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 LFCC College Board voted on Feb. 4, 2021, to change the name of Lord Fairfax 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. LFCC College Board Chair Pam McInnis, who represents Warren County, said, “While remembering and honoring the history and successes of LFCC during its first 50 years, the Lord Fairfax 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 LFCC. 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.
LFCC 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.”
Our mission statement: LFCC provides a positive, caring and dynamic learning environment that inspires student success, values diversity and promotes community vitality.
Our vision: LFCC enriches communities as we provide exemplary educational opportunities based on our core values.
- Learning – We foster an environment that ignites and sustains a passion for lifelong learning.
- High Performance – We are focused, responsive, collaborative and accountable.
- Integrity – We exemplify honesty, character and respect for our communities.
- Positive Spirit – We value creativity, enthusiasm and a “can-do” attitude.
- Diversity – We honor the uniqueness of individuals and communities.
In the summer of 2020, the State Board for Community Colleges passed a resolution directing Virginia’s Community Colleges to review the names of their institutions, including their campuses and facilities. That resolution states in part, “The mission of Virginia’s Community Colleges and their shared dedication to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion demand we examine the names regularly facing our students, faculty, staff, and supporters on their community college journey, and determine if those names are consistent with that mission and those values.”
The charge to our board was to determine if the college namesake, as well as our other named spaces, were consistent with the mission and values of our college. The timeline established in the resolution required the local College Board to provide a recommendation related to any renaming before the March 2021 meeting of the State Board for Community Colleges.
Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, was born in 1693, at Leeds Castle in southeastern England. As the oldest son of the 5th Lord Fairfax, he was the heir in 1719 to both Leeds Castle and a proprietary grant of about 5½ million acres of land located between the headwaters of the Rappahannock and the Potomac. Residents on that land paid quit-rent to Thomas. By the early 1740s, he had settled in White Post in Clarke County.
Lord Fairfax hired George Washington to survey and help establish boundaries in the Blue Ridge and Northern Shenandoah Valley. While Thomas was a mentor and supporter of the future President, he remained loyal to the British Crown during the Revolutionary War
When he died in 1781, Thomas was buried at Christ Church in Winchester. At the time of his death, he owned at least 97 enslaved persons.
Minutes from College Board meetings in 1969 – when the yet-to-be-opened college’s board was referred to as the Region 15 College Board – show that the founders struggled with selecting a name. Other community colleges in the state had been named after their geographic location or an individual with either historical significance to the area or to the establishment of the college. Likely geographical names, such as Massanutten and Shenandoah, had already been chosen by other institutions, while the local planning district covering Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren counties, as well as the city of Winchester, had been named the Lord Fairfax Planning District. For that reason, and because Lord Fairfax had owned all of the land within the college’s service region, Lord Fairfax Community College was chosen.
However, the State Board for Community Colleges was concerned the name would cause confusion due to Fairfax County being in Northern Virginia Community College’s service region. Such was the concern that the State Board sent the name back three times, only accepting it after the third time, and on the condition that “Lord” always remain in the name.
While part of the rationale for the college name was the local planning commission having adopted the name Lord Fairfax, the commission was renamed the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission in 2001 because it better reflected the geographical area of its members.
No. While Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, had owned all of the property in the college’s service region until his death in 1781, his family had no connection to the college when it was founded in 1970. He did not donate money or land in order to establish the college.
The LFCC College and Campus Names Workgroup was formed to review the college and campus names. First, the workgroup began reviewing the college’s history and how Lord Fairfax was chosen as the name, as well as reviewing Lord Fairfax’s life.
Around the same time, LFCC hired a brand research firm to provide a brand assessment to correspond with the college’s 50th anniversary and upcoming strategic planning launch. The firm carried out a brand research study, working with small samples of students, employees and community members, followed by a larger, region-wide survey.
The College and Campus Names Workgroup met from August 2020 to January 2021, and the College Board received and discussed progress updates from each of the workgroups at their meetings.
During its Feb. 4 meeting, the Lord Fairfax Community College Board voted to rename the college. More information about the process can be found here.
After months of discussion and workgroup and College Board meetings, the factors that led to the renaming decision were as follows:
- There is no geographical region associated with Lord Fairfax, and participants in the brand study who were not originally from our service region confused the name with Fairfax County, VA, and Fairfax, WV.
- The workgroup unanimously agreed, based on his history and lack of any notable legacy, that if the college were being named today, the group would not recommend it be named for Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax.
- Lord Fairfax was a local historical figure who is not well-known within the college’s service region, even by people familiar with Lord Fairfax Community College (9 out of 10 surveyed did not know who Lord Fairfax was).
- The brand study and the workgroup findings show that people feel affinity for the college because of what the college has meant to them, and not because of Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax.
- The study showed that regardless of whether respondents were white or non-white, young or old, whether they had been affiliated with the college or not, once people learned about the life of Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, they were more supportive of a name change
The LFCC College Board was asked whether the namesake reflects the mission, vision, and values of the college and the students we serve. Ultimately, after reviewing all of the data, the College Board did not believe Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, represents our values, our students, or the college’s future, and therefore voted to move forward with the process of renaming.
The college will create a taskforce that includes students, alumni, faculty, staff, board members and business partners, amongst others. This taskforce will be charged with developing the criteria for evaluating the new college name. The taskforce will work through a process to solicit ideas for names, and will identify a final list of possible names consistent with our mission of building economic stability and community vitality. The taskforce will provide the public ample opportunity to suggest names and to provide input on names throughout the process. After input and review, two to three new names will be discussed by the College Board in summer 2021, after which it will recommend a new name to the State Board of Community Colleges. Throughout the process, names will be vetted for historical significance and other factors, as well as for trademarks and domain name availability.
There will be no impact on degrees and certificates. The former name will be printed in parentheses on new transcripts.
No, the college has proudly served thousands of students over the past 50 years, and we value and appreciate the history and beautiful areas we serve. While Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, was a historical figure in the region, he is not well known even to people familiar with the college. He did not donate land or money to the college, nor did he leave a legacy of support for education.
Employees have spent their careers working at LFCC, and students have found a new direction in life after completing our programs. Nothing will change those memories and success stories.
The college will continue to honor and celebrate all of the graduates, employees and supporters who have made LFCC the outstanding college it is today. While the name may change, the programs and support we offer to students will continue to be part of the history of this region.
Do you have a specific question about LFCC’s college naming process? Before submitting your question, please be sure to check our FAQ section above as your answer may have already been provided. Please use the form below and a member of our staff will respond as soon as possible.