Founded on February 8, 1693, William & Mary College is a public research university located in Williamsburg, Virginia and is the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States, after Harvard University. The college has a rich history and has played a significant role in the shaping of the American political, educational, and cultural landscape.
King William III and Queen Mary II of England granted a charter for the establishment of the college in 1693, which provided for the creation of a college in the Virginia Colony, which would serve as a school for young men to study the arts and sciences. The college was to be located in the capital city of Williamsburg and was to be named in honor of the reigning monarchs, King William III and Queen Mary II. In 1694, the college was officially opened and its first class of students enrolled. The college was the first in America to have a royal charter and it became the model for other colleges in the American colonies, such as Yale and Princeton. In 1729, the college became the first institution in the American colonies to offer a law degree, establishing the oldest law school in America.
Throughout its history, William & Mary College has been at the forefront of innovation and change. During the American Revolution, the college became a center of political activism and the birthplace of many revolutionary ideas. In 1775, the college was used as a military headquarters and a prison for British soldiers. After the Revolution, the college became the site of the Virginia Ratifying Convention in 1788, which ratified the U.S. Constitution, making Virginia the tenth state to join the union. In the 19th century, William & Mary College experienced significant growth and expansion. In 1840, the college became the first in America to establish a professorship in modern languages, signaling its commitment to the study of the arts and sciences. The college also became the first in America to offer a graduate degree in 1842, granting the first Master of Arts degree in the country. In the 1850s, the college became one of the first to admit women and establish a women’s college.
In the 20th century, William & Mary College continued to evolve and grow. In 1906, the college established the first School of Education in America, signaling its commitment to the development of the next generation of teachers. In the 1920s, the college expanded its reach, establishing a campus in Norfolk, Virginia, which later became Old Dominion University. In the 1960s, the college became one of the first institutions in America to adopt coeducation, admitting women and men on an equal basis. Throughout its history, William & Mary College has been at the forefront of education, innovation, and change. The college has produced many distinguished alumni, including three U.S. Presidents, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler, as well as many other influential figures in American politics, business, and culture. (oh, and I may be slightly biased since it is where I earned my MBA!)
William & Mary College continues as a living symbol of America’s rich history and a testament to its enduring commitment to education, innovation, and change. From its founding to the present day, the college has played a significant role in the shaping of the American political, educational, and cultural landscape and continues to be a leader in higher education.