At Long Last... Longwood University
It's official. On July 1, 2002, we became Longwood University. But the real celebration began on April 24 when Governor Mark Warner visited Longwood for a signing ceremony of the legislation that would actually make us a "University" on July 1. It was a day that not only commemorated the first anniversary of the Great Fire of 2001, but also marked the beginning of a new era for Longwood.
With a flourish of a pen hand-crafted by Longwood student Kevin John Meadowcroft, Governor Warner declared that "one of Virginia's oldest colleges is now Virginia's newest university." Addressing a jam-packed crowd on Blackwell Plaza, Governor Warner said, "I can't think of a happier occasion than to come back to this community. I look around today and see that Longwood is a thriving, vibrant institution that has prevailed over adversity." Following his remarks, Governor Warner was presented with some special gifts from Dr. Cormier on behalf of Longwood: three Longwood applications for his daughters, the first official Longwood University sweatshirts for his daughters, and a nautical style clock for his desk in the executive mansion.
What's in a name?
One of the frequent questions we received was "why is Longwood becoming a University?" Perhaps the best answer comes directly from our President, Dr. Patricia P. Cormier:
"We believe that university is a better reflection of the type of institution that Longwood is today," said President Patricia P. Cormier. "We are a comprehensive entity with a broad array of undergraduate majors and minors as well as graduate programs. Longwood University will retain all of the characteristics that make us who we are: medium-sized, with controlled growth to 5,000; small classes, allowing for faculty/staff interaction; and an institution involved in the local community and the Southside Virginia region."
The transition to university status actually began quite some time ago as the proposal was initially discussed and supported by the campus and alumni communities, endorsed by the Board of Visitors, approved by the legislature, and signed into law by Governor Mark Warner. During the spring, a University Designation Transition Team, under the direction of Vice President Bobbie Burton, was busily prioritizing the thousands of things that will have to be changed from "College" to "University."
A top priority was assigned to our graphic identity program and a new Longwood University Graphic Identity and Style Manual was distributed on campus and posted online over the summer. Over 27,000 announcement postcards were sent to our various constituents. A new Longwood University website has been launched. The facilities management team has been bringing our campus signage and vehicles up to speed over the summer with new lettering and graphics. Barnes and Noble bookstore has been stocking up on plenty of new Longwood University clothing and other items. With the installation of two new primary signs on campus, Longwood is truly starting to look like a university.
Etched in Stone
The new signs, located on High Street, in front of French Hall and on the corner of High and Griffin, are constructed of native slate and feature the new Rotunda icon and the university's founding date of 1839.
Several different sign concepts were considered before going with slate, a rock indigenous to Virginia that provides a durable and attractive presentation. The signs were designed by the Longwood University Office of Public Relations and produced by the Buckingham-Virginia Slate Corporation in nearby Arvonia. According to manager Tom Hughes, "These are the biggest slate signs we have ever made and we've made some big ones." The new signs, weighing 1200 lbs. each, are over 1" thick by over 7' wide x 5' tall, and were mined from the company's quarry in Arvonia. Virginia Slate, which has been in business since 1876, is one of the nation's largest suppliers of slate products and creates everything from floor and roof tiles to crushed slate for roadbeds and signs for companies and organizations like Longwood University.
Once the slate was blasted from the side of the quarry, a process that requires boring 14' tubular holes in the hillside and packing the holes with explosives, the large sections were taken to a cutting station at the company's plant where they were cut to size and shaped. "Slate is wonderful to work with," stated Hughes. "It cuts evenly and engraves easily." After stonecutting, the sign design is converted to a life-size template that is masked, exposing only the parts that will be engraved by a sandblasting process. After the lettering and design has been etched into the stone, the lettering and design is painted with a white oil-based paint to ensure visibility and readability.
Our thanks to alumni who helped make these landmark signs possible. The French sign is a gift from the Classes of 1985 and 1986 the Griffin sign is from the Class of 1970.
In this age of digital imagery and virtual reality, it's not often that you can actually use the term "etched in stone." But, that's exactly what describes the new signs for Longwood University.