State Board Approves Name Change for Thomas Nelson Community College

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Student enrollment at Thomas Nelson Community College for the fall 2020 semester has declined 6.6 percent compared to last year.(WYDaily file/Courtesy of TNCC)
Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) will change its name to Virginia Peninsula Community College. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of TNCC)

HAMPTON ROADS — Virginia State Board for Community Colleges has voted to change the name of Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) to Virginia Peninsula Community College.

On a recommendation from the Thomas Nelson College Local Advisory Board, Virginia’s State Board of Community Colleges, which oversees the Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS), considered several name options for the College.

“Hundreds of names were suggested as the College began consideration of a new
name,” Thomas Nelson President Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon said. “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.”

Brannon added that the new name has been a favorite among many for several reasons.

The Virginia Peninsula is the main geographic location the College serves, and the College used the line “The Peninsula’s Community College” as part of marketing efforts after rebranding itself in the mid-2000s.

“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 for Community Colleges, said. “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.”

According to a Sept. 23 release from the College, the state board asked local college advisory boards back in summer 2020 to review the appropriateness of the names of its college, campuses, and facilities, and updated its policy about school names.

In February 2021, the College’s Local Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend
changing TNCC’s name. On Sept. 1, the local board recommended the name Virginia Peninsula Community College.

Thomas Nelson Jr., the College’s namesake, was a Yorktown native, a Revolutionary War hero, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the fourth governor of Virginia. However, he was also a slaveholder.

Over a year ago, the College established a naming task force, which consisted of
students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members and community members.

The College took surveys, hosted town halls, conducted research and created a website to gather and share information about the renaming process.

The task force developed criteria for choosing a new name, which included not drawing inspiration from an individual’s name. The task force also wanted the new name to reflect the geography of the College’s service area, be timeless, and offer a sense of belonging and inclusiveness to all students.

Griffin and Wythe halls, two buildings on the College’s Hampton campus which are named for associates of Thomas Nelson, will also be renamed.

Three other buildings, Moore, Diggs and Harrison, are also named for Nelson’s contemporaries, but are scheduled to be replaced by a new building in the coming years.

Two other community colleges in Virginia announced name changes in July. John Tyler Community College will be renamed Brightpoint Community College, and Lord Fairfax Community College will become Laurel Ridge Community College.

Patrick Henry Community College will be known as Patrick & Henry Community College for the counties in which it serves. Dabney S. Lancaster Community College is also expected to soon undergo a name change.

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