William & Mary is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S. On February 8, 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II of England signed the charter for a "perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences" to be founded in the Virginia Colony.
Construction began on the Sir Christopher Wren Building in 1695, before the town of Williamsburg even existed. Though ravaged by fire three times in the ensuing centuries, the Wren is the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. Many of America's founding fathers were educated at or held close ties to W&M, which has been called "the Alma Mater of the Nation." Thomas Jefferson received his undergraduate education here, as did presidents John Tyler and James Monroe. George Washington received his surveyor's license through W&M and served as its first American chancellor after the Revolutionary War.
W&M is also famous for its firsts: the first U.S. institution with a Royal Charter, the first Greek letter society (Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776), the first student honor code, the first college to become a university and the first law school in America.
The university began receiving financial support from Virginia in 1888 and was codified as a public institution in 1906. In 1928, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. chose the Wren as the first building to be returned to its 18th-century appearance as part of the iconic Colonial Williamsburg restoration.
Though retaining its historic title of "College," William & Mary is today a research university of national prominence.