Assistant Dean for Admission Neal Wixson has accomplished a lot in his almost nine years at William & Mary Law School. During that span, applications to the Law School have risen by more than 75 percent, thanks in good measure to his efforts. He also spearheaded the Alumni Ambassador Program, which has become a highly successful recruiting tool. But, of all these things, Wixson said he would miss most the people at the Law School.
"It's a very strong community," he said. "When you leave it, you always have mixed feelings."
Wixson will be leaving his position on Sept. 9, after which he will pursue other interests. His contributions not only to the admissions program, but also to the community in general, will leave a lasting legacy.
Wixson joined the Office of Admission in January 2003. He initially planned to take a temporary, two-month position to help the office review applications. Prior to moving to Williamsburg, he was the senior vice president and in-house legal counsel for a large health care system in the Northeast. After spending time at the Law School, he decided to become a full-time member of the admissions staff.
"I felt that I could contribute more," he said. "I was also interested in getting to know the law students of today."
Wixson said he was pleased to find a very welcoming community at William & Mary. His colleagues were supportive of his endeavors, and he enjoyed the atmosphere of a small, hard-working office. He added that he felt privileged to work for Dean Shealy, one of the top law school admission deans in the country.
Of all the successes of his time here, perhaps the one that stands out the most for him is the Alumni Ambassador Program, which he developed and put into action in 2003. The program enlists Law School alumni from across the country to contact prospective students and provide them with a unique perspective of William & Mary, the community, and law school in general.
"It's a great opportunity for alums to stay close to the school, and it's a great opportunity for admitted students to learn more about the school," Wixson said.
This extra personal touch in recruiting has been a tremendous success. The program essentially started with a handful of alumni, and it has grown to include more than 550. Approximately 7 percent of all Law School graduates now participate in some capacity. The program augments the efforts of the Office of Admission, allowing staff to greatly extend their reach and involvement with prospective students.
"We have a very personalized approach, and we want admitted students to know that we want them in the class," Wixson said.
His work has not gone unnoticed among his colleagues over the years. Associate Dean for Admission Faye Shealy recognized Wixson as an indispensible member of the office and the school.
"Dean Wixson has been an important part of the growth and progress of the entire admission program working for the greater good of the Law School," she said in a message to faculty, staff, and administrators. "Neal's legacy in our office is strong. His dedication to our principles of service, promptness, ethics, and compassion has been exemplary."
Wixson said he is unsure of what he will do after leaving the admissions office, but he is likely to continue pursuing his love of historical writing. He has published two books about the Civil War era and has a third out for scholarly review.
His first book, "Echoes from the Boys of Company H," is an account of the war told through letters of the soldiers of Buffalo's 100th Regiment, including Wixson's great-grandfather Thomas Maharg. Wixson's second book, "Gone for a Sojer Boy," was written as a companion to the first. It, too, is based on the letters of soldiers from Company H, only this book delves into the changes in their opinions on Southerners, politics, religion, and death as they progressed through the war.
Wixson hopes to publish his third book, titled "Richmond Ladies: From Civility to Survival," by January 2012. This book is an account of the dynamics of women living in Richmond during the Civil War and the city's occupation by Union forces.
Wixson truly will be missed at William & Mary, and his accomplishments will leave a legacy for years to come.