Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Board Recommends Change to Thomas Nelson Community College Name

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) has announced that a new name has been recommended for the school. (Courtesy of TNCC)

VIRGINIA PENINSULA — On Wednesday, Sept. 1, Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) announced that a recommendation has been made to change the school’s name to Virginia Peninsula Community College.

This past August, Virginia’s State Board of Community Colleges, which oversees the Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS), took under advisement several name options for the Peninsula-based community college system. The College’s Facilities Naming Task Force offered suggestions earlier in the summer, which were narrowed down to three by the August meeting. These included: Harbor Bridge Community College, Two Rivers Community College, and Virginia Peninsula Community College.

According to a Sept. 1 release from TNCC, the task force was created almost a year ago and consists of students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members and community members. The first objective was to learn more about the school’s namesake.

Thomas Nelson, Jr., a Yorktown native and signer of the Declaration of Independence, came from a wealthy family of Colonial Virginia’s gentry. The Nelson family was one that benefited greatly from the chattel slavery system that was already well established in Virginia. Upon his 1762 marriage to Lucy Grymes, Nelson’s father, William, gifted the couple a large amount of land, £30,000, and 400 enslaved people.

Following this, the school then took surveys of stakeholders, hosted town halls, conducted research, and created PowerPoint presentations.

In a college-wide email sent this past May, Dr. Towuanna Porter Brannon, president of TNCC, said that the school was seeking a name “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.”

One of the criteria in choosing a new name for TNCC would be that it would not identify with any individual. Additionally, it was important that a new name reflected the geographic area in which TNCC is located.

Policy presented by the State Board of Community Colleges states that 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.”

Two other community colleges have committed to name changes including Patrick Henry Community College, which will be known as Patrick & Henry for the counties in which it serves.

With all of the information gathered, the TNCC College Board voted this past February to move forth with a name change.

However, there is not yet word if TNCC also plans on changing the names of certain campus buildings to include Wythe and Griffin halls. The release states that three other buildings named for Nelson’s contemporaries — Moore, Diggs, and Harrison — are scheduled to be replaced in the coming years.

College Board Chair Dr. Vince Warren said in the Sept. 1 release, “We are excited to move forward with a new name that reflects our surroundings and honors our mission.”

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