Biggest Stories in the History of the College of William & Mary
1. Thomas Jefferson's failed reform effort, 1779
2. Incineration by the PA 5th Cavalry, 1862
3. The Flat Hat's "Discovering David Dessler," 2018
Since the modern College was founded in 1888, the Flat Hat's "Discovering David Dessler" is the biggest story by far in College history. Nothing else comes close and there is no obvious second place. (The Flat Hat itself is a modern College story, having been started in 1911.)
Over the entirety of the College's 328-year history, no story could be bigger than Jefferson's failed reform attempt in 1779. This defeat led Jefferson and James Monroe to create the University of Virginia four decades later and wrest the title of "state university" from William & Mary.
The obvious second place is the burning down of the College by the soldiers of the Pennsylvania 5th Cavalry on the night they were ordered to leave the College after having resided there all summer. The College vanished for 26 years and came back with a new charter.
What unites these stories? They mark fundamental changes in the character and direction of the university. The significance of stories so big can be seen and understood only after a few decades (about four in the 1779 event, three in 1862).
Around 2050, this ranking--biggest story in modern College history through 2021--will be fully validated. It also could by then become a component of an even larger College story on the horizon.