At its Feb. 17 meeting, the Thomas Nelson Community College Board voted unanimously to recommend changing the name of the College.
In addition, the Board voted to rename two buildings on the Hampton campus – Griffin and Wythe halls – that were named for associates of Thomas Nelson. Three other buildings (Moore, Diggs and Harrison) also were named for Nelson’s contemporaries, but they are scheduled to be replaced by a new building in the coming years.
The decision to rename colleges and campuses rests with the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges, while individual colleges have the authority to rename buildings. The State Board will take under consideration the recommendation of the Thomas Nelson College Board when it makes its decision, which is expected in May.
The Thomas Nelson College Board did not discuss a new name for the College, but recommended to choose a name that represents the geographical area served by the College.
In July 2020, the State Board asked each of the 23 institutions in the VCCS to examine their naming policies and procedures. A press release at the time read, in part, “VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois had written to college presidents, noting ‘institutions far and wide are examining, and in many cases exorcising, symbols of systemic racism that have existed in plain sight for years. I believe we must join this conversation and focus a high level of scrutiny on the names that adorn our facilities.’”
Thomas Nelson interim president Dr. Gregory DeCinque then formed Thomas Nelson’s College and Facilities Naming Task Force to examine this issue further. The task force did research, conducted surveys and held town halls to obtain input from College faculty, staff, students, alumni as well as community members.
During the Feb. 17 board meeting, Thomas Nelson Professor Dr. Patrick Smith submitted a public comment from the Social Justice and Societal Change committee expressing support for a College name change. The letter, signed by members of the committee, can be found at: Letter Supporting Thomas Nelson Name Change
About Thomas Nelson Community College
Founded in 1967, Thomas Nelson is the Peninsula’s Community College, serving the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg and the counties of James City and York. The fifth largest of Virginia’s Community Colleges, Thomas Nelson serves over 10,000 students with associate degree and certificate programs designed for both university transfer and direct entry into careers. The College also serves students with non-credit, workforce training programs and services. Classes are offered online and at the Hampton and Historic Triangle campuses, the Southeast Higher Education Center in Newport News, three Workforce Development centers, at various instructional sites in the community.