Hampton University
Jonathan Black and Natalie Joseph: Peninsula university first ladies embrace opportunity to lead
05/16/2017 - #205

Jonathan Black and Natalie Joseph are reporters for The Daily Press.

Rosemary Trible begins graduation day at Christopher Newport University with six injections into her shoulder.

The day ends with an ice pack treating her sore shoulder.

In between the shots and the ice, there will be more than a thousand hugs.

One doesn't need to search far for Norma B. Harvey on Sundays. She attends Hampton University's Memorial Chapel, a short walk away from her and President William Harvey's waterfront home on campus.

In the fall, Helen Reveley will enter her final year as the first lady of the College of William and Mary. Although she's excited about retirement, Reveley admits that she'll miss her favorite part of the job: meeting new students and friends of the university.

All three of these women have shepherded thousands of students and embraced important roles at universities on the Peninsula. They don't consider those on campus as only students. For the first ladies of CNU, Hampton and William and Mary, everyone on campus is considered family.

Balancing act

Trible likes to think she wears four hats in her life.

She has held the title of CNU's first lady since 1996 and has continued to take that role into her home life. She and her husband, President Paul Trible, regularly host students at their home. Every freshman has the opportunity to have dessert at the Trible's home while seniors are invited for a toast of champagne.

It has been my greatest joy to be alongside Paul to see the transition from freshman to those seniors," she said. "I think that people like to be in your home. It's a way of building our community relations."

In between, every student will get a hug, even if it means Trible might need an ice pack later. She has dealt with a tear in her rotator cuff for the past five years, but the thought of ending that tradition hasn't even crossed her mind.

"My husband, at freshman orientation, tells them they're going to get a hug whether they want one or not," she said. "It is a very, very special moment for me."

Trible's second hat is that of an interior designer. She worked for an interior design firm in Washington, D.C. When her husband, a former U.S. senator, became CNU president, she brought that knowledge with her.

She designed many of the buildings' interiors. From the performing arts center to the library named after her and her husband, she determined the way the campus looks.

"I laugh and say, 'I know every paint, chip and doorknob at CNU,'" Trible said.

Her third role is founder of Fear 2 Freedom, a nonprofit with the mission to assist sexual assault survivors. Trible was sexually assaulted at gunpoint in Richmond in 1975, days after her former talk show, "Rosemary's Guest Book," hosted two women who were assaulted.

Authorities never found Trible's assailant.

"For 40 years, I have truly felt that what was meant for evil has been used for good in my life," she said. "Ever since then, I see myself as the voice for the voiceless. My great compassion is for those that have suffered from a challenge or abuse."

Fear 2 Freedom provides hospital kits for sexual assault victims. The idea stems from the moment Trible realized that survivors' clothes have to be kept for evidence, often forcing them to leave the hospital in paper scrubs.

The organization fills the kits with clothes, toiletries, a journal, a resource card and a teddy bear with a note passed along by one of the thousands of people — from students to Washington Redskins players — who have helped the CNU first lady put together more than 15,000 kits.

"I think when you have gone through trauma yourself, you understand so much more the needs of others," Trible said. "It's my greatest joy to be in students' lives. To listen to their challenges and be willing to walk alongside them is a role that is one of my most important opportunities."

Trible's other role is that of mother to her two children and "RoRo" to her two grandchildren.

Unseen force

The Harveys' home sits between Ogden Hall, Hampton University's performing arts center, and a large green space overlooking the Hampton River.

The location is prime real estate on campus and means Norma Harvey is never far away from student life.

"It's a family situation," she said. "We work with the university. We are part of the university. My kids are part of the university. That's what it's all about."

Harvey has been first lady of HU since 1978 when William R. Harvey became president. She raised her three children on campus and has maintained an active role making appearances and working behind the scenes for the university.

The Harveys regularly host both students and faculty at their home. Every faculty member who works at HU visits their home when they first start working at HU.

"They need to feel as welcomed as the president of the United States," she said. "They are very important to us."

The Harveys would know about that level of hospitality. They've hosted the president. George H.W. Bush visited when he spoke at the university's commencement in 1991.

"To see him come to the house with an entourage of about 25 people was just amazing," she said.

Harvey has also taken the children's center of the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute under her wing.

"I do things in the background. I've always been that way," she said.

Collectively, Norma and William Harvey have given more than $3.5 million dollars to the university. Similar to CNU, HU honored its president and first lady by naming the library after them.

Harvey also hopes to recognize a section of campus by putting together a book about the history of her 19th-century home.

"I've spent most of my married life on a college campus," she said. "You see the student life, whether it's speaking in a classroom or going to church, whether it's a football game or basketball game. We are involved and have been."

A family affair

As part of a Virginia dynasty of college presidents, it's easy for the Reveley family to compare notes about the job.

Helen Reveley, the first lady of the College of William and Mary, has raised four successful children, one of whom followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a university president himself. W. Taylor Reveley IV is the president of Longwood University in Farmville.

Every summer, the family heads down to South Carolina to enjoy a few weeks on the beach to rest and ready themselves for the upcoming school year.

Reveley said her husband, W. Taylor Reveley III, and their son, W. Taylor Reveley IV, share notes and thoughts to prepare for the next school year. The same goes for her and daughter-in-law Marlo Reveley.

"It's worked out pretty well for Taylor and young Taylor because they rest up," Reveley said, referring to their summer trips to the beach. "Marlo and I talk a lot. There's lots of similar things that you deal with so that's been kind of nice, actually."

Late summer sees the family, including Helen, return to their day jobs. As the first lady of William and Mary, she is not only the matriarch of her family but also to the students on campus when they are away from theirs.

"I do feel a special connection to (the students), and occasionally you'll get a parent who calls or something, so you do care a lot about them. It makes a big difference," she said.

Along with her husband, Reveley hosts dinners and programs with students, parents, faculty and staff throughout the year.

"One of the most wonderful things about the job is you just meet incredibly wonderful people, and we really have met lots and lots of them," she said.

With 2017 graduation almost behind them, Helen is entering her last year of being the college's first lady. Her husband plans to retire in spring 2018, and although she said the pair will miss their duties, they definitely plan to relax.

The Reveleys live in the President's House, which sits on campus directly across from sorority row and in front of College Yard, a quad area where the Lord Botetourt Statue stands, not far from the campus' Sunken Garden.

The location allows her to see students almost every day, whether while she's reading in her garden, heading off to an event or just peeking outside her window.

Black can be reached by phone at 757-247-4607; Joseph can be reached at 757-374-3134.

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