Governor Youngkin and First Lady visit College, attend Williamsburg Bray School relocation ceremony

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin visits Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved with President Katherine Rowe. // PEERAWUT RUANGSAWASDI

Friday, Feb. 10, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin visited the College of William and Mary and attended the launch of the new Williamsburg Bray School preservation site in Colonial Williamsburg. This marks the governor’s second visit to the College, following his visit for the 2022 Charter Day ceremony.

College President Katherine Rowe, First Gentleman Bruce Jacobson and Chief Diversity Officer Fanchon Glover greeted the Youngkins at the Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved. The private event lasted approximately 15 minutes before the group traveled to the launch ceremony.

The Williamsburg Bray School taught free and enslaved Black children from 1760-1774, some of whom were enslaved by the College. Researchers uncovered its original structure in 2020. The Bray House was moved to the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area on Friday. Rowe discussed the significance of the governor’s visit.

“It takes an extraordinary community to make a discovery like this visible to millions of people,” Rowe said. “It’s a treasure for the country, Virginia and Williamsburg. That’s what [the governor’s] acknowledging in a really powerful way — the significance of the stories that we are uncovering.”

Various public officials, College Chancellor Robert Gates ‘65, Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, tribal leaders, members of the College administration, descendants of Bray School students and members of the Williamsburg community were all in attendance at the ceremony.

Youngkin spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of the occasion and thanking leaders for the Bray School restoration efforts.

“The First Lady and I have had a very moving visit on this truly historic day,” Youngkin said. “We have to remind ourselves frequently that our understanding of our collective history is constantly growing in truth and clarity.” 

The governor also discussed the legacy of the school in the context of American history.

“In the face of the grave, unconscionable chattel slavery, the children attending the Bray School learned to read and write,” Youngkin said.

“We must teach all of our history, all of it, the good and the bad,” Youngkin said. “We must expand our understanding of our rich heritage and forge together a better future through education. I am so humbled by the past. I am ever more optimistic about our future. I am so grateful for all of your presence. And I am truly overwhelmed by the names of 86 children who were spoken today.”

The governor left Williamsburg following the event. His office did not respond to The Flat Hat’s request for comment about his visit to the College.

Prior to their visit to the Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved, the First Lady and Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Services John E. Littel P ‘22 also visited the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center.

Student Wellness Ambassadors and Wellness Center leaders, including Associate Vice President for Health and Wellness and Director of the Center for Mindfulness and Authentic Excellence Dr. Kelly Crace, welcomed the pair.

Mrs. Youngkin and Littel, who serves on the Board of Visitors, hosted a discussion with students and Wellness Center staff in regards to mental health initiatives and fentanyl overdoses, emphasizing proactivity to address these issues. 

Littel also alluded to an upcoming summit for mental health leaders of state public schools, which he will host with Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad Guidera at the College. 

“We’re all coming back in March,” Sec. Littel said, adding that he would highlight the College as a leading institution in mental health efforts.


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