History and Traditions

A Brief History

Washington and Lee is a small, private, liberal arts university nestled between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains in Lexington, Va. It is the ninth oldest institution of higher learning in the nation.

Our Namesakes

The University is named in honor of the pivotal roles that George Washington and Robert E. Lee played in its own history — Washington for his gift that saved the institution from financial ruin in the 18th century, and Lee for his innovative educational leadership as president of Washington College from 1865 to 1870.

Our Traditions

Life on the Washington and Lee campus is influenced heavily by both the Honor System and the Speaking Tradition, which together establish a community of trust and civility held dear by all who have experienced it.