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President Reiss to Take Top Job at Colonial Williamsburg

June 17, 2014
After leading “one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country” for four years, Mitchell B. Reiss will officially take the reins at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on October 5, 2014.

imageCHESTERTOWN, MD, June 17, 2014—Washington College president Mitchell B. Reiss has announced that he will step down this fall after four years at the helm to begin a new position as CEO and President of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia, effective October 6, 2014. 

Reiss, who has been president of Washington College since July of 2010, will replace outgoing president and CEO Colin G. Campbell, a former president of Wesleyan University who has held the top leadership position at Colonial Williamsburg for 14 years. 

According to the announcement from Colonial Williamsburg, in his new job Reiss will “focus on advancing Colonial Williamsburg as a leading center for history and citizenship with innovative, interactive experiences for the living history museum’s visitors.” “In Mitchell Reiss we have found the ideal candidate who has a range of experience in the public and private sectors,” said Thomas F. Farrell II, Chairman of the Board. “Colonial Williamsburg will benefit from his understanding of the intersection of education and preservation in a contemporary world.”

Reiss and his wife, Elisabeth, have strong ties to Williamsburg, where they lived for 10 years while he taught law and government and held several leadership positions at the College of William and Mary, including Vice Provost for International Affairs, Diplomat in Residence, and Director of the Wendy and Emery Reves Center for International Studies. The couple has maintained a home in Williamsburg, and their daughter, Michael, is a rising junior at William & Mary. 

“This is sooner than I would have chosen to leave Washington College,” Reiss said of the upcoming move, “but the College is in a strong position for the future, with great senior leadership across the board, and this new opportunity — to lead a renowned living history museum that is so crucial to our nation’s sense of identity— is one I simply could not turn down. Colonial Williamsburg has long been committed to keeping alive the conversation about America’s founding principles. This conversation is as relevant today as it was at our country’s origin, and increasingly important to individuals around the world seeking their own pathways to freedom and human dignity.”  

In a statement emailed to campus Tuesday morning, Reiss said, “It has been my privilege and honor to lead Washington College, one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country. Together with an outstanding senior team, dedicated faculty, and highly professional staff, and with the constant support of the Board of Visitors and Governors, we have hired new faculty, developed new programs, renovated the College’s infrastructure, secured the waterfront campus and forged a new partnership with Mount Vernon. We have become a more selective and prestigious school, which this fall will welcome the most diverse entering class in its history. 

“Elisabeth and I have enjoyed the many personal friendships we have made during these past few years with members of the entire Washington College community,” he continued. “We thank everyone who has embraced us as members of this very special place.” 

Speaking for the Washington College Board of Visitors and Governors, chair Edward Nordberg thanked Reiss “for his strong leadership and for all he and Elisabeth have done for Washington College in their four years in Chestertown. We are excited about the new strategic plan and its vision for the College and are pleased with the progress we’ve already made toward raising the financial support that will bring it to fruition,” he added. “Washington College is a stronger institution today because of Mitchell’s contributions. We wish him all the best at Colonial Williamsburg.”

Nordberg said the Board will name an interim president well in advance of Reiss’s departure and will promptly begin the search process for his successor. 

In addition to his career in higher education, Mitchell Reiss has served as an international negotiator, a national security expert and a consultant to governments, corporations and philanthropic foundations. He served two years as Director of the Office of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department; and as the President’s Special Envoy for the Northern Ireland Peace Process, he was instrumental in the negotiations that ended “the Troubles.” His most recent book, Negotiating with Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists, shared insights from his experiences and from interviews with military and political leaders and former terrorists around the globe. 

The executive he is succeeding, Colin Campbell, led Colonial Williamsburg through the tourism and economic challenges that followed both 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2009. He oversaw a $200 million investment to modernize hospitality facilities and directed a shift in programming that capitalized on the introduction of interactive strategies including street theater, new media and digital devices. 

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to lead Colonial Williamsburg through challenging times,” Campbell said. “Mitchell Reiss is the perfect choice to lead this extraordinary place into the future. I have known him for many years and have great respect for his intellectual curiosity and his deep commitment to community. I look forward to doing everything I can to support his presidency.”


Last modified on Jun. 17th at 11:46am by John Beck.