MIDDLETOWN — Laurel Ridge Community College has been chosen as the new name for Lord Fairfax Community College.
LFCC’s board made the selection on Thursday, an LFCC official confirmed.
The decision must still be approved by the State Board for Community Colleges. It will reviewed during the state board’s meeting on July 21-22.
The other names being considered were Valley & Vista Community College, Red Oak Community College, Valley & Ridge Community College and Newbridge Community College. Those choices had been narrowed to Valley & Ridge, Laurel Ridge, Valley & Vista.
LFCC’s board made the decision to seek a new name for the 50-year-old institution in February, following six months of studies and discussions prompted by a July 2020 request from the State Board for Community Colleges that asked all 23 Virginia community colleges to revisit their names. The request came as institutions across the country were rethinking names with racist ties following protests that erupted after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
LFCC, which opened in 1970, was named for Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, who was a slave owner who remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. A Scot, he came to colonial America in the 18th century. From his home in White Post in Clarke County, he administered his vast Northern Neck Proprietary — a Virginia land grant dating back to the 1600s. At the time of his death, he owned at least 97 enslaved people. He is buried at Christ Episcopal Church in Winchester.
“I’ve said many times that his name is just not good enough for us,” LFCC President Kim Blosser said in a February video message following the LFCC board’s 9-3 vote to change the college’s name. “We are much better than what [his] name would show.”
During a May town hall held via Zoom and telephone, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, an LFCC board member, told the audience that the name change “wasn’t a hasty decision.”
“We had 50 wonderful years of Lord Fairfax,” Freakley said, but “it’s time to move forward” so that everyone feels welcome at the college.
“Like it or not, we are in an era of questioning, of asking about who is America, what do we stand for, what do we align ourselves with,” Freakley said during the town hall. “We respect the past, but where we are today is looking at the future.”
LFCC serves Winchester and the counties of Frederick, Fauquier, Page, Shenandoah, Rappahannock, Clarke and Warren.
The decision to change LFCC’s name was not popular with some.
In April, the Frederick County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 to send a letter opposing the decision to the State Board for Community Colleges.The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors made a similar move in March.
Kelly O’Keefe, CEO of Brand Federation, who has worked with LFCC during the renaming process, said during the town hall that the new name must have potential to unite the college’s service region and celebrate the community’s accomplishments as a whole.
Community feedback was presented to the LFCC renaming task force on May 12. The task force included students, faculty, donors, staff and administrators. The task force held six sessions before it recommended the three finalist names.
Of the 23 community colleges in Virginia, five are named after segregationists or slave owners, with three colleges in the process of changing their names, The Roanoke Times reported last month.