned to William & Mary in 2006, and I’ve been here since.
Carmen: So a lot of coming and going, but this seems to be home.
Earl: It is home. It is definitely home.
Carmen: Can you tell me…you told me that you were born in Richmond, Virginia, but can you tell me a little bit of how you were raised and about your family?
Earl: Sure. I come from a very tight-knit family. I have an older sister. And we, as you know, we were born and raised in Richmond. Again, a close family. Education was always stressed. In fact, when I think back, my paternal grandmother was the first one in her family to actually finish high school. And so in terms of the conversation in our household, it wasn’t a matter of when you go to college, or if you would go to college, it was about when you would go to college.
00:02:06 So raised in the church. Grew up Presbyterian, so a very tight-knit, close church family as well as biological family. My mom worked in the public school system. My father worked at Philip Morris for a number of years. And my family also owned a dry cleaners. And in fact my grandfather actually owned an establishment in Richmond. So I also came from sort of a family of entrepreneurs, so risk-taking, which I’m not so much as my father and grandfather are.
But, you know, we were, I would say, middle class, as you have or you define middle class. I think what I’ve found out now, you know, being middle class, maybe we weren’t so middle class, quite honestly. But, you know, kind of held those values close in terms of education being a way to propel yourself forward.
00:02:55 And I’ll be very frank. William & Mary was not on my list of schools. But I had the good fortune to participate in a summer program at William & Mary after my junior year in high school, and I was really fortunate that my English teacher in high school, her daughter had gone to William & Mary, and she was the one who made me apply to the summer program. It wasn’t voluntary, she made me apply. And it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
And so I spent four years—four weeks, rather—in the summer, of July of 1987, a very hot and brutal summer. But it was really the first time I had been away from home for an extended period of time like that without my parents. And that’s what really introduced me to William & Mary, which ultimately framed and influenced my decision to apply a year later for admission. And I owe a lot of that credit to a woman who was here, who’s now deceased, Dr. Carroll Hardy.
00:03:57 We used to call her Dean. And for years I had often heard of this woman Dean, and I actually thought it was her name, not a title that’s associated with academic titles or whatever. But that’s the reason that I ultimately came to William & Mary, Dean Hardy.
Carmen: That’s wonderful. So did you encounter Dean Hardy during the STEP program?
Earl: Yeah, the STEP program, the Student Transition Enrichment Program. That was her program. And she had, I think, written a grant years ago, and actually just generations of students participated. And, you know, it was a program for high achieving students of color from Virginia.
And I will tell you I still have some of my best friends today who I met in that program, many of whom came to William & Mary, many of whom did not come to William & Mary, but we’ve stayed in touch. And now with the advent of Facebook and social media, we’re really able to keep up with one another. But yeah, Dean Hardy and that STEP program really opened my eyes in some ways that what you don’t know…you don’t know what you don’t know.
00:05:00 And I had the good fortune to take a calculus class when I was here with a guy by the name of Dr. Connors, who’s now deceased. But when I came here as a freshman I reconnected with him. And it was just, it was a good experience, and I think it was a great introduction to college life for me in a way that when I ultimately came here a year later, I knew where everything was, which, it was very familiar, which was comforting, in some ways.
Carmen: I would say so. I’m still learning the campus. I would have liked some sort of introduction.
Earl: And I will say campus looks very different now than it did in 1987, when I think about the buildings and the construction projects that have taken place, and just really how campus has filled out. So I still know my way around, but it looks very different.
Carmen: Tell me a little bit about that, will you?
Earl: Well, you know, I think now that I’ve been out of school almost 25 years, you expect some growth to take place, but in terms of the physical footprint of William & Mary, there are a number of new facilities—residence halls, academic buildings. When I think about Millington Hall, you know, I took a lot of psychology classes in that building and that building is being demolished as we speak. I took the majority of my classes in Morton Hall, which I think many of us hope that that building comes down sooner rather than later.
So in that way, I mean, I do think William & Mary has made significant progress around updating its facilities and really improving even the residential experience for its students. We have new residence halls. And I personally believe, as a freshman, you don’t deserve air conditioning. I think there’s a rite of passage that takes place. But now a lot of the freshman halls even have air conditioning, which, I get it. But again, the physical plant has improved quite a bit.
Carmen: So you remember those brutal summers, or at least, I guess, you weren’t here at the summer, but the brutal heat of William & Mary in your dorm.
Earl: Oh, I do. I do. And I did spend a few summers. In fact after my…I guess after each year while I was enrolled I did work those summer programs that I’d had the opportunity to attend. I worked as a counselor. And then my last summer I was the assistant director, so I was right under Dean Hardy in terms of running those summer programs, so I was here every summer. So I experienced the heat at its finest in Williamsburg.
Carmen: Minus the air conditioning.
Earl: Minus the air conditioning. The only place you could get air conditioning was in the common space, the lounges. But once you retired to your room, that was it.
Carmen: Sweat it out.
Earl: That’s right.
Carmen: So that is clearly one of the feelings you remember from coming here.
Earl: Oh, I do. I can see it vividly. It almost brings back—I hate to say this—but smells. Like there are things that, when I walk into certain spaces even on campus now, like the campus center on Jamestown Road.
00:08:02 Which I’m surprised that building is still standing. There’s a certain aroma that goes with that building that reminds me of 1987, 1988. And, you know, there are certain things that happen that sort of trigger certain memories for periods of time in your memory. I have very fond memories of most of the spaces on campus.
Carmen: So we were talking about Dean Hardy.
Carmen: And I thought that would be a good way to jump off into some notable professors you had or different mentors you had while you were here.
Earl: Yeah. And, you know, I was really fortunate that, you know, one of the reasons I chose William & Mary was because of…one, because of the size. And being relatively small compared to a lot of other sort of top national universities, I felt like I really would get an opportunity to know a lot of people, especially professors.
00:08:57 But Dean Hardy, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart. But the list goes on. I think about Dr. Joanne Braxton in the English Department. I can think about Dr. Heather MacDonald in the Geology Department. I hate to name names because I’m going to forget some folks. Sam Sadler, who was the vice president for student affairs here all of my years while I was here.
And even when I think about more broadly, there are also people even in the community that really do and did help out students at William & Mary, especially black students. And I think that in some ways it was a community within a community on this campus. And I just think you tend to be drawn to people like yourself, for a variety of reasons. And I think that while William & Mary was not perfect, and even in my work today, as I talk with alumni, many have very positive stories to share, and I would agree with those.
00:10:01 But there are those who also have some not so positive stories to share, and I can identify with some of those. But one of the things I do remind my classmates and my other sort of fellow William & Mary alumni is that the space and the place that we know as William & Mary is what brought us together. And so when you think about your favorite professors, I try to get them to name some by name and talk a little bit about why their relationship was so special.
And so it is about drawing people in and making people remember some of the positive things and some of the connections that they made. John McGlennon, Kate Slevin. I mean, I could go on and on. I was fortunate in terms of connecting with a number of faculty who made it a great place and who continue to make it a great place, when I think about a number of the faculty members that I’m associated with now.
Carmen: Did you come into contact with them all through courses or you came into contact with Dean Sadler with—
Earl: It was through…some of it was through instruction, through being in their classes. Since I was also a student leader, a lot of it had to do, too, with some of the roles that I had on campus, like a president’s aide and different ceremonies and so forth that you would be a part of.
But some of the faculty members that I named, I never took a class with them, but it was through my student leadership role, and I think generally them wanting to be supportive of me as a student and as a young budding student, you know, really embraced me. And I think back to…I can remember my first semester, my first sociology class, David Aday. And, you know, had never taken a sociology class. And I think, if I’m not mistaken, his area was really criminology.
00:11:55 But, you know, sitting in class and him really pushing all of us to participate in class discussion. And I think that he really pushed us not just to participate, but really be engaged learners. And, you know, I remember one time being called to his office during office hours, and he just wanted to touch base. And that’s what professors did. They wanted to make sure that all was okay with you while you were in school, and I very much appreciate that.
Carmen: Yeah, I’m sure. So you’ve actually listed a sociology class you took, an English professor at least, and geology, was it?
Carmen: What were you studying during this time? It sounds—
Earl: I was studying everything.
Carmen: It sounds like a bit of everything.
Earl: I was a student of life. I ultimately ended up with public policy, which at the time, the public policy—now it’s a full official major. Well, at the time it wasn’t quite as formulated as it is now, it was—which it still is—it was more interdisciplinary. But I ultimately took—which was a lot of government and econ with a mixture of psychology and anthropology, so I took a hodgepodge of courses to really create sort of my own sort of pathway.
00:12:59 And I’ll be honest. When I came to William & Mary I knew what I wanted to major in. I wanted to go back to Richmond and I wanted to run the city. I wanted to be the city manager. And I think what a place like William & Mary did for me, it just really opens your eyes. And when you think about sort of a liberal arts education and being exposed to so many different areas, and to so many different people, it shows you different options or avenues or pathways.
And I think, you know, coming into college I never thought about, because I never knew, that there was a career in higher ed in terms of working on a college campus. And not just working on a college campus, but there are so many different ways in which you can serve a university. And for me it was initially enrollment, or admissions, and then now around alumni engagement and development. And so I’ve made my career in these areas. And, you know, as I think, it’s almost 25 years that I’ve been involved in these areas at different institutions.
00:13:55 But yeah, so the fact that I did take a variety of classes, I think…I think there’s a lot of strength in the curriculum at William & Mary because it forces you, quite honestly, to take a variety of classes. And I think if you want to be a well educated person, that is what you do, you take lots of different classes, some of which you’re going to enjoy, some of which, if not all of which, you’re going to find quite challenging, and some you’re going to not be so fond of. But I think at the end of the day you come out on the other side thinking very differently, thinking in ways that, based on your own experiences, maybe weren’t present for you.
And I think, you know, as you think about being a human being in the world in which we live today and really wanting to be—and I wouldn’t say a spokesperson, but just being aware of sort of what’s happening, when I think about the education that I received, I really feel like the training and the education and the exposure really helps me formulate ideas and opportunities and concepts, and really think through those things in a much more sort of strategic and coherent way. And I owe that to William & Mary.
Carmen: Wonderful. I want to jump back just one second because you were mentioning how you came into contact with a number of the mentors you had, and that was through the types of student activities you were a part of. And I have a little list here, but I don’t think it even covers it. Admissions intern, tour guide, tutor, president’s aide, senior class homecoming representative, president of Black Student Organization. I need to know what motivated you to jump in all things and get so engaged.
Earl: That is a very good question. And, you know, by nature I think I came to William & Mary wanting to be involved. I had been involved, you know, in high school, middle school, however far back you want to go. I’ve always been involved. And so that was really a continuation of sort of what I think I had already experienced.
00:16:01 But I think for me, I knew I wanted college to be more than just an academic experience. I really wanted it to be as holistic as possible. I wanted to stretch myself. I wanted to meet new and different people. You know, there were, I think there were five or six of us that came from my high school when we got here, and none of us lived together.
And it just so happened I ended up rooming with a gentleman by the name of Matthew Brandon. And we did not request each other, but we had known each other since the sixth grade. And we weren’t, quite honestly, that fond of each other when we left—[laughs]—and it was really middle school, quite honestly, but we ended up being roommates freshman year, and we in fact ended up being roommates all four years of our time here. And we are very fond of each other now, I will add.
00:16:56 But I think that being involved as a student leader—when we were here, I think maybe there were 400 African American students on campus, and at that point in time enrollment was probably around 5,500 or so, so there weren’t significant numbers of African American students. And, you know, quite honestly, people identify differently, and I feel like you do what you do in terms of how you feel comfortable, in terms of how you identify.
But I always felt like there was a calling for me in terms of being a voice, not just for African American students, but for sort of other under represented populations on this campus, and I took that role very seriously. But I always just led with being Earl. I wasn’t trying to, you know, please everybody. And one thing that Dean Hardy sort of left with me, and she said, Earl, you know, at the end of the day, as long as you make an informed decision based on the information that you have at that point in time, that’s what you go with.
00:18:00 It’s okay to tell people I have additional information so I’m changing my decision, but at that point in time you make a decision based on the information that you have, so it’s not about pleasing people, it’s about making good decisions based on your information. And so that’s what I did as a student leader. And I think that, you know, I think people recognized that.
A few people have actually had conversations with me recently about some other things. But that people genuinely were drawn to me, even when I wasn’t trying. And I think part of it had to do with just the genuine nature in terms of sort of how I interacted with people. And I was a little bit of a comedian, too. And so, you know, I think humor sometimes lessens the load. And for me, honestly, I was probably a little too involved early on, which, mm, probably had a little impact on my academic performance. But it was fine.
00:18:55 But it was just who I was. I think I came to William & Mary as a student leader, and I think William & Mary really embraced that and encouraged that. And the other thing that Dean Hardy would often say to us is I need you to remember that this is your institution, so I need you to own it, and so I need you to own that experience. And so for her it was very much about creating student leaders and encouraging student leader development. And so that’s…I felt like I was taking advantage of those opportunities presented to me.
Carmen: Wonderful. It sounds like you were prepared, once you got here, to just jump into a number of things, and that really continued throughout your time.
Earl: It did. Again, I probably was a little…some people would say I probably was a little too social. You know, I jokingly, you know, I had probably perfect attendance at all the parties on campus. I missed very few social engagements. Which is okay, but sometimes that’s not the best thing to do.
Carmen: It gets your name out there.
Earl: It does. It definitely does. But it also impacts your studies.
Carmen: Maybe just…
Earl: Just a little bit.
Carmen: Just a little bit.
Earl: Just a little bit.
Carmen: Not only were you involved in some of these things, though, but you actually ended up being the president of the Black Student Organization. Can you talk a little bit about how that came to be?
Earl: Yeah. I’m not sure how it came to be. I had been involved in the Black Student Organization my freshman year and my sophomore year. And I think what probably did it was freshman year there was a guy who was president—his name was Keith Jasper—and it just so happened Keith’s father was my teacher in high school, so I sort of knew Keith.
And he was actually our music teacher, and I was the drum major in high school, and so I spent a lot of time with Keith’s father. And Keith was…he hosted me for prospective student weekend, and he was the incoming president for that year, and so we became very close and still are very close today. But he really did lead the organization in a way that I really admired the work that he had done.
00:20:59 And so I think for me it was just very natural. I had been so involved…it was sort of natural. And I think that you’ve got to remember you’ve always got to invest in the next generation of leadership. And I felt like in some ways I was being primed and groomed for that role. And so at some point it just happened. And junior year was just the year. And in fact, the young man that I mentioned, Matt Brandon, who was my roommate, he was the vice president the year I was president. So I just, I felt like we did some great things. We knew we had lots of work to do.
There was also, during the period of time, I think, I can remember in particular…now I’m running all this together, though, but when we were in college there were some issues around…and I’m trying to think, in Virginia Beach. And this probably would have been my freshman year, maybe my sophomore year.
00:21:59 There was this huge gathering of African American college students. It was sort of like beach week, but it was around, I guess, Labor Day or Memorial Day. I don’t know which holiday it was now. But one of the last years that it occurred the city of Virginia Beach called in the National Guard, and it really created a not so positive dynamic. And so I think for many of us, you know, having those things happen really not that far from us gave us the opportunity to rally around what we considered some of the injustices that were occurring.
And it was also around the time where the Rodney King episode out in L.A. was also occurring. And it’s so funny, even as I think about some of the Black Lives Matter movement now, you know, in some ways some of those same things are happening in our society today. And I do feel like college campuses are microcosms of the real world, and so students really figure out how they gather, and how they rally, and how they respond.
00:23:00 And I think the BSO, the Black Student Organization, really provided that venue or opportunity or pathway for young African American students to express themselves as part of a collective. And, you know, Dean Hardy was the advisor to the BSO. And I really feel like we had some positive things that happened on this campus that we were a part of.
And there were some things that I think even today some of the organized groups still continue to gather and rally around sort of common causes that really speak out to some of the injustices that are happening. So for me, I think I’ve never seen myself as an activist, per se. But I do feel as though when you’re called upon, you need to respond. And, you know, that year I was called upon to be the president of the BSO, and so I responded. And, you know, I felt like we had a pretty good year.
Carmen: Were there any memorable events that happened under your leadership or just during the time you were involved in the BSO that stick out to you?
Earl: Yeah. You know, on a more positive note, there were some things that we did as part of Family Weekend, which was Parents Weekend then. We entertained our parents. We had talent shows, we had dinners. One of the things that the BSO did participate in pretty powerfully were the homecoming parades, and for several years we won first, second or third in the float competition.
And I think freshman year is probably the one that sticks out the most. I think the theme was around something about music, and we had the Motown Review. And we were up all night long putting together this chicken wire structure so we could use the papier-mâché—is that what you call that stuff? And we created this very colorful juke box.
00:24:58 And we had…I think I was a Temptation. We had the Supremes. But these were all students who, we were dressed in the garb for that era, and just really had a good time. And I think one of the things that that did is, I think it got the BSO noticed in a way that probably wasn’t prevalent before. We were in the parade, walking down the street as a part of homecoming. We were just students having fun. So those are some of the things that I remember.
I think, you know, there were also pretty tenuous times, too, where there were situations that occurred while we were here where young African American students were called out of their name. Or I can remember having a very heated conversation—not heated, but intense conversation—with Dean Sadler.
00:25:55 And we had had a series of…I don’t know if they were robberies around town, and there was some concern about how we were using the descriptors when we were trying to identify the assailants, I guess. And there were some differences when they were African American in how we described versus when they were white and how we described. And so I can remember having conversations with Dean Sadler about let’s just make sure we’re consistent about what we’re doing, and let’s just really be sensitized to how people internalize this across campus.
And so, you know, I think being a student leader, being in the BSO, being a president’s aide, it gave some of us a platform to have an audience, even though I think Dean Sadler, Dean Hardy, everybody, even the president, would have had an audience with anyone. But there were some natural sort of spaces to kind of have some of those conversations that really did shape sort of some of the…I wouldn’t say policies, but shape some of the things that, how we responded to some things as a community.
Carmen: Do you remember that conversation being effective, having that kind of…?
Earl: Oh, I do. I do. And I think part of it is, I think until you do it you don’t know how people are going to respond. And I think it’s important for people to speak up when they’re not feeling comfortable because you don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes it’s about raising your hand and letting people know, hey, you know, let’s think about this differently. So part of it is just engaging in the conversation. And so I do feel like we ended up better on the other side of some of those conversations.
Carmen: And you also mentioned that some of the different events or controversies that were occurring nationwide, you at least recall this happening. Do you remember anything happening on campus as a result of any of the…?
Earl: Yeah. I don’t remember which year. And I’ll be honest, it’s all running together. I don’t remember if it was the Rodney King or the O.J. Simpson situation. But I do remember it was either my junior or senior year the Black Student Organization rallied, and I remember we all had on black.
00:28:00 And we rallied and we marched from like the campus center, which was where the BSO office was, we marched over to the Wren Building. And I think it was the Rodney King situation. It was no justice, no peace. And just really calling attention to how African Americans were being treated by law enforcement agencies. And when you think about it, some of that is still very prevalent today. So that one sticks out for me in my head very clearly. Very clearly. So yeah.
Carmen: Thank you for sharing that. What about any other difficult experiences you recall during your time on campus? That could be anything from the academic side of things to social side of things. Is there anything that sticks out?
Earl: Yeah. You know, I think that…I can remember in 1988 there were a group of us, all happened to be young black men, some of whom were athletes. I remember we were walking across campus.
00:28:59 And I can remember being at…it’s where Adair Gym is. So I guess that’s Ukrop Way. And I remember a truckload of young white men, of boys, driving by and calling us the “N” word. And, you know, I think sometimes when you’re on a college campus you think you’re in this bubble, but then sometimes reality hits when those kinds of things kind of happen. And, you know, we were all shaken a bit. And I remember it was sort of dusk, it was getting dark, and we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen.
But, you know, I think that one, we had each other, we were all together. We were pissed, angry, and I think we ended up talking to Dean Hardy about it, and I think she made us report it to campus police because it did happen on… But of course nobody was looking at the truck to describe what it looked like. We were just sort of in shock. And I think that, you know, that, in some ways, framed…that was our introduction to William & Mary, because that happened the summer before we were starting freshman year.
00:30:03 And so I think that framed for us sort of like the beginning of the journey that we were going to take. And I think what it also did—and it goes to show you, you know, we don’t live in this Pollyanna kind of world in which you’re quote, unquote, safe from anything. And I think that, you know, we recognized, you know, we were going to have some great times while we were here, but we were also going to have some challenging times while we’re here. And so I think for many of us, we knew what we were getting into from an academic standpoint.
And I think what…the part you’re not quite so certain are some of the social pieces, until you’re a part of the community in terms of the fabric of the community. And I think, you know, there were organizations that many African American students were drawn to, like the Black Student Organization, like Ebony Expressions, the gospel choir, some of the historically black Greek letter fraternities and sororities.
00:31:04 And when you think about sort of black focused student groups, that was pretty much it. You had BSO, Ebony, and you had Greek life. And so when I look across campus now, there’s so many more organizations that students can choose from. But, you know, again, it was sort of that community within a community.
And I think that, you know, when you built relationships with upperclassmen, they would sort of help guide you. And quite honestly, they would tell you which professors not to take based on…there were some professors here at the time who, based on the color of your skin, you would not get higher than a C, and so they would tell you to steer clear of some of those professors. And so part of it was really being strategic about how you leveraged your relationships across campus.
00:31:54 Now admittedly there were a lot more professors who were a lot more open and welcoming than some of the professors who were not. And I think part of it was listening to upperclassmen about choosing very carefully which professors you took. And that was a very early lesson I think that we all learned. You know, that’s reality. And so you want to survive. And you want to do more than survive. You actually want to thrive. And I think that’s what many of us did based on, you know, building those relationships sort of across classes.
Carmen: That sounds like it provided a really good network for information to be dispersed and really helped you shape what your experience was, knowing the things that you were told.
Carmen: Were those kind of contentious or difficult, negative events, were those commonplace at all? Did you find those to be commonplace in that they really bookended the first time of your time here, or…?
Earl: No, they were isolated, fortunately. And I would say this. I think having someone like a Carroll Hardy, Dean Hardy on campus, she was a very powerful force, and she did not play.
00:33:02 As students, she held us accountable. But she also held William & Mary accountable in ensuring that you made this place really work for the students that we were trying to serve. And so for many people—and not all—but I would say for many students, and not just minority students, I think students who were differently abled, I think for transfer students, which was part of her bailiwick in terms of what she was responsible for, she was going to do what she needed to do to be sure that this place provided you from whatever walk of life you came from.
And I think she gave us the confidence. But what she did, I think she instilled in us that you’re here because you belong here, and you can do it. Now you have to apply yourself. And that’s not to say you don’t need help. It’s okay to ask for help. But do your part to ensure that you can get the help that you need. And I think that’s the one thing that sort of stuck with many of us.
00:34:00 And it wasn’t uncommon for her, you know, for you to get called to her office if she heard that you were not doing your part in terms of what you needed to do relative to your academic studies, or if you were having some issues with some of your friends socially. I mean, Dean Hardy was a very powerful force for many of us.
Carmen: It sounds like it. But also a fantastic resource—
Carmen: —it sounds like as well. Did you ever have any of those…the event that you were called to her office to have any sort of—
Earl: Oh, she would call me to her office all the time, you know. And in fact she hired me my sophomore year to work in her office, so she claimed, so she could keep an eye on me, so she could save me from myself. But yeah, I would get called to her office occasionally. And it could be something as simple, so I heard that you missed a couple classes.
00:34:56 And I would say, you know, William & Mary was small enough such that, and professors cared enough that they would reach out to the appropriate administrators to say hey, you know, Earl missed the last couple classes, is everything okay? So Dean Hardy puts the call out, is everything okay? Come on by and see me. So, you know, I think it really talks about the strength of the community.
Carmen: Yeah. It’s in a way nice to know someone’s looking out for you—
Carmen: —and making sure everything’s okay, if not a little irritating at the time, but…
Earl: Absolutely. Because, you know, when you’re a young adult, so you think, getting called to the principal’s office, you know. But it was also her way of showing that she cared. But it was also her way of showing that I’m paying attention, and I’m holding you accountable, so do what you need to do to get it right, so yeah.
Carmen: A powerful person to have in your corner, I’d think.
Earl: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Carmen: We talked a little bit about the difficult experiences you’ve had here, but I would love to hear about some of your favorite memories. And that could be from time as an undergraduate, time as a graduate student, currently as an employee of the college.
Earl: You know, I would say this. I mean, fortunately, my positive experiences outweigh my negative experiences. I think one of the most positive things that occurred at William & Mary was that this place did provide me with a great group of friends that I stay connected to. And the year that we came to William & Mary in 1988, at the time we were the largest cohort of African American students in the history of William & Mary, and we knew that. And many of us came in a summer program prior to coming that fall, so we really began to build friendships and connections in a way that really did help us throughout our four years here.
00:36:57 And so I would say, you know, one of the most positive things is that, the strength of the network. I think for me personally, I think serving as president of the BSO was a huge opportunity for me that I took very seriously. And I think that during that same period while we were undergrads Dean Hardy used to host this National Black Student Leadership Development Conference, and students from across the country used to descend upon William & Mary. And it got so big we ended up having to use one of the local hotels.
And it was basically like Dean Hardy’s peers at the other institutions across the country, predominantly white institutions, primarily, bringing African American student leaders on campus to really talk about some of the issues that we all shared in common, some of the challenges that we shared in common, but really talking about solutions and really figuring out how can we make it not just on this campus, but how do we make it a better pathway for when we enter the real world.
00:37:58 And so when I think about the opportunities that William & Mary presented us with, you know, I had the good fortune to meet people like the late Arthur Ashe, the late Maya Angelou, the late Alex Haley. I remember having lunch with Alex Haley. Like not every student gets those kind of opportunities. I remember meeting Jim Baker, James Baker, who was Secretary of State when we were in school. He was our graduation speaker.
Like getting the opportunity, you know, putting all of your politics and all of your differences aside, the fact is that William & Mary was able to command a certain audience, and so whether it was Spike Lee or some of the people that I named, you got that opportunity to meet them. And that is not lost on me.
And it’s so funny, even as I talk about these things, I’ve sort of forgotten some of these things. But the conversation is triggering some of those things. And I think that once I graduated and the Hulon Willis Association was formed in ’92, I mean, Dean Hardy was the driving force behind that.
00:39:00 And there was a steering committee created. And, you know, I happened, I was fortunate enough to be able to serve as president of that affinity group. And I’ve got to tell you, I mean, Hulon Willis died before I was able to meet him, but I tell you, that family, Alice Willis, his widow, who’s now deceased as well, and his kids, always so supportive. And both of his kids went to William & Mary. And in fact his granddaughter came to William & Mary later, Mica.
But his wife was such a stalwart of support. And I would have conversations with her, and I was just so very fond of her. And I would often ask her, you know, I would say we’re thinking about doing such-and-such. And she would say, Earl, you have my blessing, I trust your judgment, you do what you think is right. And so really having that support from that family.
00:39:53 And quite honestly, when I think about Hulon Willis, Sr. and sort of what he sacrificed to come to William & Mary—he was the first black student admitted to William & Mary—and so his family was in Petersburg, so to leave his family in Petersburg and come to school—and he commuted a little bit, but he also lived over in Braxton Court, which is right over by Paul’s Deli. But he was taking a risk being the first.
And I’m also reminded of…I would say one of the things that I’m really proud of is that in 2011 the Hulon Willis Association honored the three first black, African American residential women, Karen, Janet, and Lynn, and we helped them celebrate their 40th reunion. And for them, homecoming did not mean the same thing that it meant for many students that followed them because there just weren’t the numbers necessarily there. And they had each other. And they lived on the ground floor in Jefferson.
00:41:00 And it was really important for us as an organization and as the community to recognize what those three women, quite honestly, gave up or sacrificed in terms of being here. And even when you talk with them today, they don’t see it as necessarily a sacrifice. They knew they wanted a great education. They knew they wanted to be at a great institution. And so they came to William & Mary, unbeknownst to them that they in fact were the first undergraduates to live on campus. And so for them it wasn’t about that. It was about getting a great education.
But when I think about the perseverance that it took to be here—because I think about the perseverance it even takes now—but to be the first three, and, you know, quite honestly you’re new to everybody across campus. But in 2011 we honored them. And that was probably one of the most important moments in terms of my alumni career, so to speak, in terms of being an alum, like really bestowing upon them, or really, you know, providing this community the opportunity to really honor them.
00:42:07 And I think that’s probably one of the most things I’m proud of. Chon Glover and I really worked to make that happen, and I’m glad we did. And I think about what’s about to happen in terms of the 50th that’s coming up, and that’s going to be quite significant as well.
Carmen: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And I actually want to talk more about all of those things, and we will. While we’re on the topic of the Hulon Willis Association, though, could you explain a little bit just what is the impact and significance of having that organization?
Carmen: I think we’re coming up on the 25th anniversary in June, maybe.
Earl: Correct. Right.
Carmen: And so if you could talk just a little bit about the impact you’ve seen that…
Earl: Absolutely. So as I mentioned, it was formed in 1992, and it was really formed because we wanted to ensure that African American alumni had a voice within the alumni association at William & Mary.
00:42:59 And, you know, when you think about just the history of this institution as well as this country, the African American voice has not always been as well represented as it should and could be. And so that gave a segment of the alumni base an opportunity to get involved in the life of the college through this affinity group.
And, you know, we did a number of things very early on when we established, you know, we established committees like the admission committee to help with recruiting, career services to help with networking. But we also created opportunities for alumni to stay connected to one another. And I think what that has done over time is that it has grown, it has blossomed, and it’s ebbed and flowed. But one of the things that we have often done is to create an opportunity at homecoming for alumni to come and see each other.
00:43:57 We also have a scholarship, an endowed scholarship that we provide to a current student. In some years we’ve given it to current students. And they have to apply. There’s an application process. So it really has allowed alumni to become engaged in a different way to support the institution philanthropically and really giving honor to Hulon Willis in a way that was really important, when you think about the time. I think he came in 1951 or ’52. Just when you think about that moment in time and the significance that that has.
And I would say this. I think Hulon Willis, the affinity group, also provides alumni an opportunity to take on leadership roles even within the organization, and really feeling like they’re giving back to the institution. And not that I would say black alumni don’t want to get involved in general. But I think when you’re involved in something that touches you in a very personal way.
00:44:58 Like I can think of the first Hulon Willis scholarship recipient. It was a young woman by the name of Christal Woodson], now Christal [Pollard]. We went to high school together. Very good friends to this day. And she’s taking an active role in helping organize the 25th reunion. I can think of another, Tevera Stith. I mean, the list goes on. Dani Greene, who just got admitted to the Ph.D. program in Stanford University.
And so it’s about supporting excellence. It’s about supporting inclusive excellence, really trying to identify those ways in which we can get alumni—and not just African American alumni, because we want all alumni to support the Hulon Willis Association and its scholarship. But it is about recognizing that you’ve got to meet people where they are. And for many, I would say, African American alumni, you know, the numbers were not great in the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, and even through the early to mid ‘80s, so they found their community among themselves.
00:45:56 And so it’s about, in some ways, encouraging those kinds of things to happen, but encouraging them to also blossom out and to touch the community in a variety of ways. And so for me, you know, I support the Hulon Willis Association with my time, my talent and my treasure, and really looking forward to celebrating the 25th. I’m really sad in the fact that Mrs. Willis won’t be with us, because like I said, she has just really been a supporter. But her children and her granddaughter will be there, and so we’re looking forward to celebrating the legacy.
Carmen: It will be quite an event—
Earl: It will.
Carmen: —no doubt.
Earl: It will.
Carmen: So a common thread, I think, through this whole interview is how your time here at William & Mary, and the things you were involved in in your education have shaped your trajectory since then. And I was hoping you could talk a little bit about that, how your education and professional experience even as a student here has continued to play out in your life even to this day.
Earl: Well, you know, I think in addition to Dean Hardy, when I think about the professional side, I had some great mentors when I started out in admissions. You know, Virginia Carey, who was the dean of admission when I was hired, Roxie Williams, at the time Roxie Shabazz, just really great mentors in terms of not just learning admission, but really understanding the complexities of a major university.
And I think that what I learned those first four years working and really navigating William & Mary in a professional setting really set me up quite nicely when I went to Tufts and when I went to UNC Chapel Hill at the business school, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. And even throughout all of those times I was able to create, innovate, execute and implement a lot of what I learned here at William & Mary to make those environments better places.
00:47:59 And when I came back in ’06, it really was about coming back home and continuing to advance William & Mary in a very different way. You know, for as much as I love this place, I also recognize that this is not a perfect place, and that you’ve got to hold your institution accountable. And I knew we could do a better job in terms of diversifying the undergraduate student body in particular. And I knew there was a lot of runway to do that.
And when I came back in ’06, the president then was the guy by the name of Gene Nichol and the provost was Geoffrey Feiss, and those things were very important to their leadership, and that was also very important to me in terms of really being able to do that and have an impact in terms of doing that. And so…but I will say the more I became involved in the enrollment area, I also recognized that I got tired of students telling me I can’t come to William & Mary.
00:48:57 And it was because, you know, we just can’t afford it, we can’t provide enough financial aid. So I really wanted to be a part of the solution, and so I transitioned into development and raising money. A big part of what we’re doing, our current campaign For The Bold is around scholarship.
So it’s giving me the opportunity to give back in a very different way professionally, but also allowing me to leverage my relationships with alumni sort of over my 25 year history to say somebody made a way for us, we need to make a way for the next generation.
And I don’t take no for an answer, even for those people who have had negative experiences with William & Mary. I acknowledge it. But again I remind them of the place. I also remind them part of the reason that they’ve been successful in their own careers is because of William & Mary. And we have a responsibility to ensure that we provide for the next generation.
00:49:56 And people tend to respond very positively around some of those challenges there. And so I just think my foundation from the start when I enrolled here as a student, but when I started working here, you know, my colleagues were always concerned that I learned what I needed to know professionally so I could be successful.
And, you know, it’s so funny because one of them, Roxie—she was an associate dean, I think, at that time—and she would often comment that I have a feeling I’m going to be working for you at some point in time. And when I became the associate provost for enrollment, I think she was at Spelman at that point in time, and she was like, see, I’m about to probably be working for you at some point in time. But that didn’t happen. But, you know, it was the genuine nature and care that they provided.
I often think—people ask me if I had to do it all over again would I go someplace else in terms of school. And, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know. I tend to say no. And when I think about the career that I’ve had, I owe a lot of that to William & Mary.
Carmen: Wonderful. Yeah, it’s hard to even ask this next question because it’s so obvious that you are, but I would like to know some of the ways, other than those we’ve covered, that you’re still involved. I mean, you’re working here. Obviously you’re involved in these different organizations we’ve discussed. But what are some other things that keep you connected to the school maybe outside of it being your job?
Earl: That’s hard to separate sometimes, which can be a challenge. You know, I think…you know, I’m not involved in, say, the local chapter. And I think part of it is it’s just kind of where I am in life. I have young children. I’m quite involved with my kids. But we come to many athletic events as a family. My kids have really grown up on this campus. In fact a number of students have served as babysitters for my kids. So I’ve really developed some personal relationships with students and faculty.
00:52:00 You know, I have a number of faculty who are truly great friends, and we come together as a community pretty regularly throughout the academic year in our homes and with our families. So for me, you know, I’ve always been connected to this place professionally. I do think it’s important, though, to try to figure out how do you carve out a personal space and also figure out how you can stay connected.
And so I think in many ways—my wife, right now she’s the university ombuds, but she also teaches in the business school, so she’s also found her space. One of my children hopes to come to William & Mary. My other child has no desire to come to William & Mary, wants to run far away as she can, which is fine, I get it, growing up in Williamsburg.
But, you know, I think time, talent and treasure is sort of how I see it. And I think based on where I am in my own life determines sort of how I stay involved, sort of what I support. But I think it’s pretty clear to many people what I support and what I truly believe in.
Carmen: Sure, great. I was going to ask about your children, if they were future little members of the Tribe, but—
Earl: One of them is. Not the other one. My older one is not, I can tell you that.
Earl: Not even close.
Carmen: Does that hurt you a little bit to hear that, or…?
Earl: It doesn’t. You know, I think it’s important. You’ve got to know your kids. And, you know, William & Mary is not the place for everyone. And she recognizes this is not the place for her. And I can respect that.
Carmen: Sure, sure. So given the multiple roles you’ve had here, given the multiple times you’ve been here, each in their own little sections, what ways has your perspective changed now that you are an employee of the school working in the area you are working, as opposed to what your perspective was as a student of the college?
Earl: Yeah, you know, and clearly it’s a different perspective. I think when you…I mean, you have to really make a conscious decision to work at your alma mater. And I do think there are things that you’re aware of when you’re a student that you have no idea of now as a professional. And I think sometimes, you know, it’s almost like when you work here on campus you pull back the curtain sometimes, and not everything is pretty.
But you figure out how can you work to change some of those things so that when you pull the curtain back things do look different, things are continuing to move forward, things are progressing. So yeah, I mean, the perspective is definitely different. I wouldn’t say it’s a clouded perspective. I would say it’s a much more informed perspective. I would say, you know, William & Mary still has a number of areas that it needs to work on, and as a community I think we can address some of those things.
00:54:57 I think that clearly we can do a better job in terms of diversification of the instructional faculty. We can do a much better job in terms of diversification of the senior level administrators who are on campus. I think we’ve done a very good job around undergraduate student enrollment, so how can we replicate those things into some of those other ranks in terms of the faculty and the staff.
Because it is sometimes, you know, I think people forget, you know, William & Mary is on the national stage and people do pay attention. And I think we have not kept pace with some of our competitors around diversification of faculty, in particular, but senior administrators as well. And so I think for me, I also recognize the seat that I have at the table now, and I realize who I have access to and the conversations that I feel freely to have with those folks. And people have been very open and very responsive and very supportive.
00:55:56 And I feel comfortable having the conversations, and even the difficult conversations, whether it’s with the provost or the president or board members. I think people genuinely have been receptive. And so I think I do take my role seriously, and I think that for as long as I am here, you know, I want to contribute in some very meaningful ways for William & Mary.
Carmen: So we were just discussing changes that you’ve seen happen on campus, but also some that you want to see in the future here. And could you speak a little bit more explicitly about that, exactly what things you’ve seen change over your time here beyond maybe the footprint of the college, and what direction you hope it goes in in the next 50 years?
Earl: You know, I do think William & Mary is a national treasure, and I think it’s important for us to provide an environment that prepares each and every student to thrive, to really be successful, to be comfortable.
00:57:00 And I don’t necessarily mean meaning you don’t want to challenge students. But you do want students to be able to thrive in this environment in a way that ties them to the place so that when they graduate they will be forever indebted, to some degree, and will want to support the place, whether it’s through time, talent or treasure. But I do think it’s really important for us to reflect as an institution periodically to be sure that we’re delivering, whether it’s curricular, whether it’s the social experience.
And I guess for me it is about providing a holistic experience. And I think if, you know, when you think about a magnification or a magnifying glass, like looking at every area of the space on campus, and I don’t mean physical space, but I would just say sort of the intellectual pieces, the social pieces, the residential nature, like are we providing the kind of environment for each and every student in the 21st century.
00:58:02 And, you know, I think for me—and I touched on this earlier—we must do a better job of diversification of the faculty. It really shouldn’t have to take task forces or special committees to identify areas that an institution needs to work on. I think it’s fine because it does draw attention to certain areas. But I think as a leading university, I think as par for the course in terms of how we do business, it should always be a part of the conversation.
And so whether it’s diversification of students, whether it’s diversification of the faculty, whether it’s talk about the curriculum—and that rests with the faculty—but I think it’s important to always ask probing questions, and are we doing all that we can do to provide an environment that really looks like the world in which we live.
00:58:54 And I think for me, and I would say this, when I was in charge of enrollment and you’re talking to families—and I mean all families—and they would ask about the diversity of the student body, or they would ask about the diversity of the faculty. You know, for the most part I think William & Mary has done a good job. I think we’ve done an outstanding job with the student piece. I think, again, there is a lot of work to be done with the faculty and with the senior team.
And when I think about other universities—and I said this earlier—that we compete with as peers, we look very different, and that’s problematic. And I think that’s an area. And I would even say this. As I engage with alumni, especially African American alumni, and I would even say Latino alumni, that’s one of the things that they pay attention to. And for many of them it’s the same William & Mary for them when they look back and then they look now. And so for some of them, they’re looking for the signal that William & Mary is changing.
01:00:00 And part of my job is to help educate them and bring them along, and to highlight the areas in terms of where things have gotten better—because they have. And for me, it’s always about perspective. And one of the things that I will say, I say I need you to imagine 1967, when three young black women came to college. Trust me, the college looks very different than it did then. And so it’s about framing it for them and providing the perspective. And not to say that we can’t do better.
Or I think about when Warren Buck came here. Warren Buck, he founded the BSO. I mean, he really provided the organization and the opportunity for likeminded students who share, you know, a culture, or a portion of a culture to rally around certain issues. And so when I think about—now Warren is on the Board of Visitors. I mean, you know, that is great news for William & Mary. But how do we replicate those kinds of experiences kind of across this campus so that all of our alumni feel as though, wow, my institution is changing in a way that I can identify.
01:01:02 It embraces inclusive excellence. And so in some of those areas I think we can do a better job as an institution. And that’s very important, I think.
Carmen: In the next ten years or however long, might have to do another oral history ten years out after your great experience in this one, right? Well, you were speaking about 1967, and as we also mentioned earlier we’re coming up on this celebration of the 50th anniversary of African Americans in residence on campus. You’re a member of that committee.
Earl: I am.
Carmen: You’ve seen it, you know, everything since, I’m assuming, its inception. You’ve really seen what the vision is for this. So could you speak a little bit about that vision and also what your role is on the committee?
Earl: Sure. Well, that committee is being chaired by Jackie McLendon, who is an emerita faculty member in the English Department. I never had Jackie as a professor.
01:02:00 She came to William & Mary after I’d already graduated and was working here. But she really has spearheaded this in a way, and sort of corralled this working group and this committee to really think about how do we commemorate, remember, honor this period of time, because it’s not insignificant. And when you think about just what was happening nationally, when you think about what was happening in the state of Virginia.
And, you know, I will say this. I sometimes have to remind myself, you know, I was only two or three years away from being born from these even occurring, so I’m really not that far removed from changes occurring on the scene in this way. But it really is about how do we celebrate this moment. And I say that because it’s not going to be a celebration for everyone.
01:02:56 For some people it’s a commemoration. And I think the goal of this is for this community to really rally around this period of time, but also figuring out how do we, as a community, not forget this moment in time, and how do we celebrate and commemorate, and quite honestly, for lack of a better word, commiserate about wow, this really did happen. And so what have we learned from that experience, and how can we make it better.
I just think about Janet, Lynn and Karen, those three, and I think about the years that they were not involved with William & Mary. And I remember—and I can’t remember which one—but they talked about how painful it was for them to come back to William & Mary. And I look at them now. They’re involved on committees, they come to homecoming, they’ve spoken on several occasions. I mean, they are actively involved. But it’s taken some time for them to sort of come back.
01:03:58 And they’ve come back on their own terms, which I think is really, really important. And so I think for this committee, you know, really celebrating—and I’m using celebrating on purpose—a year long, in a year long way, touching on the academic piece, the performance piece, the spiritual piece, the intellectual piece, but really how do we celebrate this experience holistically, and then having a culminating event at the end where we can really unveil maybe some sort of permanence around what we like to do around honoring this whole experience for them.
And I will say it’s been a learning experience. I think listening to them talk even more about some of their experiences, listening to the different perspectives that are at the table. You know, it’s interesting. When you’re a student your optic and perspective is very different, I think, when you—and I would say myself, someone who’s 25 years out.
01:04:54 But how do you approach this process in a way that touches on the students, so they want to be engaged and involved, with alumni who’ve been out for years, so it touches them in a way where they want to be engaged and involved, but really not losing sight of the fact that we’re trying to honor some folks who came before us. And there were others who also came before who didn’t necessarily finish at William & Mary, but we also want to figure out a way to honor them and celebrate them in a meaningful way.
Carmen: Fantastic. And what exactly is your role on the committee?
Earl: I’m a committee member. I’m sort of…I think I’m on the tech—I’m on the fundraising side, trying to figure out, when it’s decided upon, what we’re going to actually try to raise money for. We’re in the process of deciding that as we speak. And I think for many people, I represent sort of a continuation, since I’ve been here for so long and I’ve held a couple leadership posts through HWA and even through my undergrad years, and I’m sort of connected to a lot of people.
01:06:03 I think we’re trying to leverage what I also bring in that respect. And I will tell you, not about the 50th, but about the 25th, as we were putting together one particular panel discussion, I think it’s really important that a couple of people that are involved haven’t necessarily been as active with William & Mary. But this presents a great opportunity for them to share their expertise in a way. And this is their way of giving back as well.
And I think it’s really important that it’s not always about the happy hours, it’s not always about the social. People are drawn to different things for a variety of reasons. And I’m really excited about what the 25th and what the 50th, and quite honestly, even the 100th are all going to do for this campus community.
Carmen: You have a busy couple of years coming up with a lot—
Earl: We do. And, you know, we’re in a campaign. We’re in a campaign, so…
Carmen: You are a busy man.
Earl: Yes, I am. I am.
Carmen: Well, another common thread throughout this whole interview—and I want to step back to look at it more broadly—has been diversity on campus as what we look at to see how it’s changed, we look at how it’s going to change in the future, and it’s at the core of so many of these events we’re celebrating. So if you could just, in your own words, tell me what you believe the value of diversity on campus is.
Earl: Yeah, and that’s easy. I think each and every day the world in which we live, you know, it’s representative of diverse perspectives, diverse lifestyles. And I think for me, again, it’s about preparing our current students to be able to contribute to this world in a very meaningful way, but being able to do so in a way that allows them to at least hear and sort of value, and to some degree understand the strength of different perspectives, and how that adds value to the conversation.
01:08:04 And it forces you to maybe think about things in a very different way. And I’ll even frame it in a very different way. If you have a team and you have an engineer, someone from finance, someone from the nonprofit world, someone from the marketing area, and maybe a homemaker, each of them are going to approach the problem or challenge in a very different way. And I think that’s the value of diversity. It allows you to be a more educated person when you listen and kind of absorb.
And it’s okay to disagree. I think that’s the beauty of this country. You can agree to disagree. But also understanding that it’s a much richer conversation and discussion when you have diverse perspectives present. And so the only way to have diverse perspectives present is to be sure that your community is diverse. And that could be racially, culturally, socioeconomically—I mean, there are lots—gender-wise, orientation-wise. There are lots of ways in which you can populate this community among the faculty, staff and students.
01:09:03 And I think to me that is at the crux of what we create here, and it is about inclusive excellence. And I think that it sends a phenomenal signal to the world, but also sends very powerful signals to the community here that we live, work and play in. And I think we’d be doing ourselves a disservice and an injustice if we did not provide that environment here for our community.
Carmen: Great. Thank you for answering that. So I have a couple questions left.
Carmen: This next one is a bit of a social experiment.
Earl: Okay, okay.
Carmen: I’m going to say two words and you’ve got to say the very first thing that comes to your mind, okay?
Earl: [Laughs.] Okay, okay.
Carmen: The words will be surprising. Ready? William & Mary.
Earl: Community. I mean, that’s what I immediately think of, is community.
Carmen: Great. I always like seeing the range of answers we get for that, but community is a good one, for sure. So this is starting to open it up to you a little bit, but what would you like people to know about you, Earl Granger, that they may not already know, that you may not have said in any interview or in this oral history before now, but that might be important for them to know or that you would like for them to know?
Earl: Wow. What about Earl Granger would I…? You know, I think I would say this. As I get older, I think I’m becoming more of an introvert, which I think would surprise some people. And I think personally I am an introvert. I think professionally the roles I’ve had I have to be an extravert, which is not difficult. In some ways it’s very natural. But I do think, as I’ve gotten older, you know, a husband, a father, I do value sort of that alone time.
01:11:02 And I think that… I think for me it is about also trying to provide balance such that for many people on this campus—and I would say for many people who are not on this campus, but who know I’m on this campus, they utilize me for lots of different things—questions, you know, all times of day.
So in some ways it’s hard for me to turn William & Mary off, which is a turnoff sometimes. And I think it’s important to have that alone time to sort of really be able to reenergize. So, you know, I think it would be I am an introvert. Which I think most people would disagree with, but you asked me, and I’m answering, so this is my response.
Carmen: That’s great. As a self-identifying introvert myself, I appreciate that answer, although based on all the things you’ve been involved in, I can see how that might be a surprise to some people.
Earl: Yeah, yeah.
Carmen: Because we talked before on tape I was almost anticipating you saying something about having won, is it the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award—
Earl: Correct, correct.
Q —two times. I was doing research. I came across it the first time and I put a question mark, and I said twice? Because I’d come across it again another time some time later. And that’s quite the accomplishment. Can you…?
Earl: Thanks. You know, both times quite a surprise. You know, I think for me the work that I engage in, the service I engage in, that’s just who I am, so for me it’s not really work, it’s just a part of who I am. I’m honored. And I was a little…I wouldn’t say embarrassed, but a little humbled by the whole thing.
01:13:00 And I was excited, especially the first time, since it was at commencement and my whole family got to see me get the award. The second time they did give me a heads up, so my wife and kids and my mother-in-law were able to join me on that particular occasion.
But, you know, I think for me, when I think about some of the other recipients of that award, again, I am humbled by the opportunity. But it also gives me great…it’s a great privilege to be able to serve in the way that I do, and I would say through time, talent and treasure. And I’m glad William & Mary recognizes people in a variety of ways, and that’s just one of the ways in which, you know, they choose to do that, so I appreciate that.
Carmen: Well, that’s wonderful. And I’m sure your family has—well, both times—have been very proud.
Earl: They have. My youngest daughter particularly reminds me all the time—do they not know who you are? You won that award twice. They better recognize Dad.
Carmen: You’ll have to show this video once it goes live.
Earl: Yeah, yeah. [Laughs.]
Carmen: They were right. Sort of like the question I asked a few minutes ago, what do you think individuals may or may not know about William & Mary but it would be important for them to know about this college, whether a positive thing, a difficult thing, just something that it’s important to know about William & Mary? Or that would be helpful to talk about.
Earl: That would be helpful to talk about. Well, I would say I think…I think one of the things that is very helpful, would be very helpful is I think as alumni of this place, we really do have an obligation to support this place through time, talent and treasure. And I would say, clearly based on the work that I’m engaged in, I’m a lot more educated about the needs of William & Mary.
01:14:59 But I do think for this institution to continue to advance in a very powerful way, I think for this institution to continue to enhance its brand, which you do through your alumni base and through PR and so forth, we do need to figure out individually how we want to be involved in the life. And maybe that’s time, maybe that’s talent, and maybe that’s treasure. I will leave it up to whomever. I hope it’s all three. But I do think it’s important.
I’m not quite convinced people really understand the power of resources and the impact that it can have on the life of a current student or a current faculty member or a current staff member. So I really hope that people evaluate, in a more serious way, what their relationship is with William & Mary.
01:15:58 And it may not always be positive. But figure out which areas of the university you would want to share in time, talent or treasure, because William & Mary needs you. And I think that William & Mary is going to be here for generations to come, and we need to ensure the vitality of this place through our own involvement through time, talent and treasure. So that’s what I would say.
Carmen: Great. Well, thank you for answering my questions. I want to open it up to you now. Is there anything you thought I would ask you that I did not, or that you would like to talk about that we have not yet covered?
Earl: No, not at all. I feel like you asked everything. You know, what I would say, first of all, thank you for the opportunity to participate. I think…I really hope, though, that as we embark on a number of celebrations and commemorations over the next couple of years that these moments in time don’t become what I call shelf projects, like after they’re over and done it goes on the shelf.
01:17:00 I really do hope people figure out how we incorporate a much more inclusive William & Mary, or how do we create a much more inclusive William & Mary, a William & Mary that truly does value diversity in the broadest sense, and really deliver for our students, for our faculty and our staff an environment that challenges us all, drives us all, but really does push us all to think more holistically about the experiences that we’re providing and that we’re having. And I think that as long as I’m here I will continue to push those things. And I think, you know, I think William & Mary has done a phenomenal job for a very long time in a variety of ways, but there’s still always opportunities for growth. And I think it’s important for us as an institution to be reflective.
01:17:54 And I would even say this. I think, you know, as Earl Granger, a member of the class of 1992, who happens to work at William & Mary right now, you know, the Earl Granger—and I don’t mean me, I mean me in the general sense—may not be here. And so what are we doing as an institution to be sure that we are providing the infrastructure for some of the work that we’re engaged in to continue irrespective of who’s in a chair, but it’s just about the body of work that we’re engaged in. And that’s really important to me and many other alumni. So that’s what I would say.
Carmen: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. You’ve been sitting here for a couple hours with the light shining on you, but we really do appreciate you sitting down and talking with us.
Earl: Again, thank you for the opportunity.
Carmen: It’s been great.
Earl: All right.
01:18:46 [End of recording.]
©William & Mary Libraries. Acknowledgement of William & Mary Libraries, Special Collections Research Center as a source is required.
Non-Commercial Use/Fair Use
Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. For more information about fair use, see William & Mary Libraries guidelines here.
The researcher must cite and give proper credit to Special Collections Research Center. The preferred citation is as follows:
[Interviewee name], interview with [Interviewer name]. [Interview date], [Name of Collection], Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
Example: Powell, Michael K., interview by Carmen Bolt. June 12, 2017, 50th Anniversary of African Americans in Residence Oral History Project, Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
For commercial use of any sort, including reproduction, distribution, derivative works, public performance, and public display that goes beyond fair use, the researcher must obtain written permission from SCRC by contacting SCRC by email here. Permission will comply with any agreements made with the interviewee, interviewer, or donor of materials. This permission is valid only insofar as Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, as owner or custodian of the material, has any rights in the matter. This permission does not remove the responsibility of the author, editor, publisher, or broadcaster to guard against infringement of any rights, including copyright that may be held by others. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to SCRC. SCRC reserves the right to refuse the right for commercial use.
For most unrestricted interviews, copyright has been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries. When the copyright has not been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, copyright is retained by the interviewers/interviewees, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
SCRC works to uphold the obligations and legal commitments made to interviewees, interviewers, and donors of material. Some interviews have restrictions imposed by the interviewee, interviewer, or donor; restricted interviews are clearly marked. In such cases, it is the researcher’s responsibility to uphold the restriction appropriately and completely. Researchers may, for example, be required to obtain written permission from the interviewee or interviewer to quote from the interview. Contact SCRC with any questions about restrictions by email here.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries and William & Mary assume no responsibility.
If an interview has been transcribed, researchers should quote from the transcript. If no transcript is available, reference to material in the interview should be taken from the audio recording.
For preservation purposes, use of audiotapes or videotapes will require production of listening or viewing copies. If a researcher requires the creation of a listening or viewing copy, the researcher will be responsible for the cost. For more details about audio/visual reproduction policies at the SCRC at William & Mary Libraries, contact the SCRC by email here.
If you are in need of any accessibility accommodations that require the creation of a listening or viewing copy of material, please let us know prior to your visit. You can also find information on the library’s accessibility services here.