Gene Ray Nichol was the twenty-sixth president of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Nichol's October 2006 decision to change a long-standing university policy by removing a cross from permanent display on the altar of the Chapel in the Wren Building ended his first year as president in controversy. He explained that a cross in the chapel of a public university made some students of other religious traditions feel unwelcome in a place considered by the community to be an important part of campus.
After the Board of Visitors decided not to renew his three-year contract, which was set to expire on June 30, 2008, Nichol voluntarily resigned on February 12. He will return to teaching at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law.
In his resignation letter, Nichol claimed that the Board of Visitors had offered him money to stay silent on the supposed true reason he was fired, free speech. He also claimed members of the Board of Visitors had been threatened by legislators if they did not order his resignation, and that the Virginia government was unhappy with his efforts to diversify the student body and faculty. Nichol claimed that he was offered "substantial economic incentives" to not mention this as well.