The Fencing Team at William & Mary is a competitive club fencing team which fields male and female competitors in all three weapons. Fencing has a long history at the college of William & Mary, and has at times been a varsity sport, most recently in the 1990's.
Early History of Fencing at the College
William & Mary had a fencing team already established in 1924. Tucker Jones, the man who established it, arrived at the college in 1921, and there is no mention of any fencing-related activities prior to that date in the Flat Hat or Colonial Echo, nor does the Special Records Collection have records from the Athletics Department that predate his arrival, so it seems likely that he was responsible for the genesis of the team.
Fencing in the 1940's
In 1942, William & Mary's fencing team had lost only seven meets in 10 years, was among the first five teams in the nation, and were reigning South Atlantic Fencing champions.
For a time in the 1940's, the William & Mary fencing team was comprised entirely of women. The new varsity team, comprised entirely of women, was formed in 1947. As a Flat Hat article of the time states: "Several years ago, there were men's fencing teams, under the directorship of Tucker Jones, instructor in physical education. The present organization, composed entirely of the female sex, was formed four years ago [in 1944] as a result of his interest and enthusiasm in the sport.William & Mary is the only college in this section of the country which sponsors fencing as an organized sport for women." There was enough interest that competitive teams were chosen through the use of a tournament, the winners of which traveled to New York to compete against other schools.
Fencing in the 1950's
Fencing continued to be a sport at the college. In 1958 there was both a women's varsity fencing team and an intramural fencing team.
Fencing in the 1960's
In 1960 there was no men's varsity fencing team at the college, but John H. Willis founded one. In his words: "So when I came to William & Mary, after a couple of years I decided I wanted to continue that so I created for the first time the men's fencing club at William & Mary. Back in the 1930s William & Mary had an intercollegiate fencing team of some renown, but it had lapsed for all the war years. So when I came to William in 1959, or in the 60s actually, I picked up and started the William & Mary men's fencing club and eventually turned it into a varsity sport and was coaching it as a varsity sport for a couple of years until it got (laughing) too much for me to do."
Fencing in the 1990's
According the SCRC files, the fencing team were reigning National Champions in 1992. However, the fencing team lost varsity status in 1996: "Because of the Strategic Plan, the team will be relegated to club status next year [1996- 1997] and 'we could have been complacent, but we rose to the occasion.' said White, proving the fencing team's pride in their successful history". Coach Pete Conomikes continued to coach the now-club team on a volunteer basis.
On Saturday, November 10, 2007, on the way to a fencing tournament, the car which Coach Peter S. Conomikes was driving swerved off the road and hit a tree. He was killed, and the three students riding in his car were all hospitalized for their injuries. While Spencer Butts and Matthew Peppe both recovered, freshmen Benjamin Gutenberg died of his injuries in the hospital. Peter Conomikes had been coaching fencing at William & Mary since 1972.
- SCRC Files
- "Fencing Coach Killed in Accident: Two students listed in critical but stable condition after crash on way to fencing tournament" The Flat Hat, Tuesday November 13, 2007
- "W&M Retains Fencing Team through Interest of Women" The Flat Hat, Tuesday November 30, 1948
- "Jan Campbell Wins Fencing" The Flat Hat, Tuesday March 25, 1947
- "Fencing Team Opens Season With 15-2 Win Over Long Island U." The Flat Hat, Wednesday February 18, 1942
- "Varsity Fencers to Enter Tourney" February 11, 1947
- "Grover and Glassman Star as Tribe Wings S.A. Championship" April 22, 1942
- Oral History with John H. Willis, SCRC
- 1958 Colonial Echo
- Oral History, J. Wilfred Lambert
- 1995 Colonial Echo, discussing the team's loss of varsity status.
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- Review the Student Organizations Collection, University Archives Subject File Collection, and many other collections found in the SCRC Collections Database.
- The Colonial Echo yearbook as well as The Flat Hat and other student newspapers and publications are also important sources.