The Thomas Nelson Community College Board, at a special meeting Sept. 1, recommended to the State Board for Community Colleges that the College be renamed Virginia Peninsula Community College.
The state board is expected to vote on the name change at its Sept. 22-23 meeting.
At a college board meeting in August, the list of names the College’s Facilities Naming Task Force suggested was narrowed to three: Harbor Bridge Community College, Two Rivers Community College, and Virginia Peninsula Community College. Harbor Bridge and Virginia Peninsula were among a list of six revealed during a July town hall. Two Rivers was added to the list of the finalists as a result of surveys from the community.
Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, in a college-wide email sent in May, said the College wanted “a name(s) with lasting identity, that resonates with a diverse set of internal and external audiences, is aligned with the strategic vision of the College, and is informed by stakeholder feedback.”
At July’s town hall, College Board Chair Dr. Vince Warren said: “We are excited to move forward with a new name that reflects our surroundings and honors our mission.”
Nearly a year ago, the College established a naming task force, which consisted of students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members and community members, to learn more about the institution’s namesake. The College took surveys, hosted town halls, conducted research, and created PowerPoint presentations.
The task force also developed criteria for a new name, and one of them was not drawing inspiration from an individual’s name. It also wanted a name that would reflect the geography of the institution’s service area, be timeless, and offer a sense of belonging for all students, no matter their background.
Two other VCCS institutions (John Tyler to Brightpoint, and Lord Fairfax to Laurel Ridge) announced name changes in July. Patrick Henry Community College will be known as Patrick & Henry in a nod to the counties it serves. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College also is expected to undergo a name change.
In summer 2020, the State Board asked local college advisory boards to review the appropriateness of the names of its college, campuses, and facilities. In February, the Thomas Nelson Community College Board voted unanimously to recommend changing the name.
The College’s namesake, Thomas Nelson Jr., was a Revolutionary War hero, signer of the Declaration of Independence, the fourth governor of Virginia, but also a slaveholder.
Two buildings on the College’s Hampton campus – Griffin and Wythe halls – are named for associates of Thomas Nelson, and also will be renamed. Three other buildings (Moore, Diggs and Harrison) are named for Nelson’s contemporaries, too, but they are scheduled to be replaced by a new building in the coming years.
The state board is in charge of the names of its 23 institutions and campuses, while the names of buildings and classrooms rest with each institution.
The state board’s policy says names “should reflect the values of inclusive and accessible education articulated in the VCCS mission statement, with special emphasis on diversity, equity, and opportunity, and be relevant to the students it seeks to serve and to the geography of its service region.”