For Immediate Release:
February 21, 2021
Primary Media Contact:
Public Relations Specialist
In July 2020, the State Board for Community Colleges passed a resolution asking all community colleges in Virginia to review their names. Following six months of study, focus group discussions and the results of a brand research study, the Laurel Ridge College Board voted on Feb. 4, 2021, to change the name of Laurel Ridge Community College.
The name Lord Fairfax was chosen in 1969 – a year before the college opened. The original college board chose the name in part for its link to the region’s colonial history. The name also added consistency because the local planning district commission had recently adopted the name Lord Fairfax Planning District Commission. Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, was born in England, and would ultimately hold more than 5 million acres from Virginia’s Northern Neck to near what is now Pittsburgh. He would become a friend of George Washington, although his loyalties lay with the British during the Revolutionary War. Buried in Winchester, Lord Fairfax – like many large landowners at the time – owned enslaved workers.
The request from the State Board provided the college with an opportunity to reflect and honor our past while ensuring our name and brand reflect our values and our future. Laurel Ridge College Board Chair Pam McInnis, who represents Warren County, said, “While remembering and honoring the history and successes of Laurel Ridge during its first 50 years, the Laurel Ridge Community College Board has accepted the responsibility and opportunity to move forward with renaming the college to reflect the vision and mission for the future for our communities and our students. The renaming, along with strategic planning and rebranding, will provide a path forward for continued success for the next 50 years.”
Vice Chair Mike Wenger, representing Rappahannock County, added, “From the start, it was a challenge that everyone took very seriously. Throughout the effort, everyone consistently came back to the values of the college and our shared concern for the students and communities we have served and will serve over the coming decades. It seems appropriate that these six months of self-reflection came during our 50th year and in the midst of a major strategic planning effort to lay the foundation for the next 50 years.
“The process has been comprehensive, disciplined, inclusive, deliberative, and, above all else, respectful of our responsibility for the history and future of the college. Hard-working groups reached out to constituents, dug into the records, read history, gathered data, and debated issues. We considered the overall college branding with an eye to the future. The process invited deliberations about the values we want to inculcate, the focus we hope the college brand projects, and the breadth of community-reach we want to facilitate. Though this decision wasn’t easy, it was in many ways clear.”
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, who represents Shenandoah County on the Board, said, “Often, we just move forward day by day without thinking about our name, so this gives us a great opportunity to look at ourselves and determine who we are in relation to our values, our mission, where we are today as an institution, and where we want to go tomorrow. Lord Fairfax doesn’t represent anything we are about.
“Our students come to us from different backgrounds, but they value the opportunity presented by earning an education at Laurel Ridge. The college embraces inclusion, opportunity, equality, access to education, and helping students find their way forward. Our faculty is devoted to that. We want people to feel welcome where they serve and live, and if we exclude some part of our faculty and some part of our students, that’s not who we are, whether that exclusion is intentional or unintentional. I think for our students, for our faculty and for our future, it’s the right time to take this opportunity to rename the college and move forward, capturing all we have accomplished in the past and the bright future we have ahead.”
The college will spend the coming months searching for a name that will move us forward and stand the test of time, one that will serve as a welcoming beacon to all students, a name for which we can feel pride. A taskforce made up of stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and board members, will work with our communities as we embark upon this task. Our goal is for the board to have a name to consider by this summer.
Laurel Ridge President Kim Blosser shared the college board’s decision with faculty and staff in a video message the evening of Feb. 4, 2021. She noted, “We have a fantastic history and so much to be proud of – our college has changed the lives of many thousands of people in our service region and beyond. Our dedication to our mission and our values is what has made our community college the asset it is today. As we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to our next 50 years, we will find a name that better suits our vision of an inclusive, equitable learning environment for every student, one that improves their economic mobility and supports the economic development of the communities we serve. And we will involve our employees, our students, and our community members in this process; we will do this together.”
More information about the name change decision and process can be found at laurelridge.edu/name.
Founded in 1970, Laurel Ridge Community College is a multi-campus public institution of higher education. With four locations — Middletown, Warrenton, Luray-Page County and most recently, Vint Hill— the College serves eight localities in the Shenandoah Valley and northern Piedmont regions. The localities are the counties of Clarke, Fauquier, Frederick, Page, Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren and the city of Winchester. Laurel Ridge offers more than 75 associate degree and certificate programs in a wide variety of disciplines, in addition to providing access to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs offered on site by a four-year institution. Laurel Ridge also serves the business community by offering workforce preparation programs for employees and employers. Laurel Ridge serves more than 9,000 unduplicated credit students and more than 11,000 individuals in professional development and business and industry courses annually.
Laurel Ridge Community College (Laurel Ridge) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Laurel Ridge Community College. Laurel Ridge Community College is an equal opportunity institution providing educational and employment opportunities, programs, services, and activities and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religion, disability, national origin, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or other non-merit factors. Laurel Ridge also prohibits sexual misconduct including sexual violence or harassment.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.