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Washington and Lee University

a private liberal arts university located on 325 acres in Lexington, Virginia

central buildings, Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee consists of three academic units -- The College; the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; and the School of Law. The University hosts 23 intercollegiate athletic teams, all of which compete as part of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference of the NCAA Division III.

Washington and Lee University began as Augusta Academy, which was established by Scotch-Irish pioneers about 20 miles north of Lexington in 1749. Revolutionary fervor led the trustees to change the name to Liberty Hall in 1776. It became Liberty Hall Academy in 1782, after the Virginia legislature granted it the authority to award college degrees; it moved to the Lexington area that same year. The Academy granted its first bachelor of arts degree in 1785.

A limestone building, erected in 1793 on the crest of a ridge overlooking Lexington, burned in 1803, although its ruins are preserved today as a symbol of the institution's honored past.

In 1798 George Washington endowed the institution with $20,000 worth of James River Canal stock. The Board of Trustees expressed its gratitude by renaming the instituion Washington Academy soon thereafter. The name was changed to Washington Academy in 1813, by which time it was established at its present location.

Former Confederate General Robert E. Lee became the college's president in 1865, and served in that capacity until his death in 1870. During his tenure Lee established the first journalism courses, and he added both a business school and a law school to the college curriculum, under the conviction that those occupations should be intimately and inextricably linked with the liberal arts. Lee was also the father of an Honor System and a speaking tradition at Washington College that continue to the present time. Lee died on October 12, 1870, and the college's name was changed to Washington and Lee University the following year. The university's motto, Non Incautus Futuri, meaning Not unmindful of the future, is an adaptation of the Lee family motto. Lee's son, George Washington Custis Lee, followed as the school's next president. General Lee and much of his family -- including his wife, his seven children, and his father, Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse Harry" Lee -- are buried in the Lee Chapel on campus.

Originally an all-male institution, Washington and Lee University first admitted women to its law school in 1972, and the first undergraduate women matriculated in 1985.

Washington and Lee University's official website is

George Washington
Robert E. Lee
"Light Horse Harry" Lee

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This page was last updated on 06/22/2017.