Timothy J. Sullivan, president of the College of William and Mary, announced yesterday that he will step down next spring after 13 years at the helm of the prestigious public university.

Sullivan, 60, who gained a reputation as perhaps the most politically outspoken college president in Virginia, said he felt it was time for the 311-year-old college to prepare for the next generation of leadership and for him and his wife, Anne Doubet Klare, to seek "yet one more adventure" in their lives.

"We all know that change is essential if great institutions are to remain great," he said in a news conference on the Williamsburg campus.

Susan Aheron Magill, the rector of William and Mary's governing board, said the search for Sullivan's successor will begin immediately.

Sullivan, the college's 25th president, spent most of his career there. He graduated from the college in 1966 and returned there as a law professor in 1972. He was tapped to become the president in 1992 after seven years as dean of the law school.

During Sullivan's tenure, William and Mary's national profile rose significantly. The number of applications for the undergraduate college rose from 7,000 to about 10,000 this year, and research grant funding and private donations have tripled, as has the overall size of the school's endowment.

During years when Virginia's public campuses were forced to weather deep budget cuts, Sullivan emerged as state higher education's sharpest-tongued advocate.

In 1998, he made headlines -- and drew the ire of then-Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) -- by warning that state universities would face an educational "Armageddon" without new funding. Later, he publicly criticized the Gilmore-led rollback of the car tax, which prompted another round of budget cuts.

Sullivan also lobbied hard against measures that would have capped or reduced the number of out-of-state students that Virginia public colleges can enroll, noting that the higher tuition non-Virginians pay subsidizes costs for in-state residents. About 35 percent of William and Mary's 5,748 undergraduates are from outside Virginia. The college also enrolls a little more than 2,000 graduate and professional students.

More recently, Sullivan has helped lead a continuing effort to persuade state lawmakers to free Virginia's three leading public institutions -- including the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech -- from some state regulations in exchange for a smaller share of future budget increases.