Robinson Hall and Lee-Jackson House renamed, changes made to Lee Chapel

W&L honors trailblazers in university history with name changes to Robinson Hall and Lee-Jackson House

Hannah Denham

Robinson Hall and Lee-Jackson House will be renamed, according to an email sent Tuesday, Oct. 9 on behalf of the Board of Trustees.

Robinson Hall will be renamed Chavis Hall to recognize John Chavis, the first African-American to receive a college education in the United States. Chavis graduated from then-Washington Academy in 1799.

Lee-Jackson House will be renamed Simpson House, in honor of the late Pamela Hemenway Simpson, the first woman to become a tenured professor at W&L.

According to the email, Simpson played a critical role during the university’s transition to co-education as the chair of the Co-Education Steering Committee and associate dean of the college in the 1980s.

The Board of Trustees also approved two physical changes to Lee Chapel, effective immediately. Portraits of both George Washington and Robert E. Lee in civilian clothing will replace the current portraits hanging in the chapel that display the men in their military uniforms.

Additionally, the doors to the chamber of Lee Chapel where the recumbent statue of Lee is will be closed during university events.

The head of the Board of Trustees, J. Donald Childress, ‘70, and President Will Dudley sent the email to W&L students, faculty, alumni and parents.

The email said that the decisions were based on input from students, faculty and alumni that members of the Board received over the past few months and this past weekend during their visit to campus.

“On behalf of the Board, we want to express our gratitude to all of those members of the community who contributed to our deliberations, through countless letters and conversations over the summer and on campus this weekend,” the email read. “We are fortunate to be part of a community that cares deeply about this institution and is so dedicated to its continued success.”