The leader of the world’s largest museum, education and research complex will headline William & Mary’s annual Charter Day ceremony and also highlight a yearlong effort celebrating the arts.
Lonnie G. Bunch III, who serves as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and served as founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will deliver remarks and receive an honorary degree at the Feb. 9 event. The ceremony marks the founding of the university in 1693 by British royal charter. This year’s event, scheduled for 4 p.m. in Kaplan Arena, celebrates the university’s 331st “birthday” and will include performances by student groups and greetings from Chancellor Gates. The ceremony is free, and tickets are not required. As part of a policy implemented last year, the university has regulated the size and type of bags allowed within Kaplan Arena. More information is available on the W&M Athletics website.
As secretary of the Smithsonian, Bunch leads more than 40 museums and libraries, plus the National Zoo and a variety of research and educational centers. He previously served as the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and is largely responsible for that museum’s launch and enormous success. Former W&M Rector Jeffrey B. Trammell ’73 — a leader in strategic counseling, politics and education and advocate for LGBTQ rights — will also receive an honorary degree at the Charter Day ceremony.
The ceremony continues the university’s observance of the Year of the Arts and will feature student performances. The celebration began last semester when William & Mary opened its state-of-the-art Fine and Performing Arts Complex, which includes the renovated Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall and a new music building. The expansion and renovation of the Muscarelle Museum of Art, which will be part of the new Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, is expected to be completed later this year.
“Lonnie Bunch has changed the way countless people understand American history and identity,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “His work sets museums at the heart of our democracy – as sources of shared learning, community engagement and civic power.
William & Mary is proud to honor him during our Year of the Arts.”
“We are also excited to celebrate one of our own, Jeff Trammell,” Rowe added. “His deep commitment to William & Mary spans more than half a century. Rector Trammell led the Board of Visitors during an important time in the life of the university and his dedication to W&M over decades impacted generations of students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
Lonnie G. Bunch III
Bunch became the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian in 2019 after serving as the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Since it opened in 2016, the museum has hosted more than 10 million visitors and has become one of the most popular destinations in Washington, D.C.
Bunch became the NMAAHC director in 2005 with only one staff member and without any collections, funding or a site for the museum. Through his determination, he transformed a vision for “a place that would make America better” into a reality. The museum is now “the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history,” according to the Smithsonian.
Previously, Bunch was the president of the Chicago Historical Society. He also held several other positions with the Smithsonian, including the National Museum of American History’s associate director for curatorial affairs, and he was the curator of history and program manager for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.
A graduate of American University, Bunch has written a number of books on topics ranging from the Black military experience to diversity in museum management. His latest chronicles the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He has taught at a number of universities and served on myriad advisory boards, including the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.
Bunch has received numerous accolades for his work and was counted among the 100 most influential museum professionals of the 20th century by the American Association of Museums in 2005. He was awarded the Freedom Medal by the Roosevelt Institute, the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, the National Equal Justice Award from the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and the Tony Horwitz Prize from the Society of American Historians, among other awards. In 2021, Bunch received France’s highest award, The Legion of Honor.
Jeffrey B. Trammell ’73
Trammell is a public affairs executive who founded Trammell and Company, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., that focuses on communications and external public affairs. He was appointed to the William & Mary Board of Visitors in 2005 and reappointed in 2009. He served as the university’s rector from 2011 to 2013, becoming the nation’s first openly LGBTQ chair of the board of trustees of a major public university. Trammell was rector when the Board of Visitors adopted the William & Mary Promise, at the time an innovative operating and funding framework that has served as a model for universities across the country.
As an undergraduate at William & Mary, Trammell was captain of the basketball team and earned a degree in history before studying law at Florida State University. He went on to work on the staff of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in a number of roles, including counsel to the chair of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. Trammel also worked as the senior managing director of public affairs for the consulting firm Hill & Knowlton for more than a decade. In that role, he led the firm in areas related to environment, healthcare and telecommunications. Trammell has long been an advocate for LGBTQ and human rights. In 2014, Equality Virginia named him among eight OUTstanding Virginians who have represented the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with distinction.
Trammell has remained closely connected to his alma mater and was the founding chair and a board member of the university’s Thomas Jefferson Public Policy Program. In addition to his work on the Board of Visitors, he was also a board member of the Greater Washington, D.C., chapter of the William & Mary Alumni Association.
He has also been a generous donor to the university. He provided materials from his time as rector to the William & Mary Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History, and he initiated an effort among the university’s living rectors to donate funds to Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved. Those funds were matched by the Board of Visitors. In 2017, Trammell received the university’s Alumni Medallion, the highest and most prestigious award bestowed by the Alumni Association.
In addition to his service to William & Mary, Trammell has served on the boards of a number of educational and community organizations and is currently a trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He was previously a trustee of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Trammell has served on the board of the Human Rights Campaign and the board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Gay and Lesbian Remembrance Project. He was also on the Board of Advisors for the Harriman Fellows in International Diplomacy and a member of the Monroe Commission, among other board memberships.
Erin Jay, Senior Associate Director of University News