Thomas Nelson Community College renamed Va. Peninsula
School is fourth VCCS college given new name this year
Thomas Nelson Community College, based in Hampton and James City County, will soon be called Virginia Peninsula Community College, the Virginia Community College System’s state board voted Thursday.
In February, the college’s local advisory board voted unanimously to change the school’s name, bestowed to honor Thomas Nelson Jr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia’s fourth governor — and also a slaveholder. Support gathered for a geographically descriptive name, and the local board signed off Sept. 1 on the moniker approved Thursday by the state board.
“Hundreds of names were suggested as the college began consideration of a new name,” Thomas Nelson President Towuanna Porter Brannon said in a statement Thursday. “Narrowing the list of suggestions down to three was no small task. However, when speaking with diverse groups of students, faculty, staff and alumni about the new name, one theme continued to emerge — ‘Virginia Peninsula Community College represents me.’ I believe we have identified a name that is welcoming, inclusive and representative of our unique region.”
Four schools have changed their names this year: Chesterfield County’s John Tyler Community College, which will be known as Brightpoint, after the board’s unanimous support for the new name in July; Lord Fairfax Community College, which serves Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions, will be known as Laurel Ridge; and Patrick Henry Community College, which is adding an ampersand to become Patrick & Henry, the two counties it serves. In November, Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge is expected to seek approval from the board for a new name, which has not yet been announced. Name changes are expected to go into full effect within the next 12 to 18 months.
In summer 2020, following widespread racial justice protests spurred by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, VCCS requested that community colleges examine the names of their schools and buildings to reflect “values of inclusive and accessible education.”
According to TNCC, two buildings on the college’s Hampton campus named for associates of Nelson will be renamed, but three other buildings named for his contemporaries will not receive new names as they are set to be replaced in coming years.
“This new name emphasizes this college’s community and sends a welcoming and inclusive signal to the students they serve and those they seek to serve,” N.L. Bishop, chair of the state board, said in a statement. “I commend the college leadership who led a thorough and inclusive process to examine the college’s name and move the institution forward. Community colleges are life-changing institutions, and we want every single person in the community to understand that he, she or they are welcome here, and we exist to help them move forward.”