William and Mary, College of

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WILLIAM AND MARY, COLLEGE OF. The College of William and Mary is a state university located in Williamsburg, Virginia. The college has a long and distinguished history. Chartered by William III and Mary II on 8 February 1693, the college drew its support from the English crown, the Established Church, and the colonial government of Virginia. It was the successor to a proposed university at Henrico, Va., which had been destroyed during a 1622 Indian uprising before its completion. William and Mary's first president, the Rev. James Blair, was also rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg and commissary in Virginia of the bishop of London. The College of Arms in London granted a coat of arms to the college on 14 May 1694. The first college building was erected in 1695; it was rebuilt and enlarged after a fire in 1705.

Redesigned after fires in 1859 and 1862, it was restored to its eighteenth-century appearance in 1928–1930 with funds donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and renamed the Sir Christopher Wren Building. Still in use today, the Wren Building is the oldest academic building in continuous use in North America. The building is named after its architect, who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Two other early college buildings were also restored beginning in 1928: the Brafferton, constructed in 1723 with funds from the estate of the physicist Robert Boyle as a school for Indians; and the President's House, built in 1732, which beginning with Blair has served as the official residence.

Many of the students of the early college were leaders in the American Revolution, including Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Richard Bland, Peyton Randolph, Edmund Randolph, and Benjamin Harrison; John Marshall and John Tyler also attended the college. In 1776 the Phi Beta Kappa Society was organized by a group of students, and that same year the college adopted the honor code system of conduct, the first American college to do so. Schools of medicine, law, and modern languages were established in 1779. The college was also the first American institution of higher learning to adopt a system of course electives for its undergraduates.

After the Declaration of Independence, the college formally broke ties with Great Britain. During the Revolutionary War the college was closed briefly in 1781, when it was occupied by British Gen. Charles Cornwallis. It closed again during the Civil War; and again from 1881 until 1888 for lack of funds. In 1888 a state grant enabled the college to reopen to educate male teachers, and in 1906 the property of the college was deeded to the Commonwealth of Virginia. The college became coeducational in 1918. Branches that opened during the 1920s in Richmond and Norfolk became, in 1962, Virginia's state-supported urban universities, Virginia Commonwealth University and Old Dominion University, respectively.

In 1967, William and Mary was redesignated a university without changing its traditional name. It is today the second-oldest college in the United States, behind Harvard College. It boasts an enrollment of 7,500 students, including 5,500 undergraduates, and draws students from all 50 states and over 75 countries.


Morpugo, J. E. Their Majesties' Royall Colledge: William and Mary in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Williamsburg, Va.: College of William and Mary, 1976.

RossWeeksJr./a. g.

See alsoHarvard University ; South, the: The Antebellum South ; Tidewater ; Universities, State ; Yale University .

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College of William and Mary

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College of William and Mary