Cool Facts

Lots of firsts and some other interesting tidbits.

First institution of higher education in the U.S. in its antecedents, which go back to it proposed at Henrico (1619). Second to Harvard in actual operation.
First American institution of higher education to receive its charter from the Crown under the Seal of the Privy Council in 1693. Hence it was known as "their majesties" Royal College of William & Mary.
First and only American institution of higher education to receive a coat of arms from the College of Heralds (1694).
First institution of higher education in the U.S. to have a full faculty, consisting of a president, six professors, usher and writing master (1729).
First institution of higher education to confer medallic prizes, gold medals donated by Lord Botetourt (1771).
First institution of higher education to establish an intercollegiate fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa (December 5, 1776).
First institution of higher education to have the Elective System of study (1779).
First institution of higher education to have an Honor System (1779).
First college to become a university (1779).
First institution of higher education to have a School of Modern Languages (1779).
First institution of higher education to have a School of Municipal and Constitutional Law (1779). Thomas Jefferson had the idea. His mentor, George Wythe, was hired in 1779 as William & Mary's first "professor of law and police," and the great Chief Justice John Marshall was among the first lawyers Wythe taught.
First university to teach Political Economy (1784).
First university to have a School of Modern History (1803).
Three Presidents of the United States were educated at William & Mary: Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler (four if we count George Washington's surveyor's license).
Although William & Mary retains its traditional title of "College," it’s really a small university that offers over 40 graduate and professional degree programs.
William & Mary is one of only eight U.S. institutions of higher education designated a "Public Ivy." A public ivy is a state-assisted institution that offers a superior education at a cost far below that of Ivy League schools.
William & Mary's 11-to-1 student-faculty ratio is the lowest among the top public universities, a factor that helps strengthen W&M's traditional commitment to teaching. Eighty six percent of William & Mary's classes have fewer than 40 students — nearly half have fewer than 20 students.
Founded in 1842, the William & Mary Alumni Association is the sixth oldest such group in the U.S.
Named for its presumed architect, the Sir Christopher Wren Building was completed in 1699 and provided classrooms, library, dining hall and a chapel for generations of William & Mary students. It is the oldest college building still standing in the U.S. — classes are still taught within its walls.
A succession of influential individuals — including President George Washington, President John Tyler, Chief Justice Warren Burger, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Connor have held the post of Chancellor of William & Mary. In 2012, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates '65, L.H.D. '98 was installed as William & Mary's 24th Chancellor.
With 35 alumni currently serving, William & Mary is the top producer of Peace Corps volunteers among medium-sized public universities.