The Board of Trustees' Decision Regarding Building Names on Campus

To: The W&L Community
From: J. Donald Childress '70, Rector of the Board of Trustees, and William C. Dudley, President
Date: October 9, 2018

President Dudley's response in August to the report of the Commission on Institutional History and Community conveyed both the Board's decision to retain the names of Lee Chapel and Lee House and our intention to discuss the naming of other campus buildings at our October meeting.

This weekend, members of the Board met with students and faculty to gather input from the campus community, which we considered along with feedback we received from many alumni who have communicated with us about these issues over the past several months.

As a result of our deliberations, the Board of Trustees decided to make the following changes to building names:

  • Robinson Hall will be renamed Chavis Hall in recognition of the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. John Chavis graduated from Washington and Lee's predecessor, Washington Academy, in 1799.
  • Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson House in recognition of the first woman to become a tenured professor at the university. Pamela Hemenway Simpson, who died in 2011, served as associate dean of the college and played a critical role in the university's transition to co-education in the mid-1980s, chairing the Co-Education Steering Committee from 1984 to 1986.

The Board of Trustees also endorsed two changes to Lee Chapel, which will be enacted immediately:

  • Portraits of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in civilian clothing will replace the portraits of Lee and Washington in military uniforms that currently hang in Lee Chapel.
  • The doors to the statue chamber in the 1883 addition to Lee Chapel will be closed during university events.

The Director of Institutional History, once hired, will lead us in exploring how we can best reclaim the original vision of the chapel that President Dudley outlined in August.

We appreciate the seriousness and thoughtfulness with which our fellow trustees have approached these matters. On behalf of the Board, we want to express our gratitude to all of those members of the community who contributed to our deliberations, through countless letters and conversations over the summer and on campus this weekend. We are fortunate to be part of a community that cares deeply about this institution and is so dedicated to its continued success.