The Virginia State Board of Community Colleges has settled on a new name for Patrick Henry Community College.
With just the addition of an ampersand, it is now Patrick & Henry Community College.
P&HCC President Greg Hodges shared the news after a State Board’s meeting Thursday at which the decision was made.
The change took place immediately after the meeting, Hodges said during a press conference at 1:30 p.m.
Last year, the State Board had required community colleges to review their names for appropriateness. P&HCC’s name was under question because Patrick Henry, the Revolutionary War patriot, had owned slaves.
During a press conference, Hodges said, “We are absolutely delighted and thrilled with the decision of the State Board for our name of our institution to transition to ‘Patrick and Henry,’ with the ‘and’ being an ampersand, which clearly designates that we are named for the two counties we serve, Henry County and Patrick County.”
The college has until Dec. 31, 2022 “to bring this to full fruition; however, because the name change is not as steep as a complete overhaul, we don’t believe, at Patrick and Henry Community College, that it will take us that long to complete this.”
A task force will be formed to create a new logo, which may be done within 60 days, Hodges said.
Brian Henderson, P&HCC’s athletic director and an assistant vice president, who is Black, told the board he works for Patrick Henry the community college, not Patrick Henry the slaveholder. He said the name does not bother him.
“I’m not working as Patrick Henry’s slave,” he said.
The board approved the motion, 8-3, with one abstention. Board member Daruis Johnson, who voted no, called the ampersand a “marginal improvement,” saying the board needs to consider the next 100 years, and that he preferred a more drastic change.
Dana Beckton, another board member who voted no, said some people continue to uphold Patrick Henry the colonist and that such a slight renaming validates them.
P&HCC also had suggested using a hyphen between “Patrick” and “Henry” or renaming the school “Patriot Heights” or “Patriot Hills.”
Also during Thursday’s meeting, the State Board approved new names for two other community college, said State Board spokesperson Jeff Kraus. Lord Fairfax Community College will become Laurel Ridge Community College, and in the Richmond area, John Tyler Community College will become Bright Point Community College.
They also approved a recommendation from the local advisory board of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College to change that institution’s name. They will return in the fall with their proposed new name, Kraus said.
“We also got a progress report on Thomas Nelson Community College,” which also will bring a recommendation for a new name in the fall, Kraus said.
‘We never gave up’
The county named Patrick Henry was formed in 1777, named for Patrick Henry, who was governor of Virginia at the time, Hodges said. In 1791 that county separated into “two separate and distinct counties.” By now, “the attachment to Patrick Henry the man is almost non-existent.
“When our college was created in 1962 as a branch campus of the University of Virginia, we were designated ‘Patrick-hyphen-Henry Community College,’ clearly designating, in the minutes that created the institution, that we were so named for the counties that we served.”
The addition of the ampersand in the name “highlights that even further,” he said.
The alteration of the name is not part of “cancel culture,” Hodges said in response to a question but rather gives clarification of the geographic area to people who do not live in the service region.
Hodges said P&HCC is grateful for the leadership of the State Board during the renaming process.
“This has been a very important process for us. It allowed us to look at some very important naming structures regarding buildings, the name of the campus, the names of rooms, mascot, and important conversations and decisions came out of this.”
P&HCC Board Chair Janet Copenhaver said, “We’re just real glad that the board listened to us. It was done really well. I led a good group that stuck together the whole time. We never gave up. It’s just wonderful that we all worked together that well and the State Board listened to us – and we’re glad to finally have it at an end.”
“The leadership of Janet Copenhaver has been just tremendous during this,” Hodges said. “The spirit of cordiality, civil discourse, has been refreshing to see, frankly. We saw it again today at the State Board, and I as the president am deeply grateful for the way folks expressed their opinions, expressed their passions, expressed their desires but remained civil and brought forward a conclusion that I think speaks to the integrity of the two counties that we serve.”
Kraus said, “I think Dr. Hodges has continued a longstanding tradition of this institution of good leadership. I think he represented the college and the board’s wishes very effectively today, and I think they heard loud and clearly the importance for the institution of retaining the names of the counties it serves, and I think their decision really reflects that.”
Any change in name would have financial costs, Hodges said, but adding an ampersand “will be significantly less” than changing the entire name.
“We were prepared to take whatever direction the State Board led us in,” and avoiding extensive name-change costs. “That’s important to us, because there’s some tremendous diversity, equity and inclusion work and other initiatives that we are diving headlong into as we align with Opportunity 2027, the statewide strategic plan, and this allows us to dedicate resources to that while we also dedicate resources to inserting the ampersand into our name.”
Holly Kozelsky reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org