Williams and Mary?

I don’t know how many times I answered this. “No, no. That’s a small college in Williamsburg, Virginia. Williams is in Williamstown, Mass”

Maybe it depended on geographic context. In Oklahoma OU meant one, clear thing. In Oregon or Ohio, it would have been different. From Pittsfield, Williams was perfectly clear. No need for a Wikipedia disambiguation page.

But somehow William and Mary had a better-established national brand. Was it age (founded 1693, co-ed by 1918)? Division 1 athletics? Alumni: John Marshall, Henry Clay, Jefferson, Monroe, John Tyler? Really, was Tyler a greater president than our own James A. Garfield?

Maybe now, with a regular position atop the annual college surveys, students at that Virginia school will have to explain, “William. William AND Mary.”

Editor’s note: Classmate Paul Neely informed (April 2016) that the codename “Mary” was used in early discussions of transforming Williams into a coed institution. 

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