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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

At first blush, it might seem a curious pairing--George Washington, father of our country, and Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia--to share the name of one of the nation's oldest universities. Yet, the University that bears these two generals' names has them both to thank for its very existence. Their gifts kept the institution alive in the face of what often seemed insurmountable odds.

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.