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State Board Approves DSLCC Name Change

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RICHMOND — “Mountain Gateway” was approved as the new name for Dabney S. Lancaster Community College by a unanimous vote of the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges during its regular November meeting Thursday. The name change will take effect July 1, 2022, in time for the 2022-23 academic year.

Thursday’s decision represents the latest step in a process that began in the summer of 2020 when the state board asked local college advisory boards to review the appropriateness of the names of their college, campuses, and facilities. The board has now approved name changes for five colleges.

“I am grateful for the state board’s support,” said DSLCC President Dr. John Rainone. “Mountain Gateway is the result of a great deal of work on the part of many people. The name reflects the geography of our service region and celebrates the inclusiveness and welcoming environment to all the students, businesses, and the community.”

“I applaud the hard work these colleges and their leaders have done to ensure that their institutions are welcoming and connected to the students they serve and the students they seek to serve,” said N.L. Bishop, chair of the State Board for Community Colleges. “As a graduate of a Virginia community college, I know how life-changing our colleges can be and I want every single person, regardless of gender, race, or background, to know that we exist to welcome them and help them succeed.”

At its October meeting, DSLCC’s Local Board unanimously accepted a 25-member Task Force recommendation of “Mountain Gateway Community College” as the new name to replace Dabney S. Lancaster. The task force, which had been meeting since July, was commissioned to review and provide to the local board, a final list of names that are inclusive, instill a sense of pride and inspire innovative learning and collaboration, and not be derived from an individual’s name. A pool of over 430 names was submitted to the task force.

The state board passed a resolution in the summer of 2020, directing Virginia’s Community Colleges to review the names of their institutions, including their campuses and facilities.

That resolution stated in part, “The mission of Virginia’s Community Colleges and their shared dedication to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion demand we examine the names regularly facing our students, faculty, staff, and supporters on their community college journey, and determine if those names are consistent with that mission and those values.”

The college was established as a satellite of Virginia Polytechnic and State University, but when the Virginia Community College System was created, the College was renamed in 1967 after Dabney S. Lancaster, a prominent Virginia educator and a long-time resident of the college’s service area.

Lancaster was a state education superintendent and a former president of Longwood University who opposed school integration in Virginia. Researchers also discovered that Lancaster was an active member, and at one point a national officer, in what historians described as an “elitist KKK” organization.

In his presentation to the local board last month, Dr. Rainone noted that the inclusion of the word “mountain” symbolizes the “beauty of our region and pays tribute to all of the mountains that surround our entire service area. The mountains serve as a connecting point between the wide-ranging communities in our service area. All localities we serve feel a connection to the mountains.”

“Mountain,” he noted, “can serve as a metaphor for the level of success and range of opportunities offered by the college.”

“Gateway represents an opportunity for our students toward a future whether it’s their academic journey or a broader horizon they wish to explore,” he said. “For 60 years, the College has provided students with education and training to pave the way for their careers and their futures. The term “gateway” opens doors to the middle class, and by supplying local industry with trained workers and residents with opportunities to gain solid paying careers.”

The college will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in the summer of 2022, giving an opportunity to honor its past while pushing for a brighter future that is in line with the current institutional and state goals, said Dr. Rainone.

The other two names that made the final three list were “Headwaters” and “Mountain River,” said Dr. Rainone.

Dr. Rainone added that the name DSLCC will remain through this academic year, and a transition team is in place to begin the process of rebranding.

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