If the Virginia State Board of Community Colleges rejects a request made last week to accept adding a hyphen to Patrick Henry Community College’s name, then that board will have two more names to consider.
PHCC’s board went through a process at its special meeting on Monday to take a list of four possible names other than Patrick-Henry CC and rank that list.
Patriot Heights was the most preferred, followed by Patriot Hills.
Those names will be sent for consideration by the State Board at its meeting on July 15.
The board prefers to add the hyphen to reinforce that the school is named for the two counties it serves — Patrick and Henry — and not the state’s first governor, who is praised for his “give me liberty or give me death” resonance but also known to have been a slave-holder.
Monday’s meeting was the last for retiring President Angeline Godwin, and she contributed significantly to the discussion and the process.
“My tenure with the college ends June 30, and I will try to assist and be available,” Godwin said. “Today is my last day on campus. I’ll be permanently moving in the next 24 hours.”
Godwin told the board that she was concerned about “incorrect information” being circulated about the name-changing process.
“Prior to July of 2020, I had only one registered concern about our name, and I have polled this extensively,” Godwin said. “Please note that to the best of our knowledge, regardless of the new name, when it [the college] was created, they chose to name this college for its locality.
“Why the name has not been an issue is that the general understanding is that it was named for our area.”
Godwin said despite the persistence of the college to gauge the public’s interest in changing the school’s name, there was “not a tremendous feedback.”
Godwin said although the state is mandating the school change its name, it will likely be the school’s responsibility for paying the costs associated with it.
“We have to get down to where the cows can eat it,” Godwin said. “It’s no more warm and fuzzy.
“PHCC has never just guessed at anything. We didn’t come up with a random $500,000 to a million. Analysis and data is how we do business here.”
Godwin said she had talked with other schools that have gone through a name change, and the response was that the estimated costs were magnified when the change occurred.
“The reality is this is expensive business,” Godwin said. “That is where we are.”
Last year, Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges asked Virginia’s 23 community colleges to analyze the appropriateness of their names.
The PHCC board at first considered adding a hyphen to the name, but, after hearing negatively from the public, asked to keep the name as it was.
In May the State Board rejected the PHCC’s request and added that the new name should represent diversity and inclusion.
PHCC’s board held four special called meetings to consider potential names.
At the final meeting on Monday, Godwin spelled out what couldn’t be done.
“There are 23 community colleges in Virginia, and two of them begin with Virginia, so I can assure you that’s not going to get it,” Godwin said. “There’s a zillion other Virginia somethings.
“Mountain is like Piedmont. I would have chosen Piedmont Highlands, but there are schools that already have both, so that’s not going to happen.”
The PHCC board debated about including “Smith River” but decided the history of the Smith brothers who hunted and lived in a cabin along the river was too murky and might result in something being revealed down the road that would be more contentious than the current name.
The PHCC board will not meet again until its regular meeting in July and is not expecting to hear anything from the State Board before then, and there is always the possibility the new suggestions will be rejected as well.