College of William & Mary

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College of William & Mary in Virginia
The College of William & Mary Coat of Arms
Latin: Collegium Gulielmi et Mariae in Virginia
Established 1693 (1693)[1][2]
Type Private (1693–1905)
Public (1906–present)
Research university
Affiliation ORAU
Endowment $797.6 million[3]
Chancellor Robert M. Gates '65[4]
President W. Taylor Reveley III
Provost Michael R. Halleran[5]
Rector Todd Stottlemyer[6]
Academic staff
Students 8,437 (Fall 2014)[8]
Undergraduates 6,299 (Fall 2014)[8]
Postgraduates 2,138 (Fall 2014)[8]
Location Williamsburg, Virginia, United States
Campus Suburban
1,200 acres (4.9 km2)
Newspaper The Flat Hat
The Virginia Informer (Independent)
Colors W&M Green, W&M Gold, Spirit Gold & W&M Silver
Athletics NCAA Division ICAA
Nickname Tribe
Mascot Griffin[10]

The College of William & Mary in Virginia (also known as William & Mary, or W&M) is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia, United States. Privately founded in 1693 by letters patent issued by King William III and Queen Mary II, it is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States after Harvard University and the oldest in the American South. William & Mary is one of the original eight "Public Ivies," a term coined by Richard Moll in 1985 for publicly funded universities providing a quality of education considered comparable to that available in the Ivy League.[11][12]

William & Mary educated U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler as well as other key figures important to the development of the nation, including U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, sixteen members of the Continental Congress, and four signers of the Declaration of Independence.[13] W&M founded the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society in 1776 and was the first school of higher education in the United States to install an honor code of conduct for students. The establishment of graduate programs in law and medicine in 1779 makes it one of the first universities in the United States.

In addition to its undergraduate program (which includes an international joint degree program with the University of St Andrews and a joint engineering program with Columbia University), W&M is home to several graduate and professional schools, including computer science, law, business, public policy, education, marine science, physics and colonial history.


Colonial era: 1693–1776

Reverend Dr. James Blair, founder of William & Mary

A school of higher education for both Native American young men and the sons of the colonists was one of the earliest goals of the leaders of the Colony of Virginia. The College was founded on February 8, 1693, under a royal charter (legally, letters patent) to "make, found and establish a certain Place of Universal Study, a perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good arts and be supported and maintained, in all time coming."[14] Named in honor of the reigning monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II, the College is the second oldest college in the United States. The original plans for the College date back to 1618, decades before Harvard. In 1695 before the town of Williamsburg existed, construction began on the Sir Christopher Wren Building, then known only as the College Building, and is the oldest college building in America. The College is one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution. The Charter named James Blair as the College's first president (a lifetime appointment which he held until his death in 1743). William & Mary was founded as an Anglican institution; students were required to be members of the Church of England, and professors were required to declare adherence to the Thirty-Nine Articles.[15]

In 1693, the College was given a seat in the House of Burgesses and it was determined that the College would be supported by tobacco taxes and export duties on furs and animal skins. The College acquired a 330 acres (1.3 km2) parcel for the new school,[16] 8 miles (13 km) from Jamestown. In 1694, the new school opened in temporary buildings.

Williamsburg was granted a royal charter as a city in 1722 by the Crown and served as the capital of Colonial Virginia from 1699 to 1780. During this time, the College served as a law center and lawmakers frequently used its buildings. It educated future U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. The College has been called "the Alma Mater of a Nation" because of its close ties to America's founding fathers. A 17-year-old George Washington received his surveyor's license through the College and would return as its first American chancellor. William & Mary is famous for its firsts: the first U.S. institution with a Royal Charter, the first Greek-letter society (Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776), the first student honor code and the first law school in America. The College became a state-supported school in 1906 and went coed in 1918. In 1928, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. chose the Wren as the first building to be returned to its 18th-century appearance as part of the iconic Colonial Williamsburg restoration.[17]

Revolution and transition

James Monroe, 5th President of US, W&M alumnus

During the period of the American Revolution, freedom of religion was established in Virginia notably with the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Future U.S. President James Madison was a key figure in the transition to religious freedom in Virginia, and Right Reverend James Madison, his cousin and Thomas Jefferson, who was on the Board of Visitors, helped The College of William & Mary to make the transition as well. The college became the first American university with the establishment of the graduate schools in law and medicine. As its President, Reverend Madison worked with the new leaders of Virginia, most notably Jefferson, on a reorganization and changes for the College which included the abolition of the Divinity School and the Indian School and the establishment of the first elective system of study and honor system.[18]

The College of William and Mary is home to the nation's first collegiate secret society, the F.H.C. Society, popularly known as the Flat Hat Club, founded November 11, 1750. On December 5, 1776, students John Heath and William Short (Class of 1779) founded Phi Beta Kappa as a secret literary and philosophical society. Other secret societies known to currently exist at the College include: The 7 Society, 13 Club, Alpha Club, Bishop James Madison Society, The Society, The Spades, W Society, and Wren Society.[19][20]

In 1842, alumni of the College formed the Society of the Alumni[21] which is now the sixth oldest alumni organization in the United States. In 1859, a great fire caused destruction to the College. The Alumni House is one of the few original antebellum structures remaining on campus; notable others include the Wren Building, the President's House, and the Brafferton.

Civil War, Reconstruction, and the early 20th century

Wren Building, 1859–1862

At the outset of the American Civil War (1861–1865), enlistments in the Confederate States Army depleted the student body and on May 10, 1861, the faculty voted to close the College for the duration of the conflict. The College Building was used as a Confederate barracks and later as a hospital, first by Confederate, and later Union forces. The Battle of Williamsburg was fought nearby during the Peninsula Campaign on May 5, 1862, and the city fell to the Union the next day. The Brafferton building of the College was used for a time as quarters for the commanding officer of the Union garrison occupying the town. On September 9, 1862, drunken soldiers of the 5th Pennsylvania Cavalry set fire to the College Building,[22] purportedly in an attempt to prevent Confederate snipers from using it for cover. Much damage was done to the community during the Union occupation, which lasted until September 1865.

Following restoration of the Union, Virginia was destitute from the War. The College's 16th president, Benjamin Stoddert Ewell, finally reopened the school in 1869 using his personal funds but the College closed in 1882 due to lack of funds. In 1888, William & Mary resumed operations under a substitute charter when the Commonwealth of Virginia passed an act[23] appropriating $10,000 to support the College as a state teacher-training institution. Lyon Gardiner Tyler (son of US President and alumnus John Tyler) became the 17th president of the College following President Ewell's retirement. Tyler, along with 18th president J. A. C. Chandler, expanded the College into a modern institution. In March 1906, the General Assembly passed an act taking over the grounds of the colonial institution, and it has remained publicly supported ever since. In 1918, William & Mary became one of the first universities in Virginia to admit women and become coeducational.[24] During this time, enrollment increased from 104 students in 1889 to 1269 students by 1932.

The College, c. 1902

Largely thanks to the vision of a William and Mary instructor, Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin, the Sir Christopher Wren Building, the President's House and the Brafferton (the President's office) were restored to their 18th century appearance between 1928 and 1932 with substantial financial support from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Together, they led the establishment and beginnings of Colonial Williamsburg.


In 1930, William & Mary expanded its territorial range by establishing a branch in Norfolk, Virginia - The Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary. This extension would eventually become the independent state-supported institution known as Old Dominion University.

Significant campus construction continued under the College's nineteenth president, John Stewart Bryan. President Franklin D. Roosevelt received an honorary degree from the College on October 20, 1934.[25] In 1935, the Sunken Garden was constructed, just west of the Wren Building. The sunken design is taken from a similar landscape feature at Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

The College has a history of supporting freedom of the press dating back at least to the 1940s. In 1945, for example, the College administration sanctioned the student Marilyn Kaemmerle for an article she had written in The Flat Hat supporting the end of racist policies of segregation, anti-miscegenation laws and white supremacy.[26] According to Time Magazine, in response, over one-thousand William & Mary students held "a spirited mass meeting protesting infringement of the sacred principles of freedom of the press bequeathed by Alumnus Thomas Jefferson." She was pardoned by the college Board of Visitors decades later.[27]

The College admitted Hulon Willis into a graduate program in 1951 because the program was unavailable at Virginia State. However, the College did not open all programs to African-American students until around 1970.[28]

In 1960, The Colleges of William & Mary, a short-lived five campus university system, was founded. It included the College of William & Mary, the Richmond Professional Institute, the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary, Christopher Newport College, and Richard Bland College.[29] It was dissolved in 1962.

In 1974, Jay Winston Johns willed Ash Lawn–Highland, the 535-acre (2.17 km2) historic Albemarle County, Virginia estate of alumnus and U.S. President James Monroe, to the College. The College restored this historic presidential home near Charlottesville and opened it to the public.[30]

Earl Gregg Swem Library at The College of William & Mary in Virginia.

On July 25, 2012, Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), in nearby Norfolk, Virginia made a joint announcement with The College that the two schools are considering merging so that EVMS would become the William & Mary School of Medicine.[31][32] Any such merger would have to be confirmed by the two schools and then confirmed by the Virginia General Assembly and Governor. A pilot relationship, supported by $200,000 grant in the Virginia budget, was subsequently agreed upon by both universities to examine this possible union in reality.[33]


The College is located on a 1,200-acre (490 ha) campus in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 2011, Travel+Leisure named William & Mary one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States.[34]

The Sir Christopher Wren Building is both the oldest college building in the United States and a National Historic Landmark.[35] The building, colloquially referred to as the "Wren Building", was so named upon its renovation in 1931 to honor the English architect Sir Christopher Wren. The basis for the 1930s name is a 1724 history in which Hugh Jones stated that the 1699 design was "first modelled by Sir Christopher Wren" and then was adapted "by the Gentlemen there" in Virginia; little is known about how it looked, since it burned within a few years of its completion. Today's Wren Building is based on the design of its 1716 replacement. The College's Alumni Association recently published an article suggesting that Wren's connection to the 1931 building is a viable subject of investigation.[36]

Two other buildings around the Wren Building complete a triangle known unofficially as "Ancient Campus": the Brafferton (built in 1723 and originally housing the Indian School, now the President and Provost's offices) and the President's House (built in 1732). In addition to the "Ancient Campus," which dates to the 18th century, the College also consists of "Old Campus" and "New Campus."

"Old Campus" consists of academic buildings and dormitories built in close proximity to the Wren Building and match the Georgian and Anglo-Dutch architecture of the colonial buildings of "Ancient Campus" and Colonial Williamsburg. Located directly to the west of the Wren Building, the majority of "Old Campus" was constructed during the 1920s and 1930s and is dominated by the Sunken Gardens and the College's football stadium, Zable Stadium. Also located within "Old Campus" are Sorority Court, the majority of upperclassmen dormitories, and the offices and classrooms of the History, Philosophy, Religion, Music, Modern Language, and English Departments.

Adjoining "Old Campus" to the north and west is "New Campus." It was constructed primarily between 1950 and 1980, and it consists of academic buildings and dormitories that, while of the same brick construction as "Old Campus," fit into the vernacular of modern architecture. Beginning with the College's tercentenary in 1993, the College has embarked on a building and renovation program that favors the traditional architectural style of "Old Campus," while incorporating energy-efficient technologies. Several buildings constructed since the 1990s have been LEED certified. Additionally, as the buildings of "New Campus" are renovated after decades of use, several have been remodeled to incorporate more traditional architectural elements in an effort to unify the appearance of the entire College campus. "New Campus" is dominated by William and Mary Hall, Earl Gregg Swem Library, and Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. It also includes the offices and classrooms of the Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Biology, and Chemistry Departments, the majority of freshman dormitories, the fraternity complex, and the majority of the College's athletic fields. The newest addition to "New Campus" is Alan B. Miller Hall, the headquarters of the College's Mason School of Business.

The renovated Matoaka Amphitheater scenically located on the shore of Lake Matoaka.

The recent wave of construction at William and Mary has resulted in a new building for the School of Education, located not far from William and Mary Hall. Additionally, new facilities have freed up space in existing structures. The offices and classrooms of the Government, Economics, and Classical Language Departments, which currently share a building on "New Campus" (Morton Hall), could potentially be separated and some relocated to vacant buildings recently renovated within the "Old Campus".

The vast majority of William and Mary's 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) consists of woodlands and Lake Matoaka, a man-made lake created by colonists in the early 18th century.[37] The College has shown a dedication to the stewardship and preservation of these natural elements, which are accessible via the trails running throughout the campus.

The College also has property and buildings not contiguous to campus, including the William and Mary School of Law and the McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center, both located on a piece of property approximately four blocks southeast of the Wren Building. Additionally, approximately a mile northwest of "New Campus" is the Dillard Complex (located across from the modern campus of Virginia's Eastern State Hospital), which is home to several offices, two former dormitories, and Plumeri Park, the College's baseball stadium.

Organization and administration

Current president W. Taylor Reveley III

The Board of Visitors is a corporation established by the General Assembly of Virginia to govern and supervise the operation of the College of William & Mary and of Richard Bland College.[38] The corporation is composed of 17 members appointed by the Governor of Virginia, based upon the recommendations made by the Society of the Alumni, to a maximum of two-successive four-year terms. The Board elects a Rector, Vice Rector, and Secretary and the Board meets four times annually.[38] The Board is responsible for appointing a president, related administrative officers, and an honorary chancellor, approving degrees, admission policies, departments, and schools, and executing the fiduciary duties of supervising the College's property and finances.[39]

The Chancellor of the College of William and Mary is largely a ceremonial role. Until 1776, the position was held by an English subject, usually the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Bishop of London, who served as the College's advocate to the crown, while a colonial President oversaw the day-to-day activities of the Williamsburg campus. Following the Revolutionary War, General George Washington was appointed as the first American chancellor; later United States President John Tyler held the post. The College has recently had a number of distinguished chancellors: former Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger (1986–1993), former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (1993–2000), former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (2000–2005), and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (2005–2012).[40] Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, himself an alumnus of the College, succeeded O'Connor in February 2012.[4]

The Board of Visitors delegates to a president the operating responsibility and accountability for the administrative, fiscal, and academic performance of the College as well as representing the College on public occasions such as conferral of degrees.[38] In September 2008, W. Taylor Reveley III became the 27th President of the College, succeeding Gene Nichol.[41] The president is assisted by a provost, the senior academic officer of the university, and several vice presidents.

Faculty members are organized into separate faculties of the Faculty of Arts and Science as well as those for the respective schools of Business, Education, Law, and Virginia Institute of Marine Science.[38] Each faculty is presided over by a dean, who reports to the provost, and governs itself through separate by-laws approved by the Board of Visitors. The faculty are also represented by a faculty assembly that serves to advise the president and provost.[38]

The Royal Hospital School, an independent boarding school in the United Kingdom, is a sister institution.[42]


The College of William & Mary is a medium-sized, highly residential, public research university.[43] The focal point of the university is its four-year, full-time undergraduate program which comprises most of the institution's enrollment. The College has a strong undergraduate arts & sciences focus, with a select number of graduate programs in diverse fields ranging from American colonial history to marine science. The College offers four academic programs in its Washington, DC office, an undergraduate joint degree program in engineering with Columbia University, as well as a liberal arts joint degree program with the University of St Andrews in Scotland.[44]

The graduate programs are dominant in STEM fields and the university has a high level of research activity.[43] For the 2013–14 school year, 1,573 undergraduate, 591 masters, and 287 doctoral degrees were conferred.[8] William & Mary is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[45]

William & Mary offers exchange programs with 15 foreign schools, drawing more than 12% of its undergraduates into these programs, and receives U.S. State Department grants to further expand its foreign exchange programs.[46]

Academic departments

The College is organized into one faculty and four schools:

Learning environment

William & Mary is committed to ensuring the quality of its undergraduate teaching experience.[47] To advance this mission, W&M provides a "small college environment" and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio of 12-to-1 (the second lowest among U.S. public universities), thereby fostering student-professor interaction. A notable 99% of all undergraduate classes, excluding labs, are taught by professors (not teaching assistants) and 86% of all classes contain 40 or fewer students.[48]

Student body and admissions

Demographics of student body [8][49]
(Fall 2014)
Virginia U.S.
African American 7.4% 19.4% 12.2%
Asian American 8.0% 5.5% 4.7%
White American 59.0% 68.6% 63.7%
Hispanic American 9.1% 6.2% 16.4%
Native American 0.2% 0.4% 0.7%
International student 5.4% N/A N/A
Two or more races 4.4% 2.9% 1.9%
Other/unknown 6.6% 3.3% 0.4%

William & Mary enrolled 6,299 undergraduate and 2,138 postgraduate students in Fall 2014.[8] Women made up 56.2% of the undergraduate and 54.1% of the graduate student bodies.[8]

Admission to W&M is considered "most selective" according to U.S. News and World Report.[47] There were 14,552 applications for admission to the class of 2018 (enrolling fall 2014): 4,805 were admitted (33.0%) and 1,511 enrolled (an admissions yield of 31.4%).[50] The average high school GPA of enrolled freshmen was 4.16, and 90.1% had a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher.[50] The middle 50% range on SAT scores was 640–730 for reading, 630–740 for math, and 620–720 for writing, while the ACT Composite middle 50% range was 29–33.[50]

Undergraduate tuition for 2015–2016 was $13,978 for Virginia residents and $35,122 for out-of-state students.[51] W&M granted over $18.6 million in need-based scholarships in 2013–2014 to 1,703 students (27.5% of the student body); 38% of the student body received loans, and average student indebtedness was $25,733.[52]

Graduate school

Sixty percent of W&M students go on to graduate school within five years of graduation.

Public service

William and Mary is the highest-ranked national university for placement of its graduates in public or government service according to Washington Monthly Magazine.[53]


University rankings
Forbes[54] 39
U.S. News & World Report[55] 34
Washington Monthly[56] 35
QS[57] 551-600
Times[58] 201–250

In the 15 years since U.S. News & World Report began ranking public universities as a separate category, W&M's undergraduate program has always ranked in the Top 10. W&M was ranked 6th best public and tied for 34th best overall university program in America, according to the 2016 U.S. News & World Report rankings.[59] U.S. News & World Report also rated William & Mary's undergraduate teaching as the 4th best in the nation in its 2016 rankings.[59] In the 2015 "America's Top Colleges" ranking by Forbes, W&M was ranked the 6th best public and 39th out of the 650 best private and public colleges and universities.[60]

W&M was ranked the public college with the smartest students according to Business Insider's 2014 survey. [1]

In 2014 Kiplinger ranked William & Mary 7th out of the top 100 best-value public colleges and universities in the nation.[61]

The undergraduate business program was ranked 22nd among undergraduate programs by the 2014 Bloomberg Businessweek survey.[62]

Graduate school rankings

U.S. colonial history

William & Mary's graduate program in U.S. colonial history was ranked 3rd by U.S. News & World Report in its rankings for 2016.[59]


William & Mary Law School was ranked 29th among all schools in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings.[59]

Computer Science

The College of William & Mary Computer Science Department was ranked 70th among all schools in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News & World Report graduate school rankings.[59]


William & Mary's graduate business program (Mason School of Business) ranked 47th by Business Week in 2010,[63] 41st by Forbes in 2011,[64] #40 nationally by the Financial Times in 2008[65] and 17th nationally by the Wall Street Journal.[66] It is also ranked tied for 74th by U.S. News & World Report in its rankings for 2016.[59]


William and Mary's School of Education ranked 46th in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report rankings.[59]


The College, vis-à-vis the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture publishes the William and Mary Quarterly, a scholarly journal focusing on colonial history, particularly in North America and the Atlantic World from the Age of Discovery onward.

In addition to the Quarterly, W&M, in accordance with its mission to provide undergraduates with a thorough grounding in research also hosts several student journals. The Monitor is the undergraduate journal of International Studies which publishes on a bi-annual basis. The Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History also supports an undergraduate history journal, The James Blair Historical Review, which publishes on an annual basis.

Non-academic publications include The William & Mary Review – the College's official literary magazine – Winged Nation – a student literary arts magazine, Acropolis – the Art and Art History magazine, The Flat Hat – the student newspaper, The Colonial Echo – the College's yearbook, and The DoG Street Journal – a daily online newspaper.


Since the 17th century, many prominent academics have chosen to teach at William & Mary. Distinguished faculty include the first professor of law in the United States, George Wythe (who taught Henry Clay, John Marshall, and Thomas Jefferson, among others); William Small (Thomas Jefferson's cherished mentor); William and Thomas Dawson, who were also presidents of William & Mary. In addition, the founder and first president of the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyWilliam Barton Rogers – taught chemistry at William & Mary (which was also Professor Barton's alma mater). Several members of the socially elite and politically influential Tucker family, including Nathaniel Beverly, St. George, and Henry St. George Tucker, Sr. (who penned the original honor code pledge for the University of Virginia that remains in use there today), taught at William & Mary.

More recently, William & Mary recruited the constitutional scholar William Van Alstyne from Duke Law School. Professor Benjamin Bolger – the second-most credentialed person in modern history behind Michael Nicholson – teaches at W&M.[67] Lawrence Wilkerson, current Harriman Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy, was chief of staff for Colin Powell. Susan Wise Bauer is an author and founder of Peace Hill Press who teaches writing and American literature at the College. James Axtell, who teaches history, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Fellow in 2004.

Student life

Campus activities

The College enjoys a temperate climate.[68] In addition to renovations on the student recreation center (including a new gym, rock climbing wall, and larger exercise rooms),[69] the largely wooded campus has its own lake and outdoor amphitheatre. The Virginia Beach oceanfront is 60 miles (97 km) away, and Washington D.C. is a 150-mile (240 km) drive to the north. Also, the beaches of the Delmarva Peninsula are just a few hours away via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

The College's Alma Mater Productions (AMP) hosts concerts, comedians, and speakers on campus and in the 8,600-person capacity Kaplan Arena.[70] Students produce numerous publications on campus, including the official student newspaper The Flat Hat, the conservative-leaning newspaper The Virginia Informer, and the monthly magazine The DoG Street Journal. The school's television station, WMTV, produces informational content in the categories of cuisine, comedy, travel, and sports. Everyday Gourmet, the flagship production of the station, was recently featured in USA Today.[71]

The College has a large number of student run dance organizations including Swing and Ballroom Dance.[72] The Ballroom Dance club competes at various universities along the East Coast. In 2010, the College sent senior members to the US National Dancesport Competition.

The College also hosts a number of prominent student-run cultural organizations, such as the Chinese Student Organization, African Cultural Society, Japanese Cultural Association, Vietnamese Student Association, and Tribe Bhangra Team. These organizations hold events to promote the spread and awareness of different cultures from around the world.

Honor system

Thomas Jefferson

William & Mary's honor system was first established by alumnus Thomas Jefferson in 1779 and is widely believed to be the nation's first.[73] During the orientation week, every entering student recites the Honor Pledge in the Great Hall of the Wren Building pledging:

As a Member of the William & Mary community I pledge, on my Honor, not to lie, cheat, or steal in either my academic or personal life. I understand that such acts violate the Honor Code and undermine the community of trust of which we are all stewards.

The basis of W&M's Honor Pledge was written over 150 years ago by alumnus and law professor Henry St. George Tucker, Sr.[74] While teaching law at the University of Virginia, Tucker proposed that students attach a pledge to all exams confirming that on their honor they did not receive any assistance.[75][76] Tucker's honor pledge was the early basis of the Honor System at the University of Virginia.[77] At W&M, the Honor System stands as one of the College's most important traditions; it remains student-administered through the Honor Council with the advice of the faculty and administration of the College. The College's Honor System is codified such that students found guilty of cheating, stealing or lying are subject to sanctions ranging anywhere from a verbal warning up to expulsion.[78]


Crim Dell bridge in the heart of W&M's wooded campus

William & Mary has a number of traditions, including the Yule Log Ceremony, at which the president dresses as Santa Claus and reads a rendition of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", the Vice-President of Student Affairs reads "Twas the Night Before Finals," and The Gentlemen of the College sing the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas".[79] Christmas is a grand celebration at the College; decorated Christmas trees abound on campus. This popular tradition in fact started when German immigrant Charles Minnegerode, a humanities professor at the College in 1842 who taught Latin and Greek, brought one of the first Christmas trees to America. Entering into the social life of post-colonial Virginia, Minnigerode introduced the German custom of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas at the home of law professor St. George Tucker, thereby becoming another of many influences that prompted Americans to adopt the practice at about that time.[80]

Incoming freshmen participate in Opening Convocation, at which they pass through the entrance of the Wren Building and are officially welcomed as the newest members of the College. Freshmen also have the opportunity, during orientation week, to serenade the President of the College at his home with the Alma Mater song. The Senior Walk is similar, in that graduating seniors walk through the Wren Building in their "departure" from the College. On the last day of classes, Seniors are invited to ring the bell in the cupola of the Wren Building.

One unofficial tradition is the Triathlon, a set of three tasks completed by many students prior to graduation. These include jumping the wall of the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg after hours (and if so inclined, running through the Boxwood Maze to the Palace itself), streaking through the Sunken Garden, and swimming in the Crim Dell pond.

William and Mary also takes pride in their connections to their colonial past during Charter Day festivities. Charter Day is technically February 8, based on the date (from the Julian Calendar) that the Reverend James Blair, first President of The College received the charter from the Court of William and Mary at Kensington Palace in 1693. Past Charter Day speakers have included former US President John Tyler, Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, and Robert Gates.

A unique tradition at William and Mary is the annual Raft Debate. Described by The College as "...a 'delicate balance of comedy and lecture,' the annual Raft Debate features four W&M faculty members from diverse disciplines, stranded on a desolate island with only a one-person life raft for escape to civilization. Based on the volume of applause, the audience chooses the sole survivor as the professors cajole, plead, pontificate, and resort shamelessly to props and costumes. The quirky event originated in the mid-1900s and was revived during the 2000s by the Graduate Center, the A&S Office of Graduate Studies and Research, and the A&S Graduate Student Association. Faculty participants represent the Humanities, the Social Sciences, or the Natural and Computational Sciences. The Devil's Advocate, who argues sarcastically that none of the academic disciplines are worth saving, has on rare occasion emerged victoriously."

Commencement exercises each year begin with the senior class walking through the Wren Building and across the campus, crossing the Crim Dell bridge, and arriving at William & Mary Hall for the commencement ceremony. The graduating class processes into the arena as the Choir of the College of William & Mary sings the William & Mary Hymn.

Fraternities and sororities

William & Mary has a long history of fraternities and sororities dating back to Phi Beta Kappa, the first "Greek-letter" organization, which was founded there in 1776 . Today, Greek organizations play an important role in the College community, along with other social organizations (e.g. theatre and club sports organizations). Overall, about one-third of its undergraduates are active members of 16 national fraternities and 13 sororities.[81] William & Mary is also home to several unique non-Greek social fraternities, notably the Nu Kappa Epsilon music sorority[82] and the Queens' Guard.[83]


William and Mary has twelve collegiate a cappella groups: The Botetourt Chamber Singers (1975, co-ed); The Christopher Wren Singers (1987, co-ed); The Gentlemen of the College (1990, all-male); The Stairwells (1990, all-male); Intonations (1990, all-female); Reveille (1992, all-female); The Accidentals (1992, all-female); DoubleTake (1993, co-ed); Common Ground (1995, all-female); One Accord (1998, all-male); The Cleftomaniacs (1999, co-ed); Passing Notes (2002, all-female).[84] The Sinfonicron, founded in 1965, is William and Mary's light opera company.[85] Music societies at the college include local chapters of the music honor societies Delta Omicron (co-ed) and Phi Mu Alpha (all-male) as well as Nu Kappa Epsilon (all-female). Nu Kappa Epsilon, founded in 1994 at William and Mary, is "dedicated to promoting the growth and development of musical activities at the College as well as in the Williamsburg community".[86]

Large musical ensembles include a symphony orchestra, wind symphony, and choir. Other musical ensembles at The College include an Early Music Ensemble, featuring medieval, renaissance and baroque music, a Jazz combo ensemble, a Jazz ensemble, the Wham Bam Big Band, a Mixed Ensemble which features chamber music, an Opera workshop, a percussion ensemble, saxophone ensemble, string ensemble, viol ensemble and wind ensemble.[87] In addition to these traditional groups W&M offers a number of non-traditional and world music ensembles such as The Appalachian Music Ensemble, Indonesian Gamelan, Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, and performance art ensemble.[88] Prior to 1996 the College also had a formal Marching Band, however from 1996 to present The College has joined the likes of Columbia University in having a scramble band on campus, known as the William & Mary Pep Band.[89] Additionally, though not formally affiliated with The College, the William and Mary Bookstore hosts an Irish seisiún once a week.

Comedy groups

William and Mary has three campus comedy groups. I.T. (short for Improvisational Theatre) has been around since 1986,[90] The sketch comedy ensemble 7th Grade Sketch Comedy has been in existence since 1997.[91] In 2012 a new improvisational group, Sandbox Improv, was formed. While I.T. performs short form improv, Sandbox Improv is the only long-form improvisational team on William and Mary's Campus.[92]


Formerly known as the "Indians," William & Mary's athletic teams are now known as the "Tribe". The College fields NCAA Division I teams for men and women in basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, and indoor and outdoor track and field. In addition, there are women's field hockey, lacrosse and volleyball squads as well as men's baseball and football. In the 2004–05 season, the Tribe garnered five Colonial Athletic Association titles, and it leads the conference with over 80 titles. In that same year, several teams competed in the NCAA Championships, with the football team appearing in the Division I-AA national semifinals. The men's cross country team finished 8th and 5th at the Division I NCAA Men's Cross Country Championship in 2006 and 2009, respectively. The William & Mary men's basketball team is one of five original Division I schools that has never been to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

There have been many recent notable athletes who competed for the Tribe. On the men's soccer team, goalkeeper Adin Brown was a back-to-back NCAA First Team All-American in 1998 and 1999. The track program has produced several All-Americans, including Brian Hyde, an Olympian and collegiate record holder in the 1500-meter run, and Ed Moran, a gold medalist in the 5000-meter run at the 2007 Pan American Games. The baseball program boasts a handful of current MLB players, including relief pitcher Bill Bray with the Cleveland Indians organization, 11 year MLB career Curtis Pride Montreal Expos, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers, and Colorado Rockies utility infielder Brendan Harris. The football program has also produced numerous NFL players and coaches: All-Pro safety Darren Sharper, current Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, cornerback Derek Cox, kicker Steve Christie, long snapper Mike Leach, Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Lang Campbell, wide receiver Dominique Thompson, Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches Marv Levy and Lou Holtz, and Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Duffner.

In May 2006, the NCAA ruled that the athletic logo, which includes two green and gold feathers, could create an environment that is offensive to the American Indian community, even though the Florida State Seminoles logo and Utah Utes logo were considered unoffensive. The College's appeal regarding the use of the institution's athletic logo to the NCAA Executive Committee was rejected. The "Tribe" nickname, by itself, was found to be neither hostile nor abusive, but rather communicates ennobling sentiments of commitment, shared idealism, community and common cause.[93] The College stated it would phase out the use of the two feathers by the fall of 2007, although they can still be seen prominently painted on streets throughout the campus.[94]

History of the W&M mascot and nicknames[95]

1896: The W&M football team was nicknamed "The Orange and White" after the team colors.

1909: The uniform colors changed to the "Orange and Black," because the white became dirty too quickly, according to one report. The team was consequently called "The Orange and Black."

1916: The nickname "Indians" was first referenced in the 1916 edition of the Colonial Echo referring to the basketball team. The teams adopted the nickname and a logo of an Indian with a knife and tomahawk. (As part of its charter of 1693, the College included an Indian School to evangelize and educate local Native American boys.)[96]

1923: The College earned the nickname "Fighting Virginians" from the "Northern Press" as a result of the team's effort in a 24–7 loss to the Syracuse Orangemen.

1924: The College's colors were changed to green, gold and silver. The colors came from the College's coat of arms. The change was officially made so that the College and athletic colors would be identical.

1924: The term "Tribe" was first referenced in the 1924 edition of the Colonial Echo. Other nicknames that were given to the College's teams during this time period and the years following it include Big Green, Braves and Warriors.

Late 1930s to 1942: An Indian pony WAMPO was used on the sidelines as a mascot. The pony often carried a rider in full Indian attire. WAMPO's name was derived from "William And Mary POny."

1947: One sports write dubbed the W&M football team "The Big Green Indians" during its first post-season bowl bid.

1953: The team became known as the "Iron Indians," after the name appeared in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

Mid-to-late-1950s to mid-1990s: WAMI (William And Mary Indian), a caricature similar to that used by the Cleveland Indians was used as a logo. The WAMPO and rider in buckskins tradition continued sporadically until the late 1980s. Often as part of cheerleading at William and Mary, including for games and parades, a man and/or woman wore Native American inspired costume. This was common from the 1950s through the early 1990s. The 1992 Colonial Echo yearbook includes mention of student Shawn Wilkins who dressed as the mascot. She wore a white dress with fringe, a headband with feathers, and her face was painted (p. 309).[97]

1974: A "WM" with feathers logo first appeared in a 1974 Football Yearbook and then on the helmets of the 1977 football team.

1978: The Indian images were removed from the athletic logo. The term "Indian" was phased out by the early 1980s. The "WM' with two feathers became the College's official new logo, and the term "Tribe" continued to be used.

1989: A committee to examine school spirit and tradition was convened to discuss whether the Tribe nickname should be phased out.

2001 to 2005: Briefly,a green costumed character named Colonel Ebirt served as an unofficial mascot. The character's name was derived from the word Tribe spelled backwards.

2006: In May, the National Collegiate Athletic Association determined that William and Mary could keep its Tribe nickname but had to do away with its logo because the two feathers potentially could be offensive. The College appealed the NCAA decision but received notice in August that the appeal had been denied.

Subsequently, a selection process was conducted to select the College's new mascot. In December 2009, five finalists – including a Griffin, King and Queen, the Phoenix, a Pug and the Wren – were announced from more than 800 submissions.[98]

2010 to present: On April 6, 2010, President Taylor Reveley announced that the College has selected the Griffin as its new mascot.[99] The new mascot does not replace the university's nickname of Tribe.


The College of William & Mary counts many famous and historical people among its alumni, including three of the first ten presidents of the United States, four United States Supreme Court justices, dozens of United States senators and representatives and current entertainers. A list can be found here.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (Class of 1965)
Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin (Class of 1995)
Former Chair of U.S. Council of Economic Advisors Christina Romer (Class of 1981)
The Daily Show's Jon Stewart (Class of 1984)
NASA astronaut David M. Brown (Class of 1978)


The "William & Mary Hymn"[100] is sung at the commencement exercises by the choir of the College of William & Mary as the graduating class processes into William & Mary Hall. Commencement speakers at the College of William and Mary have included a variety of notables, including alumni, presidents of the College, students, professors, politicians, journalists, entertainers, and royalty, among others.[101]


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External links

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