William and Mary in Virginia, College of

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.
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William and Mary in Virginia, College of

College of William and Mary in Virginia, mainly at Williamsburg; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1693, opened 1694 by Episcopalians under James Blair. It became a university in 1779. The second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, it traces its descent from plans for a university of Henrico in 1618, which were put aside after the Native American massacre of 1622. The college was closed when it was occupied (1781) by Revolutionary troops, in the Civil War, and again from 1881 to 1888 for lack of funds (see Ewell, Benjamin Stoddert). Phi Beta Kappa was founded there in 1776, and in 1779 the elective system and the honor system were first introduced. William and Mary established the first school of law in the United States and pioneered also in the teaching of political economy, natural philosophy, and modern history and languages. State aid was introduced in 1888, and the college joined the Virginia educational system in 1906. It became coeducational in 1918 and achieved university status in 1967. The Institute of Early American History and Culture, which publishes the historical periodical The William and Mary Quarterly, is there. The college library houses noted collections relating to Virginian and U.S. history.

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