College of William and Mary

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The College of William and Mary in Virginia is a public, liberal-arts university located in Williamsburg, Virginia. The College currently enrolls 5700 undergraduate and 2000 graduate students.

William and Mary traces its roots to the seventeenth century and is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the third oldest in North America. The College's Wren Building is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States.

Although it has long been a university, it retains the word "college" in its name because the original charter of 1693 specified that it always and forever be named "the College of William and Mary in Virginia."

The college was included as one of Richard Moll's Public Ivy schools for its outstanding academics and affordable tuition costs.



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The Wren Building

In 1691 the Virginia Colony's House of Burgesses sent the Reverend James Blair to England to secure a charter for a proposed college. Blair was ultimately successful, and the College was founded on February 8, 1693, under royal charter from the English Monarchs, William and Mary. The charter named James Blair as the College's first President.

The three original College buildings (the President's House, Brafferton, and the main building, a precursor to today's Wren Building) were built between 1693 and 1699 upon 330 acres (1.3 km²), ten miles (16 km) north of Jamestown, Virginia, in a placed called Middle Plantation (later renamed Williamsburg, Virginia). Students of the College were responsible for suggesting the Capital of the Virginia Colony be moved nearby after fire destroyed the fourth State House at Jamestown in 1698. The House of Burgesses met at the College while the new State House was constructed at Williamsburg, and again when it burned in 1847 until it was rebuilt in 1853.

The College building also was often subject to catastrophe, being partially destroyed by fire and rebuilt three times (in 1705, 1859 and 1862) with further portions demolished and rebuilt during the late 1920s. The building now standing was named the "Wren Building" after the prominent English architect Christopher Wren, who once was credited with designing an earlier iteration. As an interesting point of history, the descendants of the original ivy grown on the building has been kept in a preservation from which all ivy on the building during its many incarnations has been planted.

In 1779, William and Mary became the first U.S. college to achieve the status of University with the addition of the College of Law and School of Modern Languages. However, it retains the word "college" in its name because the original charter specified that it always and forever be named "the College of William and Mary in Virginia." William and Mary closed from 1881 to 1885 due to funding problems. The Commonwealth of Virginia granted the University a formal charter during the early twentieth century, turning William and Mary into a state university and adding the College of Education.

William and Mary is notable for several academic firsts. Under the guidance of Virginia's then Governor Thomas Jefferson, the College adopted the nation's first elective system of study and also introduced the first student policed Honor System. In 1779, also at the request of Jefferson, the College made Jefferson's friend and mentor, George Wythe, the first Professor of Law in America.

The Phi Beta Kappa honor society was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776, establishing chapters at other schools before collapsing within a few years. The society since has been reestablished at the College. The Bishop James Madison Society, a secret society that remains active today, was also founded there. A number of other secret societies exist at the school, including the Flat Hat Club (FHC), the Alpha Club, the 7 Society, and the 13 Club.

In 1993, William and Mary opened Tercentenary Hall to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the charter. This building would later be renamed under a flurry of protest to McGlothlin Street Hall, in recognition of the McGlothlin and Street Families contributions to the institution. The building currently houses the Applied Sciences department, the Geology department, and the Computer Science department.

Despite student protest and the disapproval of some alumni, Henry Kissinger was appointed Chancellor to the college in 2001. Protest was focused on what some consider war crimes committed by Kissinger during his political career.

In 2004, Timothy J. Sullivan, the 25th President of the College, resigned from his position, effective at the end of the 2004-2005 academic year. On March 14, 2005, Gene R. Nichol, currently the Dean and Burton Craige Professor of the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was selected to fill the vacant position, beginning in July 2005.

William and Mary boasts a good number of traditions. One such tradition is the Yule Log Ceremony held prior to the Winter Holidays, during which the President of the College dressed as Santa Claus reads "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the Dean reads "Twas the Night Before Finals." The Ceremony ends with the students tossing holly onto the Yule Log, symbolizing the tossing away of the past year's worries and hardships. Another tradition is Opening Convocation during which the Freshmen class walk through the Wren Building and are officially welcomed as the newest members of the college. The Senior Walk Through Campus is the final tradition and takes place on the morning of graduation. The graduates walk in their academic regalia through the Wren Building (in the opposite direction they walked as Freshmen during Convocation) and across campus to their Commencement at William and Mary Hall.

William and Mary also boasts a number of unofficial traditions. The first of these is the "Triathlon," three tasks which legend states must be completed prior to graduation. The first of these tasks is to jump the Governor's Palace Wall in Colonial Williamsburg. The second task is to streak the Sunken Gardens, located in the middle of "Old Campus." The third and final task is to jump into the Crim Dell. Another tradition also centers around the Crim Dell. Legend has is that if you kiss your love in the middle of the Crim Dell bridge, you are destined to be together for eternity. If things turn sour, the only way to break the "curse" is to toss the person you kissed off the bridge. However, it should be noted that if you cross the bridge alone, you are destined to be alone forever.

Famous alumni

Famous friends of the College

Notable Professors

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