When William M. Anderson, Jr., was named president of Mary Washington in 1983, he became the youngest president of any of the state’s four-year colleges and universities. Twenty-three years later in 2006, he retired as the longest-serving president of any public institution in Virginia. During his tenure, more than $120 million of capital improvements were made to the University’s two campuses, including the addition of a new library, $14 million science center, student center, alumni center, art gallery, an enclosed campus walk, four new residence halls, and an apartment complex. Among his major achievements is the creation of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies in Stafford County, which prompted the institution’s attainment of university status in 2004.
New cultural offerings for the University and the surrounding community were added. These include programs such as the Fredericksburg Forum, the Great Lives lecture series, and the UMW-Community Symphony Orchestra’s Celebrity Series. Moreover, under Dr. Anderson’s direction, the University completed installation of a campus-wide fiber-optic telecommunications network that brought state-of-the-art data, telephone, and cable service to every classroom, office, and residence hall on campus. Other significant accomplishments include increased enrollment and selectivity; increased funds for faculty development; expansion of the intercollegiate athletic program; and the creation of the Community Outreach and Resources program to promote student volunteerism.
Particularly noteworthy in terms of outreach were Dr. Anderson’s efforts to create beneficial ties to the local business community. He was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, serving as its president, and at his suggestion, the University periodically sponsors a Business Leaders Breakfast with a visiting Executive in Residence. In addition, the University sponsors a Small Business Development Center to support economic development in the area by providing innovative business ideas.
During Dr. Anderson’s tenure, and largely because of his energetic efforts, Mary Washington’s endowment increased substantially – from $1.3 million to $24.5 million – thus contributing not only to enhanced physical facilities, but also to expanded opportunities for faculty development. The result of his work was a significant elevation of the stature of the institution to the point of national recognition as a liberal arts and sciences college of outstanding quality, ranking within the top 10 percent nationally in terms of admissions selectivity.
A native of South Boston, Va., Dr. Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, a master’s degree from West Virginia College of Graduate Studies, and a doctorate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. His entire professional career was devoted to higher education, beginning in 1967 when he served as coordinator of academic programs and enrollment research for the Virginia State Council of Higher Education. Then, for a period of four years, he served as director of research and planning for the West Virginia Board of Regents. In 1976 he became executive vice president at Mary Washington before being named president in 1983.
Upon the announcement of his retirement, numerous individuals and organizations expressed their appreciation for Dr. Anderson’s record of achievement at the University of Mary Washington, including the renamed William M. Anderson, Jr., Celebrity Concert Series in honor of the support that Dr. Anderson gave to the orchestra. Two alumni, Arabelle Laws Arrington ’41 of Warrenton, Va., and Sara Page Cosby Mayo ’64 of Boston, Mass., made significant donations to the University in his honor, totaling $6 million. In addition, the General Assembly of Virginia honored Dr. Anderson with a resolution recognizing him “for his long and exceptional service to the students, faculty, staff and alumni of the University of Mary Washington and, moreover, to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” and the UMW Board of Visitors unanimously approved a resolution naming the school’s planned extension to the athletic building the Anderson Convocation Center. During his last commencement ceremony, Dr. Anderson was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in recognition of his time as president. He also was presented with a Washington Medallion, which recognizes extraordinary service to the University that has made a lasting and indelible impact.