The College of William and Mary’s has a lengthy history that's rich with romantic anecdotes from the colonial era and beyond and populated by distinguished figures who shaped the course of American history. W&M was the second institution of higher learning to be established on U.S. soil, after Harvard. It was one of the original Public Ivies and is still considered an "Ivy of the South."
W&M's colonial history gives it ones of the most prestigious alumni rosters in the U.S., counting among its ranks former presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler. The college was also where George Washington got his surveyor’s certificate, with which he obtained his public office position. Washington became the first American Chancellor at W&M in 1788, a position he occupied until his death in 1799.
William and Mary is a public university in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was founded in 1693 on orders from a royal charter issued by (you guessed it) King William III and Queen Mary II. It became the United States' first university in 1779, though it retains the traditional name, "College." It was the first college to have a student honor code, as well as the birthplace of Phi Beta Kappa, the academic honor society. The nation's first secret society, the Flat Hat Club, was also founded here. In addition, the Wren Building, named for Sir Christopher Wren, is the oldest continually-used educational building in the United States.
Two of the school's original components were a school of Divinity and the Brafferton school, designed to “civilize” (read: Christianize) Native American youths. After the American Revolution, many of the revolution’s leaders worked to abolish these outdated practices and expand the college. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison helped secularize the formerly Anglican school and establish graduate schools in law and medicine. These moves made W&M the first college in the U.S. to attain university status.
The college was devastated during the Civil War and suffered financial hardship shortly after, forcing it to close for seven years. It reopened in 1888 after receiving a state grant of $10,000. In 1915, W&M became one of the first universities in Virginia to admit women.
At its founding in 1692, W&M set up residence on 330 acres of land on the Middleton Plantation, which soon became known as Williamsburg. It served as the temporary capital of Virginia in 1699. The first three buildings—-the Sir Christopher Wren building, Brafferton, and the President’s house—-were arranged around a green yard opening out towards the city of Williamsburg. This helped create a distinctly American concept—-the college campus.
In the early 1920s, the campus began to expand, thanks in part to funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Landscape architect Charles Gillette designed a layout in which buildings were arranged in clusters of three-sided quadrangles surrounding a green lawn, which became known as the Sunken Garden. It's a popular hangout spot for W&M students to this day.
Today, the campus encompasses some 1,200 acres and includes the picturesque Lake Matoaka and the College Woods. The Ancient Campus section, which includes the famed Wren building, is adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg and has been restored to its 18th century appearance.
Most on-campus shut-ins find themselves hanging out at their dorms much of the time. To get studying (and socializing) done, they turn to Swem, our beloved little library. There is always a sizable portion of the student body at Swem, as most of us here are self-celebrating nerds who elicit pleasure from spending more time in the library in a four-year career than most would during their entire lives.
Other hangouts include the lounge areas at the University Center and Campus Center, two of our cafeterias. Weather permitting, most students find themselves lunching out on the UC terrace or along the balcony of the Daily Grind (an on-campus coffee shop) or sunning themselves silly in the middle of the Sunken Gardens.
Speaking of the Sunken Gardens, well, it’s all we’ve got and much use is made of it. Students, faculty, tourists, and alumni alike utilize this area for reading, recreation, picnicking or playing Frisbee.
Generally, the phenomenon of the ‘lounge’ is where it’s at. Be it the lounge in the dorm, cafeteria, or departmental halls, in every lounge of every building there will be a student—probably either sleeping or studying.
Williamsburg, Virginia, was one of America’s first planned cities, laid out in 1699 during its brief period as the capital of the Virginia colony. When the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780, Williamsburg reverted to its quiet college-town existence. This move from the spotlight may have helped Williamsburg retain its heritage and become one of the most well-preserved examples of colonial architecture.
A large restoration project was undertaken in 1926, with the financial assistance of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to preserve the 18th century city. Today, the city is home to Colonial Williamsburg, a popular tourist attraction featuring actors in period costume who help visitors learn and interpret colonial history.
Just across the street from campus is Colonial Williamsburg, a tourist trap that was once supported by John D. Rockefeller. Although it sounds lame, Colonial Williamsburg is actually quite interesting and has been restored over recent decades to look like it did in colonial times, when it served as the capital of Virginia.
Outside of Colonial Williamsburg, there are a number of restaurants and shops within walking distance of campus to explore, most of which were built to capitalize on Williamsburg's tourist economy. Also, there are many haunted houses throughout Colonial Williamsburg (major tourist attraction).
Thus, in more than one way, Williamsburg is kind of a ghost town.
- Surrounding areas include a mental hospital (Eastern State Hospital), Wal-Mart, about one-and-a-half bars, and a gated community of McMansion monstrosities (Kingsmill).
- The best thing to do in Williamsburg is to run errands (i.e. stocking up on cereal from the many adjacent grocery stores and convenience marts, renting movies from Blockbuster, browsing books at Barnes and Noble, or buying booze from the ABC).
One of the best things about Williamsburg is that most of the cool places to go are relatively close, because the tourism industry is centered around Colonial Williamsburg. Busch Gardens, the furthest attraction that students would want to visit, is just over five miles away. Almost everything else is walk-able or a five-minute car ride away.
Right across from campus are the delis, which, surprisingly, sell more than just sandwiches. There are three of them: the College Deli, Paul's Deli, and the most popular, the Green Leafe Cafe. All serve lunch and dinner and alcoholic drinks as well, making them popular hangouts for those of age.
Down the street from the delis is Wawa (yes, the convenience store), another popular place to get a grab-and-go dinner. Williamsburg is loaded with restaurants, the most popular among students being IHOP, since it's relatively close and open 24 hours a day.
Aroma's, a small coffee shop just a minute or two from campus, is also relatively popular, serving light fare in a quiet atmosphere. It's common to see students studying at Aroma's, particularly after they've had enough of Swem (which is, without a doubt, the number-one hangout spot for William and Mary students).
Colonial Williamsburg is pretty cool as well, and students are able to get into many of the events for free simply by showing their college ID card. The Meridian Coffeehouse is another popular location. Just a few blocks from campus, it has a nice atmosphere and is frequented by indie kids.
A recent addition to Williamsburg is New Town, a shopping center filled with -- you guessed it -- restaurants! In addition to restaurants, though, New Town has a first-run movie theater (something that I missed my freshman year, before New Town was built). All in all, although Williamsburg sounds pretty boring, it’s not a big deal, because students don’t have a whole lot of free time anyway.
Yule Log Ceremony – A Christmas-themed tradition during which the president dresses as Santa Claus and reads “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Vice-President of Student Affairs reads “Twas the Night Before Finals,” and The Gentlemen of the College sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Convocation – A ceremony during which incoming freshmen pass through the entrance of the Wren Building and are officially welcomed to the school.
Senior Walk – Similar to the Convocation, graduating seniors pass through the Wren Building in commemoration of the departure from college.
Ringing the Wren Bell – On the last day of classes, seniors ring the bell in the cupola of the Wren Building.
Triathlon – A three-pronged event that nearly every W&M student completes at least in part. This includes: jumping the wall of the Governor’s Palace and running through the Boxwood Maze, streaking through the Sunken Gardens, and swimming the Crim Dell.
Thomas Jefferson (1762) is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the first Secretary of State, the second Governor of Virginia, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.
James Monroe (1776) was the fifth President of the United States, 12th Governor of Virginia, and architect of the Monroe Doctrine.
John Tyler (1807) was the tenth President of the United States and former Chancellor of the College.
Perry Ellis (1967) is a noted fashion designer and founder of Perry Ellis International.
Glenn Close (1974) is an award-winning actress whose body of work includes the films "Fatal Attraction" and "Dangerous Liaisons," as well as the television series "The Shield."
Jon Stewart (1984) is a comedian, television anchor, and writer on the Emmy-winning television program "The Daily Show."
William and Mary has 23 Division I sports teams, which go by the moniker The Tribe (previously the Indians). W&M participates in the Colonial Athletic Association conference and leads the championship count by 30, with a total of 81 titles.
William and Mary's football program is very popular, with a new Jimmye Laycock football facility opening this coming season and great home-game attendance. The most popular game is against CAA rival James Madison University, although JMU has gotten the better of William and Mary in their past few meetings. Basketball is also popular, with the team advancing to the CAA championship game for the first time this year (although they were defeated by George Mason).
There are labyrinthine catacombs running under Wren Building that lead to the tombs under Wren Chapel. They have been closed off due to student explorations.
Queen Elizabeth II visited the campus twice, once in 1957 and once in 2007. Prince Charles visited in 1993 for the college’s 300th anniversary.
The 2008 Commencement speakers were Sandra Day O’Connor and Mike Tomlin.
William and Mary has eight freshmen dorms and 13 dorms for upperclassmen. Freshmen are required to live on campus, but the majority of students decide to stay on campus even after their freshman year. A cut-throat housing lottery determines room selection and is the source of much aggravation for many students.
According to Deborah Boykin, director of Res Life at the College, about 75 percent of the students live on campus. All freshmen are required to live on campus their first year, at which point they may choose to remain on campus or not. If a student wishes to remain on campus, he must place $200 into the annual Housing Lottery.
Depending on one’s number (the lower, the better), a student’s prospects may range from the utmost freedom to choose where he wants to live and with whom, to having to live in a shitty dorm with complete strangers. If a student gets ‘bumped’ (draws a really, really bad number that subsequently throws him/her off the lottery altogether), he has three options:
1) Seek friends with good lottery numbers and mooch off them, resulting in Overcrowd housing, whereby three students live in a two-person room or four students in a three-person room.
2) Stubbornly remain in the lottery with the hopes of being Reinstated (if enough students pull out of the lottery in time, a student’s number may not look so bad after all). He runs the risk of having his housing chosen for him by default – that is, by what’s left over of the lottery.
3) Finally, there’s the option of pulling out of the lottery and living off campus. This is a student’s best option if he doesn’t have a good enough lottery number.
Recently, upperclassmen are increasingly seeking on-campus living. This tips the scale of the lottery, resulting in more ‘bumps.’ Transfer students get it worst, as they are not guaranteed on campus housing to begin with, often leaving them off campus during their first year here. Despite all this, admissions rates remain fairly stable, and there are no plans to build new dorms.
Grad students may also choose to live on campus at the Graduate Complex. This is located right next to the Law School, and houses about 240 students. For the most part, grad students live off-campus in nearby apartments, condos, and boarding houses.