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Margaret Thatcher: ‘I am a Virginian’

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – While she governed a nation an ocean away, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made quite an impact in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Thatcher died  Monday at the age of 87.

Three years after her time as British Prime Minister ended in 1990, the Board of Visitors at William & Mary in Williamsburg elected her as the school’s 21 chancellor. It is a position she held until 2000.

“Margaret Thatcher was a great force in British and world politics. She was also a cherished member of the William & Mary family, serving splendidly and inimitably as our Chancellor for seven years.  We will miss her enormously and deeply mourn her loss,” William & Mary president Taylor Reveley  said in a statement published on the school’s website.

Louise Lambert Kale,  Executive Director of the Historic Campus at William & Mary, says Thatcher had an enormous impact on the students, faculty and staff during her tenure as chancellor.  On Monday, Kale’s staff placed a bouquet of flowers beneath Thatcher’s portrait, which hangs in the blue room of the historic Wren Building.

“I remember her as such a strong and vibrant person,” Kale says.

While Thatcher was dubbed the “Iron Lady” for her political toughness, Kale says many on campus remember her soft demeanor.

Shortly after the unveiling of her portrait in 2001, Kale recalls students embracing Thatcher outside the Wren Building as she walked to the president’s house.

“They gave her the most enthusiastic welcome,” Kale says. “I think that was the great part of her charm and her impact at William & Mary was the fact that she was so available to the students.”

That year, Thatcher was named an honorary member of the class of 2001.

In 1995, Thatcher became the first “non-governor” to address the full Virginia General Assembly in nearly 50 years (Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower did it in 1946).

Virginia lawmakers waved British flags as Thatcher was introduced. Her speech focused on Virginia’s role in democracy.

“When I consider all that this place [Virginia] has given to democracy, I am moved to say that in spirit, ‘I am a Virginian,’ Thatcher said to thunderous applause. “Virginia after all was the crucible of Constitutional Liberty. It was from your hallowed soil that so many of the great teachers of democracy arose. It was Virginia that nurtured the great Thomas Jefferson, whose words in your Declaration of Independence still shine as a moral beacon.”

In 1998, the General Assembly voted to make Thatcher an honorary Virginian.