A Movement to Defend and Honor William & Mary’s History
“William and Mary belongs to all Virginians, to the nation, and to the world.”
From a resolution unanimously adopted by the W&M Board of Visitors on Nov. 17, 2006

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(Rev) Joe Ponic, '59

I am neither an Evangelical Christian nor someone who is insensitive to other peoples' faith or feelings, but I am someone who has a sense of history. In fact that is what drew me to W&M; almost 50 years ago. The cross in the chapel is part of its totality just as a Torah is in a Temple or the [Read More!]

George Strong, Professor of History Emeritus

I write to recognize your spirited adherence to ancient tradition at the College of William and Mary. The College was sanctioned by a charter granted by King William III at a time when England was enforcing Anglican uniformity. In 2007 the president, board of visitors and faculty are enforcing the doctrine of political correctness at the college. Naturally the cross in the Wren Chapel can no longer to be tolerated. It has been removed by fiat. The tradition of absolutism indeed is alive and well at William and Mary. Long live Lord Botetourt! [Read More!]

Martha Williams Jenkins, '78

January 9, 2007

Dear Sir:

When I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1978, I could not have conceived of anyone, let alone the President of our great and prestigious university, removing the Cross from the Wren Chapel. [Read More!]

Jonathan M. Baron, ‘92

January 2, 2007

Dear President Nichol:

The decision to remove the cross from Wren Chapel marks a deeply sad moment in the history of the College, and I join the members of the William & Mary community who have expressed disappointment and strong opposition. [Read More!]

Robert G. Jones, ‘72

Memo to Messrs. Nichol, Powell, and Sadler:

The sophistry of the president, the indifference of the BOV chair, and the sycophancy of the president's supporters define the true dilemma for William and Mary. This venerable institution is, today, devoid of leaders of great character and stature. While they have elected to make the Wren Chapel Cross an issue, they have stumbled and failed to present a thoughtful and well-reasoned justification for removing the Cross from the 300 year-old chapel. They present a defense and subsequent compromise as if they, too, had been removed to a closet. How else could they continue to fail to see the gravity of this matter? [Read More!]

Elizabeth Gibbons, M.A., 1971

My dear Mr. President:

I tried to call your office on Friday, December 22, 2006 A.D. (at 6:30 in the morning Pacific Standard Time) to respond to your latest salvo on the Wren Cross "Controversy", only to discover that the office is closed for Christmas. What a serendipitous coincidence. Your proffer of a "compromise" seemed to occur just as everyone scampered off for the festive Holy Day(s). More coincidence, I assume. [Read More!]

Dennis Di Mauro, '86

Dear President Nichol:

My name is Dennis Di Mauro and I am a 1986 history graduate of William and Mary, a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, and currently a PhD student in Church History at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. The reason I am revealing my credentials to you is to demonstrate that I have at least a little knowledge in religion and history. Using this background, I wanted to let you know that your decision to remove the cross from Wren Chapel has aptly demonstrated your disregard for both of these disciplines.
[Read More!]

Robin B. Foskey, Major, USAFR

I am a graduate of the University of Virginia and an officer in the US Air Force. I am deeply saddened by the removal of the cross from the chapel. I am tired of having to apologize for the fact that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. In our efforts to stand for everything, we have come to stand for nothing. Please proudly restore the cross to its rightful place in the chapel. [Read More!]

Todd Larson ‘04

November 21, 2006
Dear President Nichol,

I am deeply disturbed by your recent decision to remove the cross from the Wren Chapel. A person who would demand the removal of a religious symbol from a mosque would be denounced as an intolerant bigot, and rightfully so. But if you remove a cross from a chapel, you are to be celebrated as a forward-thinking promoter of tolerance and inclusion? That’s absurd. Instead of coddling close-minded people who are offended by seeing a cross in a chapel, maybe you should instead focus your efforts on teaching these individuals to learn to accept symbols of religious faiths that differ from their own. [Read More!]

Travis Simone ‘03

Dear President Nichol:

I am deeply troubled by your decision to remove the cross that sat on the altar in the chapel of the oldest academic building in the country. To me the chapel and the cross represent elements of William and Mary tradition that are too important to let go of simply because a couple of hypothetical people, potentially, may, possibly, at some point in the future be offended. Or because the latest trend in academia is to mold everything to the standards of the buzz words, "diversity" and "tolerance." William and Mary should know that trends come and go, but our tradition connects 21st century students with those who studied in the 17th century. Tradition is precisely what allows William and Mary to stand at the intersection of 2006 and 1693, talk about diversity! When we remove the symbols of the past we actually sacrifice parts of our diverse history. [Read More!]

Caroline Boyd ‘83

Dear Mr. Nichol:

While I respect the note of inclusion you were trying to strike in removing the cross from the Wren Chapel, I must disagree with this effort.

Webster defines a chapel as "a place of worship used by a Christian group other than an established church". While the Wren Cross is Episcopalian in origin, it is a representative symbol for Christian denominations and the fact remains that the chapel has a Christian history.

Those wishing to use the chapel for events celebrating other faiths should certainly be able to, and should certainly continue to be allowed to request the removal of the cross during that event. [Read More!]

Karen Hall, ‘78

Karen Hall ‘78

Dear William & Mary Board of Visitors:

The comments that you have received from my fellow alumni, regarding the removal of the Wren Chapel cross, are as astute and insightful as one would expect from William & Mary graduates, and I urge you to give them great weight as you debate this issue.
I would only add that I have never been, nor did I ever think I could be, embarrassed to be a William & Mary graduate, until this.

I am one of two William & Mary alumni who serve on the faculty of Act One, a Christian Screenwriting program. We will be hard-pressed to explain to our fellow faculty members, much less the students, why our alma mater took a cross off the altar of its chapel and locked it in a storage closet. In an effort to be “welcoming” to all faiths, you have been incredibly offensive to Christians. Also, as you no doubt realize, this action has ramifications that go far beyond the boundaries of the College of William & Mary and the Commonwealth of Virginia. [Read More!]

Raleigh (Renick) Weckbaugh, '75

Dear Sir:

As a 1975 William and Mary graduate who was later married in the Wren Chapel, I am appalled and offended by your decision to remove the cross from the Wren Chapel.

In an effort to display greater tolerance and diversity, our society and now my alma mater have displayed toward Christians and Christianity a breath-taking degree of intolerance and similitude by showing such disrespect of their faith and their religious freedom. [Read More!]

Jim Jones '82, '86

Dear President Nichol,

I will join the chorus of voices asking you to reconsider your decision. I am trying to understand your reasons, but I think the course you have chosen to take does not accomplish your stated goals.

You made this decision, based on your letter, because "recognition of the full dignity of each member of our diverse community is vital" and because there is a need that the Chapel "be open to students and staff of all beliefs." The first reason isn't a reason, unless you are arguing that the mere presence of a historic cross reduces someone's dignity, and the second reason isn't a reason either, because the Chapel already welcomes all who choose to enter, cross or no cross. There was no real problem to fix. Also, I doubt very much that students and alumni who are of the Christian faith or who were raised in the Christian tradition are feeling at this point that their dignity meant much of anything. I also have to ask you whether you feel that as a result of your decision, any Jewish, Muslim, Hindu students and faculty, for example, are now suddenly restored to a level of dignity that you imply has been denied them in the past by the presence of a historic Christian symbol in a Chapel that's been a Chapel for over three hundred years. [Read More!]

Maria Sanchez Yost ‘81

Dear President Nichol:

I was once a proud alumna of W&M;, Class of 1981. Now, not so proud.

I was disgusted and embarrassed at your caving in to the NCAA with regard to the feathers, but I forced myself to shrug it off as another case of political correctness run amok. I just never thought I would see it in my alma mater.

Now your decision to lock away the Wren cross has truly saddened me. [Read More!]

Bill Reidway, ‘95

President Nichol,

I'm sure you're being bombarded with protestations regarding the Removal of the Cross from the Wren Chapel, and it's more than possible that you won't even have an opportunity to read this message. But I feel compelled to make known my profound discomfort with your decision, which I can only assume was made in an effort to promote diversity and tolerance on campus.

I do fear it will have the opposite effect in the end. This whole affair may appear to you to be of less importance than the protests you've received would make it seem...but in context of the full cultural landscape these days, your alumni community has good cause to be concerned. [Read More!]

R. Greg Paszkiewicz ‘94

Dear President Nichol:

Coming so close on the heels of the NCAA vs Feathers fiasco one wonders at the mental agility required to hop from one side of the argument to the other, only a lawyer could manage it without so much as a pause. Certainly, only a cloistered intellectual could argue that a cross is out of place in a chapel. That the cross is only a recent addition to the chapel (1931) suggests to some that its removal is therefore of little consequence, perhaps the same logic should be applied to many of the recent personnel additions to The College, recent being anyone hired since 1931. [Read More!]

Victor K. Biebighauser, '75

I am an alumnus of the college (class of 1975) and our son is also an alumnus (class of 2006). I am writing to express concern over recent reports I have read that the table cross has been removed from the Wren Chapel at your direction.
[Read More!]

Victor K. Biebighauser, '75

I am an alumnus of the college (class of 1975) and our son is also an alumnus (class of 2006). I am writing to express concern over recent reports I have read that the table cross has been removed from the Wren Chapel at your direction.
[Read More!]

Andrew R. McRoberts '87

Dear President Nichol:

As a proud alumnus of the College '87, married to an alumna '88, I follow the activities of the College of William & Mary closely. I applauded your stand on behalf of student voting rights, agreed with your fight against the NCAA regarding the feathers, and understood (with some reluctance) your reasons for not filing a lawsuit over the matter. However, I must strongly disagree with your recent action regarding the Wren Cross.

Recently, you ordered that the Wren Cross, which had been a gift or loan from the Bruton Parish Church, and displayed on an ongoing basis on the altar in Wren Chapel since the 1930s, be removed and be used henceforth only for "appropriate religious services". You confirmed this order in an email to the College community on October 27, 2006. [Read More!]

Van Smith, '03, J.D. '07

November 9, 2006

Open Letter to President Nichol

I am disheartened by the President's recent decision to remove a small historic relic from the William and Mary Chapel.

It is all too ironic that he expressed disapproval over the removal of W&M;'s "feathers," to only a week or two later demand the removal of the cross from its historic resting place. Why does diversity and acceptance of others demand us to disregard the collective history of William and Mary? Are our "best values" demonstrated by removing contextual ties to the past? [Read More!]

Mark J. Sweeney Jr. 86’

November 8, 2006
Subject: The Dilution of Tradition

Dear Dr. Nichol:

It was with great dismay that I read the recent article in the Flat Hat regarding the removal of the Bruton Parish Cross from the Wren Chapel, only to be displayed on an as requested basis. At first, it seemed absurd; why would we remove a cross from a chapel? But the more I mulled over it, the significance of the act began to be painfully apparent. I quickly came to view this as yet another compromise that threatens the very traditions that make W&M; arguably the most unique academic institution in the country.

The very need for the Wren Chapel was laid out in our beloved charter; "on February 8, 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II granted a charter which established "a certain Place of universal Study, a perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences..." (source W&M; website). Divinity as you well know has its roots at the very core the pursuits of higher learning and is clearly laid out in our mission. We have indeed evolved to where we address a much more diverse population but I challenge you there is a means of enhancing the future without diminishing the past. [Read More!]

LTJG Hunter M. Abell, USN

November 8, 2006

President Gene Nichol
The College of William & Mary
PO Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795

Dear Sir:

Congratulations on recently completing your first year as President of the College of William & Mary. I look forward to William & Mary achieving new heights of excellence under your leadership. It is partly because of our College’s proud history and traditions, and their relation to William & Mary’s future, that I write today.

I recently became aware of the decision to remove the historic cross from the Wren Building chapel. After careful reflection, I strongly urge you to restore the cross to its proper location. Its presence in the chapel is justified by tradition, current constitutional concepts of church and state, and the unique nature of our treasured William & Mary community. [Read More!]

Karla K. Bruno ’81, ‘92

October 31, 2006

Dear Mr. Nichol:

With due respect, I strongly object to your decision to remove the cross from the Wren Chapel. I understand the cross will be kept in a closet, to be brought out on the occasion of a Christian event taking place. This is unsatisfactory on several levels.

First, as part of the Wren Building, the space is and always has been referred to as the Wren Chapel, not the Wren Spare Room. Removing the cross makes it just another pretty chamber and ignores, nay nullifies, its rich history and tradition over generations. Removing the cross redefines the default setting, if you will, which was likely your intent all along. It is no longer a place for Christian worship which allows other, non-religious events to occur; it is now a Generic Setting which allows for Christian worship on occasion. [Read More!]

Copyright 2006.