JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — After hundreds of new names were suggested, Thomas Nelson Community College will be renamed Virginia Peninsula Community College.
“Narrowing the list of suggestions down to three was no small task. However, when speaking with diverse groups of students, faculty, staff, and alumni about the new name, one theme continued to emerge – ‘Virginia Peninsula Community College represents me.’ I believe we have identified a name that is welcoming, inclusive, and representative of our unique region,” said Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon.
The community mainly serves students on the Peninsula, with locations in James City County and Hampton, and it’s been called “the Peninsula’s Community College” in branding since the mid-2000s.
School namesake Thomas Nelson Jr., a Revolutionary War hero, signer of the Declaration of Independence and fourth governor of Virginia, was also a slaveholder.
Thomas Nelson’s local board voted unanimously to change the name in February, after the State Board for Community Colleges asked local college advisory boards to review the appropriateness of names in the summer of 2020, saying names “should reflect the values of inclusive and accessible education articulated in the VCCS mission statement, with special emphasis on diversity, equity, and opportunity.”
Other community colleges in Virginia that have changed include John Tyler (now known as Brightpoint) and Lord Fairfax (now Laurel Ridge).
The local board recommended the name change to Virginia Peninsula Community College on Sept. 1.
School leaders said they were focused on not using an individual’s name and wanted to have a timeless name that focused on the area’s geography and was inclusive for all students.
Two buildings on the community college’s Hampton campus named after Thomas Nelson’s associates, Griffin and Wythe halls, will be renamed. Three other buildings named for his contemporaries (Moore, Diggs and Harrison) will be replaced by a new building in the coming years, school officials say.