It has been almost 100 years since the first class enrolled at Westhampton College Sept. 17, 1914, and University of Richmond is preparing for the centennial celebrations to occur on campus next September.
The main objectives of the centennial celebration include “acknowledging the ongoing (WC and UR) institutional themes of academic excellence, leadership and community,” and “inspiring participation by the next generation of WC alumnae who will assume leadership roles across the University and become leaders in their own communities,” according to records from the Westhampton College dean’s office.
Before 1914, Richmond College was all male and was downtown, near the Fan district. In 1910, the president of the college, Frederic William Boatwright, felt the campus was too small and sought another location. With the move came the establishment of Westhampton College for women four years later.
“This was a time when more opportunities for women were opening up, and Richmond decided to go the coordinate route to separate the two colleges on one campus,” said Juliette Landphair, dean of the current Westhampton College.
Today, Richmond’s campus looks much different than it did in 1910. When Boatwright purchased the 290-acre site, it was a millpond and an abandoned amusement park. He found the land unpromising. There was a trolley line running by campus to shuttle people to and from the amusement park. The current library was home to a field house, and it seemed that there was wilderness on one side and desert on the other, Landphair said.
Student life was dramatically different as well. “There were no open dormitories, no alcohol, no visitation of men in women’s dormitories; those were just absolute in those days. It was a very much a church-related institution, a good institution and respected, but small” said chancellor E. Bruce Heilman. Many students commuted, and the classes were primarily single-sex. “There were some coed science classes, and girls would see boys in the library and at dances,” said Landphair.
Dean May Keller was the most important figure at Westhampton College at the time, and Landphair said that Keller’s work inspired and motivated her to this day because “we haven’t reached complete equality for women yet.”
There is currently a university-wide centennial plan committee that is planning a celebration for one Saturday afternoon in mid-September 2014. The committee comprises Landphair, Carolyn Martin of the president’s office and employees of the Alumni Relations office and Center for Civic Engagement.
The centennial event will combine with Proclamation Night, and the women will be recessed to the tented Westhampton Green (next to North Court), where the alumni will be, Landphair said.
“We want to make clear that Westhampton College isn’t a relic of the past, but still exists. It is a celebration for past, current, and future students.” she said.
There will be a more cerebral recognition during homecoming weekend on Nov. 1-3, which will include networking events with Westhampton College alumni. “It will be a two-pronged event but not too extensive,” said Landphair.
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