Washington U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be the next chancellor of the College of William & Mary, an honorary appointment with particular resonance for the school's new president, constitutional law scholar Gene Nichol.
"She's clearly one of the most influential jurists in American history," Nichol said. Her impact has gone far beyond her role as the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, he said; on the court, "she may be the one whose opinion counted most."
The position of chancellor is a role with an undefined framework at William & Mary, and chancellors vary in how much time they choose to spend with students and faculty. The college is working out the details with O'Connor. The college does not have specific dates for events, Nichol said, but, "I think we'll see a good deal of her."
O'Connor comes to William & Mary at a time when the Supreme Court has been generating much debate. She surprised many when she announced this summer that she would retire from the court.
The royal charter of 1693 proclaimed that henceforth, "one eminent and discreet person" would serve as chancellor of William & Mary. For years, the bishop of London and the archbishop of Canterbury held the post. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington was elected chancellor and continued to serve until his death.