The University of Richmond began in 1830 as a men’s seminary founded by a group of Virginia Baptists. It officially became Richmond College ten years later when it incorporated a literary studies program into its curriculum. The T.C. Williams School of Law opened in 1870. During the Civil War, Richmond’s campus served as both a hospital and barracks for Confederate and Union soldiers.
When the war ended, the school’s entire endowment of $100,000 was invested in Confederate bonds and was worthless. The school reopened in 1866 but struggled with severe financial difficulties for several years. In 1914, Westhampton College for women opened, made possible in part by donations from John D. Rockefeller. The opening of the women’s college coincided with the school’s relocation to the site of an abandoned amusement park in Richmond’s West End, where it stands today.
This historic move marked the beginnings of the current coeducational system. In this early period, the male and female students were fully separated by the Westhampton Lake in the middle of campus, and attended separate classes, but since then coeducation has been implemented, bridges have been built across the lake, and there are now male and female residence halls on both sides. In 1920, Richmond College and Westhampton College were united under a single administration, the University of Richmond.
In 1921, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was founded. The E. Claiborne Robins School of Business opened in 1949, and the School of Continuing Studies followed suit in 1962.
The University of Richmond is an attractive 350 acres of grassy quads, pine trees, and rolling hills, spread around a ten-acre lake. Its buildings are in the Gothic style, and 90% of students live on campus. Richmond is a wireless campus.
As reported by a campus rep:
“The Tyler Haynes Commons serves as our student center and most students walk through the building at least once every day to get from one side of the campus to the other. Student groups usually hold their meetings in this building and it also houses the radio station, Tyler’s Grill, the campus newspaper, and the student activities desk. Newly released movies are screened for free in the commons every weekend but people don’t generally hang around before or after and the doors are locked by midnight. The commons is more of a place to study, do work, or grab a quick bite to eat than a place to spend free time with friends.
In the fall and spring lots of kids hang out on the Westhampton Green, a big grassy field between the Modlin Center for the Arts and some dorms. On sunny days it isn’t uncommon to see students playing catch or Frisbee or just laying out in the sun. Oddly enough kids also tend to hang out in the library. There’s a coffee shop serving Starbucks next door and it’s a nice place to sit and catch up with a friend.
During the weekends most hanging out takes place in the residence halls or the university apartments. Apartment parties range from intimate gatherings to raging masses of drunken people that attract attention from university police. Fraternities also have lodges on the edge of campus that host parties most weekends.”
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the city itself has about 200,000 residents, while Richmond’s greater metropolitan area is home to roughly 1.2 million people. Richmond sits on the James River, and is one of only 12 cities in the country with a Federal Reserve Bank
A current student reports on things to do around the school:
“The University of Richmond is tucked away on the western edge of the city, on the border between Richmond and Henrico Counties. The area is quiet, residential, and feels relatively removed from the downtown section of the city. It takes about 15 minutes to drive southeast to Carytown, a district full of colorful, independent boutiques and restaurants that is also home to the historic Byrd Theater. The Fan District, just east of Carytown, also has a great restaurant scene and borders the VCU campus on its eastern edge. Further south along the northern bank of the James River is the downtown area of Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, where you’ll find Richmond’s nightlife and a more upscale restaurant selection. You can drive there in about 15 to 20 minutes, as well. There are several malls and movie theaters in the Richmond area, none further than 30 minutes away. The central Richmond area is also home to several parks and museums.
Richmond has a great location in that the Capitol, mountains, and beaches are all within easy reach. If you’re looking to get out of town, Richmond is close enough to Washington, DC to make it a convenient day trip – only 100 miles away. Virginia Beach, a lovely resort city with miles of beaches and plenty of charming restaurants, is also only 100 miles southwest of Richmond. The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains to the northwest are also only about two hours away, and there you can find a long stretch of camping and hiking sites.”
Another campus rep adds, “the beautiful James River is only five miles or so south of campus and is a very nice place to hang out on warm sunny days.”
On a given Saturday in spring, it is tradition the annual Pig Roast is held. Students wake early and begin partying, drinking and celebrating between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00AM. In the early afternoon students leave their dorms and apartments, girls wearing sundresses and boys in seersucker shorts and ties, and head for the fraternity lodges on the edge of campus. Some frats hire live bands and pork sandwiches are generally served; it is a day of drunken merrymaking and sloppy festivities that ends around 4pm when everyone is either too drunk or too tired to continue. Students understand Pig Roast as the one day of the year when it is acceptable to be drunk in public and sometimes even parents and alumni show up to join in the fun. The event is heavily policed, but for the most part, as long as students aren’t violent or belligerent, the authorities leave the happy party-goers alone. The administration is now requesting that students refer to the event as “Festivus,” but everyone still knows it as Pig Roast.
Official events on graduation weekend include a Saturday night candlelight ceremony around Westhampton Lake, in which the entire graduating class circles the lake. There is generally a speaker and a fireworks display. Commencement ceremonies, held at the Robins Center, take place the next morning. The unofficial graduation weekend, however, is different. After classes let out and final exams are over in the spring, groups of students usually get together for a week at a beach house – a tradition also typically associated with nonstop drinking, but some students go for a more low-key experience and make it a point to enjoy the other pleasures that a beach setting has to offer.
During the first few weeks of great weather in the spring, students will blow off their work for an afternoon and take a trip down to the James River with their friends. This same week, you’ll also see people attempting to multitask on campus– working and sunbathing – in such areas as the Greek Theater and the Westhampton Green, which usually isn’t too successful.
On the first night of basketball practice allowed by the NCAA, the men’s and women’s teams suit up and present themselves to a crowd filled with Richmond Rowdies (the student spirit team) in the annual tradition of Midnight Mayhem.
Ring Dance is a celebration of the academic achievements of junior women, hosted by Westhampton College. It is held at a downtown hotel and is a formal dance that parents, family, and friends are encouraged to attend. Rings were at one time associated with the dance, hence the name.
-Becky Stewart ’10 and Katy Einerson ‘10 contributed reporting
Leslie M. Baker Jr. (1964) is a former president and CEO of the Wachovia Corporation.
Paul Duke (1947) was a journalist who hosted PBS’ Washington Week in Review for 20 years.
Tim Finchem (1969) is commissioner of the PGA Tour.
Douglas Freeman (1904) won two Pulitzer Prizes for his historical biographies on President George Washington and General Robert E. Lee, respectively.
Virgil Goode (1969) is a US congressman representing Virginia’s fifth district.
Leland Melvin (1986) is a NASA Astronaut.
Frank E. Resnik (1955) was a former chairman and CEO of Philip Morris USA.
The University of Richmond competes in NCAA Division 1 athletics, in the Atlantic 10 conference. The Spiders (as they’re called) compete in 18 varsity sports. The team derives its name from the moniker of a lanky star pitcher, Puss Ellyson, who led Richmond’s baseball team to many a victory back in 1893 and was described in the local newspaper as a "clever, creeping insect."
The most popular sports at Richmond are basketball and football, but there isn’t a whole lot of school spirit. The university hopes to improve attendance with a new football stadium that is scheduled to open in 2010. That said, football games already draw more crowds than other sports events, and in true southern fashion, everyone gets really dressed up for the games, the men wearing collared shirts and ties and the girls donning sundresses.
Richmond is currently ranked fourth nationally in graduation rate for student-athletes, with 97 percent of them earning their degrees.
-Becky Stewart ’10 and Katy Einerson ’10 contributed reporting
On October 15, 1992, presidential candidates George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot came to campus for the first-ever town hall-style televised presidential debate, viewed by 200 million people worldwide.
A list of local Richmond bands includes Strike Anywhere, Lamb of God, Elliot Yamin (from American Idol), Avail, Calpurnia, D’Angelo, GWAR, Government Warning, and Wasted Time.
Roughly 75% of Richmond students are pledged to a fraternity or sorority.
Several episodes of Dawson’s Creek were filmed on Richmond’s campus.
No classes are taught by teaching assistants or graduate students.
The vast majority of students at the University of Richmond live in dorms. Students have heretofore been living in single-sex dorms, but there is a new program that allows upperclassmen to live in coed “living-learning communities” built around various themes.
As reported by a current student:
“The University of Richmond has a total of 13 residence halls. According to the school website, approximately 92% of students live on campus all four years, but this number includes the university-owned townhouse apartments on the edge of campus. We’re currently undergoing some major housing renovations and have been for a few years. Originally, men’s and women’s housing were on opposite sides of Westhampton Lake, but as of 2002 men and women live on both sides. In the past, all dorms were single- sex with a rare exception here and there out of necessity. A brand new dorm, however, called Lakeview Hall will be home to coed “living and learning communities” in fall 2008.
The five living and learning communities debuting in the fall are the Civic Engagement House, Political Campaign House, Outdoor House/Earth Lodge, Life, Literature and Art, and Spanish in the Community. These communities are a new concept for the university and the idea is to get students involved with their studies and with each other on a deeper level, integrating class with extracurriculars. Students must apply for acceptance and receive credit for participating. Lakeview will be a popular place to live in the future not only because of the living and learning communities, but also because as the newest dorm on campus it will have the best facilities.
The average Richmond student lives in a double room in a single-sex dorm. We have two dorms for first-year women, three for first-year men, four for upper-class women, and three dorms for upper-class men. All students living in a dorm can enter all dorms on campus any day of the week until 2:00AM with a Spidercard, our multi-purpose key/ID card/meal payment system. After 2, Spidercards only work in your own dorm. Visitors can come and go as they please, as we have no visitor sign-in system and surprisingly no rules about members of the opposite sex mingling in dorms at any time of day.
Most dorms have hall bathrooms but a few are suite-style with two doubles sharing a central bathroom. No dorms have kitchenettes or stoves, and while some of the newer residence halls have sinks in the common rooms, doing any cooking as a freshman is difficult unless you’re really creative and good with a microwave. All bathrooms are cleaned by the university cleaning staff once a week, but students are responsible for cleaning/vacuuming their own rooms. All dorms have heat, air conditioning, and laundry facilities, and are pretty comfortable to live in, although guys’ dorms tend to be much dirtier than girls’ dorms and are notoriously stinky.”