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William & Mary in Virginia is the second-oldest college in the United States (after Harvard), and the first university. William & Mary was founded in 1693 by virtue of a Royal Charter issued by King William III and Queen Mary II of England. Named in their honor, William & Mary is a public, liberal-arts university located in Williamsburg, Virginia.


Although it has long been a university, William & Mary proudly retains the word "college" in its formal name because the original Royal Charter under which it was founded specified that it always and forever be named "the College of William & Mary in Virginia."

Well before university-level education was the norm, the university educated many of America's founding leaders, including such notables as Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, and John Marshall. In the Colonial period, Williamsburg served as the capital and the university's facilities were frequently used by the lawmakers. On William & Mary's main campus, which is adjacent to the restored area of Colonial Williamsburg, the historic Wren Building is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States.

Today, the highly-ranked university enrolls 5700 undergraduate and 2000 graduate students on an historic and picturesque campus. The university is considered a "Public Ivy" and is known for the high quality of its undergraduate programs in the sciences, government, religion, philosophy and international relations, among others, and for its Law School and graduate program in U.S. colonial history. Due to a lack of grade inflation, graduates of the university's undergraduate programs traditionally experience a high rate of acceptance to other professional and graduate schools, both in the U.S. and abroad.

As a publicly-funded university, William & Mary (and rival University of Virginia, plus Virginia Tech) grappled with restrictive state funding and requirements to follow the same regulations and procedures as other agencies of the state government. These laws and rules tended to limit the authority of the Boards of Visitors of Virginia's top schools of higher education, as well as their ability to perform well in the 21st century. In 2005, however, the Virginia General Assembly approved a restructuring with Virginia's top universities allowing for greater freedoms. In turn, William & Mary recently made great strides in private fund raising and increased its endowment.

Chronological History of William & Mary

A chronology of the university based on the Vital Facts booklet first produced by librarian Earl Gregg Swem in 1921 is available from the Digital Archive. The most recent paper edition was published in 2004 and the online version continues to be updated by the College.


A list of Presidents of William & Mary is available. The Rev. James Blair was the first president of the College.

Board of Visitors

On March 5, 1906, by act of the General Assembly, all university property was transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This transfer was sponsored by the university with a view toward increasing its resources. On March 8, the faculty accepted the provisions of the act, and on the following day it was approved by the Board of Visitors. A new board was appointed by the governor and "vested with all rights and powers conferred by the provisions of this act and by the Ancient Royal Charter of the College."

The roster of the presentBoard of Visitors is available from the university's website. Bylaws and minutes from recent meetings of the Board of Visitors are also available online.

Campus Buildings and Landmarks

On March 5, 1906, by act of the General Assembly, all university property was transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This transfer was sponsored by the university with a view toward increasing its resources. On March 8, the faculty accepted the provisions of the act, and on the following day it was approved by the Board of Visitors.

Historic Campus

William & Mary's Historic Campus, or colonial campus as it is also known, includes the Wren Building, the Brafferton, and the President's House.

  • Brafferton Built 1723 for Indian School. Used as dormitory, offices, classroom, guest rooms, president's office, and alumni offices. Restored 1931-32.
  • President's House Built 1732. Restored 1931. Home of the university's presidents.
  • Wren Building Foundation began in 1695, burned and reconstructed in 1705, 1859, and 1862. Restored 1928-1931. Named for Sir Christopher Wren of England.


  • Adair Gymnasium Built 1962-63. Women's physical education. Named for Cornelia Storrs Adair.
  • Alumni House (Bright House) Built 1850's. Housing for professors early 1920's. Kappa Alpha fraternity house 1925-1943. Purchased by university in 1946, converted to faculty apartments. Became the Alumni House in 1972
  • Andrews Hall (Robert Andrews Hall of Fine Arts) Built 1966 behind Phi Beta Kappa Hall, facing Swem Library.
  • Barrett Hall (Kate Waller Barrett Hall) Built 1926-27. Women's dormitory.
  • James Blair Hall Built 1934-35 as Marshall-Wythe Hall, housed administrative offices and Marshall-Wythe School of Government and Citizenship. President's office until 1962. Renamed James Blair Hall in 1968.
  • Blow Gymnasium (George Preston Blow Gymnasium) Built 1924 as men's gymnasium
  • Bookstore Built 1965 on site of Morris House on Jamestown Rd. Bookstore relocated to Merchants Sq. in 2001.
  • Botetourt Complex Built 1971, originally intended for sorority complex. Used as language house. Units named for royal governors.
  • Brafferton Built 1723 for Indian School. Used as dormitory, offices, classroom, guest rooms, president's office, and alumni offices. Restored 1931-32.
  • Brown Hall Built 1930 by Women's Missionary Society of the Virginia Methodist Conference to replace older frame building which was moved to 524 Prince George Street behind Sorority Court. Built with funds left by Mrs. Edward Brown of Lynchburg. Purchased by the university in 1939.
  • Bryan Complex Built 1953, 2 wings added in 1959. Housed Marshall-Wythe School of Law from 1959-1967.
  • Campus Center Built 1959-1960.
  • Cary Field Field built in 1909, stadium built in 1935.
  • Chancellors Hall Built 1926-27 as Rogers Hall, for physics and chemistry. Rededicated in 1982 as Chancellors Hall, new home of Business School. Renamed in 1988 to Tyler Hall
  • Chandler Hall Built 1931, named for President Julian A.C. Chandler, women's dormitory
  • College Apartments 112 North Boundary Street. Built 1941-42 for faculty apartments.
  • Commons Built 1965-66. W&M dining hall.
  • Deanery (also known as Old Steward's House, Rear Dormitory) Formerly located east of Trinkle Hall (approx. between Trinkle and Hunt). Small brick building stuccoed on the outside and painted yellow, with castellated parapet, used as women's dormitory in 1920's. Was torn down in 1930.
  • Dillard Complex Former student residences. Also known as James Blair Terrace.
  • Dining Hall Built 1914. Now incorporated in Campus Center (Market Place serving area and atrium)
  • Dupont Hall Built 1964. Named for Jessie Ball Dupont.
  • Ewell Hall Dormitory Formerly located on south side of Jamestown Road across from Brafferton on site of Campus Center. Purchased by the university in 1859 as dormitory, named College Hotel, 17 room Brick house. Renamed Ewell Hall in 1894 on death of the university President Benjamin S. Ewell. Served as dining hall 1905 until 1914. Torn down in 1927.
  • Ewell Hall Built 1925-1926 as Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. Had reproduction Apollo Room from Raleigh Tavern (northeast wing at front). An auditorium in the south end which burned in 1953. Music building since 1955. South wing reconstructed 1957-58. Renamed Ewell Hall in 1957. Admissions office since 1962.
  • Gymnasium Formerly located 100 feet southwest of Wren Building, in line with west end of Chapel, east of Ewell Hall. Built 1900, converted to classroom building in 1922, renamed Citizenship Building, original home of Marshall-Wythe School of Government and Citizenship, (established in 1922). Torn down in 1931.
  • Hunt Hall Built 1930 as university infirmary to replace old frame building on Jamestown Road built 1894 on site of Taliaferro. Named David King Infirmary in 1934. Converted to dormitory in 1973. Renamed Althea Hunt Residence in 1974.
  • Jamestown Residences Co-ed dormitories completed in 2006. Located on Martha Barksdale Field.
  • Jefferson Hall Built 1920-21 as women's dormitory. Basement originally had a gymnasium and a swimming pool, served as university gymnasium from 1922-25. Burned 1983 and was reconstructed.
  • Jones Hall Built 1968-69, named for Hugh Jones, Prof. of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics 1917-21. Originally housed computer center, mathematics, philosophy, government, and business administration.
  • Kaplan Arena
  • David J. King Student Health Center Built 1973, addition 1980.
  • Landrum Hall Built 1957-58 as women's dormitory.
  • Laundry and Warehouse Built 1929. College laundry service until 1974.
  • Law School Built 1978-80.
  • Jimmye Laycock Football Center Completed 2007.
  • Lodges House-like undergraduate residences on campus.
  • Millington Hall Built 1966-68. John Millington Hall of Life Sciences. Biology and Psychology departments.
  • Monroe Hall Built 1923-24 as men's dormitory, same plan as Jefferson Hall but without gymnasium.
  • Morris House 10 room frame house on site of old College Bookstore on Jamestown Road. Purchased by the university in 1928, used for student housing. Torn down in 1964.
  • Morton Hall Built 1972. History, Sociology, Government, Economics departments. Named for Prof. Richard Lee Morton.
  • Muscarelle Museum Built 1982-83. Named for Joseph and Margaret Muscarelle, principle donors. Addition 1986.
  • Old Dominion Hall Built 1927 as men's dormitory. Served as dormitory for Navy Chaplain's school 1943-45. Post office in basement since 1972.
  • Parking Garage Completed 2006.
  • Phi Beta Kappa Hall Built 1956-57. Auditorium Theatre and Spech departments.
  • Power Plant Built 1911. Now used as ceramics studio. Present power plant built in 1953.
  • President's House Built 1732. Restored 1931. Home of all the university's presidents.
  • Randolph Residences Built 1979-80. Six buildings named for Virginia Governors.
  • Recreation Center Built in 1989. Also known as the Recreational Sports Center.
  • Rogers Hall Built 1974-75. Chemistry and Religion departments.
  • Science Hall Built 1905, torn down 1932. Formerly located about 100 feet northwest of Wren Building, in line with west end of Great Hall wing, east of Tucker.
  • Small Hall Built 1963. Named for William Small, Prof. of Natural Philosophy. Physics and Geology observatory.
  • Swem Library Built 1964-65. Named for Earl Gregg Swem, University Librarian 1920-44. Addition 1987-88. Renovated 1999-2005.
  • Taliaferro Building Built 1893-94, torn down 1967. Formerly located north of Campus Center across from Brafferton on south side of Jamestown Road. Named for Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro. Dormitory until 1932. Renovated in 1932 for administrative offices and in 1936-37 for Fine Arts building.
  • Taliaferro Hall Built 1934-35 as dormitory.
  • Trinkle Hall Built 1925 as addition to old dining hall of 1914. Named for Governor Elbert Lee Trinkle. Closed in 1972 as cafeteria.
  • Tucker Hall Front portion built as College Library in 1908, additions built in 1923 and 1929. Served as library until 1966. Served as Law School building 1967-80. Renamed St. George Tucker Hall 1980, and now houses the English Department.
  • Tyler Hall Built 1916 as dormitory. Named for Lyon G. Tyler and his family. Became first women's dormitory in 1918. North wing built as Miriana Robinson Conservatory in 1926, formerly had greenhouse attached. South wing built in 1927, used as sorority and later fraternity house. Tyler closed as dormitory in 1981. Reconstruction began in 1987 for Reves Center for International Studies.
  • Washington Hall Built 1928 for Biology on ground floor, other departments on 2nd and 3rd floors. Presently used for anthropology and modern languages and literatures departments.
  • William & Mary Hall Built 1970. Gymnasium and concert hall.
  • Wren Building Foundation began in 1695, burned and reconstructed in 1705, 1859, and 1862. Restored 1928-31. Named for Sir Christopher Wren of England.
  • Yates Hall Built 1961-62. Named for William Yates, fifth President of William & Mary.
  • Zable Stadium


Awards and Honors

William & Mary grants various awards to students, faculty and staff, alumni/ae, and members of the community.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given in the form of a medal, is awarded based on characteristics of "heart, mind and helpfulness to others." The award is presented to a man and woman from the student body and a person who has a close working relationship with the university.

Alumni Medallion

Charles Joseph Duke, Jr., and Virginia Welton Duke Award

The Charles Joseph Duke, Jr., and Virginia Welton Duke Award is awarded annually to an outstanding employee of the university or one contracted to provide auxiliary services to the university. It has been endowed by Charles Bryan Duke and Ann Evans Duke('57) in memory of Charles and Virginia Duke for their years of distinguished and loving service to the university.

Honorary Degrees

Honorary degrees are typically awarded by the university at Charter Day and Commencement as well as other special events to distinguished individuals. There are usually multiple honorary degree recipients at each event.

James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup

The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup is given to the graduating senior who best combines the qualities of character, scholarship and leadership. It was established as a memorial to James Frederic Carr, a former student of the university who lost his life in World War I.

James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership

The James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership is awarded on Charter Day.

Lord Botetourt Award

The Lord Botetourt Award, begun in 1997, is presented to individuals or institutions that embody the spirit of Norborne Botetourt, Baron de Berkeley, a colonial governor of Virginia as well as rector and a friend of William & Mary. It is given to non-alumni who have contributed to the university's advancement and prosperity. See University Archives Subject File: Awards and Scholarships-Lord Botetourt Award for further information.

Lord Botetourt Medal

The Botetourt Medal was the second academic prize medal awarded in the colonies and the first to be stamped from dies created at the Royal mint in 1771. Lord Botetourt's intention to give the two gold medals as prizes to the two best students at William & Mary, one student in Classics and one in Physical or Metaphysical Science, was announced in 1770. The medals were originally presented on August 15th, Commemoration Day of the transfer of the charter to the President and Masters of the university. Today a single senior with the greatest distinction in scholarship is awarded a medal on Commencement day in May.

Thatcher Prize

The Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study is presented to recognize an outstanding student completing an advanced degree in Arts and Sciences, Education, Marine Science, Business Administration, or Law, and is awarded on the basis of scholarship, character, leadership, and service. Initiated in 2000 by the university, the award honors Margaret, The Lady Thatcher, 21st Chancellor of the university, in recognitio of her severn-year term of service.

Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr., Award

The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award was established to recognize sustained excellence in teaching. To honor Thomas A. Graves, Jr., former president of William & Mary, the award has been endowed by alumni and friends of the former president. Graves retired in 1985 after nearly 14 years as President of the university. The recipient of the award is chosen by the president from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans.

Thomas Jefferson Award

The Thomas Jefferson Award is awarded on Charter Day.

Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy

The Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy is awarded on Charter Day.

Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award

The Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award is awarded on Charter Day.


The University Archives attempts to obtain at least one copy of William & Mary publications (printed and duplicated materials) issued by campus offices, organizations, or individuals. While this is not, of course, completely possible, the Archives contains an extensive collection of twentieth-century materials, and has a number of publications going back into the early 1800s. The historically important College Catalogs run from 1829 to the present, with gaps, and the earliest commencement program is dated 1831.

Other important published sources of information about the university include: campus directories, student handbooks, student and faculty speeches, Charter Day programs, departmental newsletters, annual reports, publicity brochures, materials for prospective students, affirmative action reports, fliers announcing up-coming fraternity parties, news releases, athletic programs, cultural events calendars, play programs, and student newspapers. There are some scattered publications from the various branch and extension colleges which have been affiliated with William & Mary.

Information gathered by students in LCST 201 "Constructing the News" about some student publications is available at the course Wiki. The publications used by students in the Spring 2007 class includes The Flat Hat, The DoG Street Journal, The Virginia Informer, The Progressive, The Pillory, The Gallery (formerly The Gallery of Writing), Winged Nation, and Jump!


Want to find out more?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for other resources to help you find materials of interest.

Questions? Have ideas or updates for articles you'd like to see? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at or 757-221-3090.

A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.