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Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to succeed Secretary Henry A. Kissinger as William and Mary Chancellor

Sandra Day O’Connor, who in July announced her intention to retire as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, has been named twenty-third Chancellor of the College by the College of William and Mary Board of Visitors. Justice O’Connor will succeed Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, former United States Secretary of State, who was appointed in 2000. The appointment is effective immediately.

“I am delighted to serve as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, and look forward to being an active member of the campus community. Following such former Chancellors as Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher and my friend Warren Burger is truly an honor that I will cherish,” said O’Connor. “From the time of Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall, William and Mary has been distinguished by its unusual ability to educate young people to become national and international leaders, and I intend to do what I can to ensure that the College is able to extend that tradition well into the future.”

The post of Chancellor has been an important one since the College was chartered in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II of Great Britain. Until 1776, the Chancellor was an English subject – usually the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London – who served as the College’s advocate to the crown, while a colonial president oversaw the day-to-day activities of the Williamsburg campus. Following the Revolutionary War, George Washington was appointed as the first American chancellor; later President John Tyler held the post.


“Through her remarkable combination of wisdom, courage, judgment, and skill, Justice O’Connor has become one of the most influential and effective jurists in American history,” said President Gene R. Nichol. “I am thrilled that she is willing to share her ability and rich experience with William and Mary students. As a former constitutional lawyer, I am also honored to welcome one of my heroes to the College community.”

Nichol went on to recognize the contributions of former Chancellor Henry Kissinger, who was named to the post in 2000, succeeding former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. When Timothy J. Sullivan stepped down as President of the College over the summer, Kissinger informed the Board of Visitors of his intention to resign as well.

“Dr. Henry Kissinger was a committed Chancellor of the College who performed many valuable services for William and Mary, particularly in the international arena. In addition to enabling us to extend the reach of our programs around the globe, he helped create opportunities for our students to experience first-hand the challenge of tackling difficult international issues. We honor his fine service, and extend our deep appreciation for his dedication to the College and the nation,” said Nichol.

In reflecting on his term as Chancellor, Dr. Kissinger recently wrote Justice O’Connor, “I can personally attest that the five years of my tenure, with the opportunity to interact with such an outstanding group of students, faculty and administration were enjoyable and rewarding.”

Justice O’Connor’s appointment was made by the Board, chaired by Rector Susan Aheron Magill.

“The Board is deeply honored that Justice O’Connor has accepted our invitation to serve as the twenty-third Chancellor of the College. Her tenure on the Supreme Court is marked with tremendous leadership and distinction as will be her term as Chancellor. We eagerly anticipate welcoming her to campus where I am confident she will inspire students, faculty and the entire college community. On a personal note, as only the second woman to serve the College as Rector, I am thrilled to welcome the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court as our Chancellor,” said Magill.

William and Mary Student Assembly President Ryan M. Scofield was delighted with the selection.

“We are thrilled that Justice O’Connor has accepted the chancellorship here at the College. She embodies the true spirit of William and Mary with respect to scholarship, character and leadership,” said Scofield. “We welcome her into our community with open arms and lots of Tribe pride!”

The first woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, on March 26, 1930. She earned a B. A. in economics (magna cum laude) from Stanford University, and went on to receive an LL. B. from Stanford Law School, where she graduated third in her class. Her classmate, the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, graduated first in the class.
She served as Deputy County Attorney of San Mateo County, California, from 1952 to 1953, and as a civilian attorney for the Quartermaster Market Center, Frankfurt, Germany, from 1954 to 1957. From 1958 to 1960, she practiced law in Maryvale, Arizona, and served as Assistant Attorney General of Arizona from 1965 to 1969. She was appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969, and was subsequently reelected to two two-year terms.

In 1975, she was elected Judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court and served until 1979, when she was appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

President Ronald Reagan nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and she took her seat September 25, 1981. She is married to John Jay O’Connor III, and the couple has three sons: Scott, Brian and Jay.

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For More Information: William T. Walker, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs (757) 221-2624

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