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November 20, 2020

College community,

Student success is at the heart of everything we do. This fall, we acted on this commitment by launching task forces for four major initiatives, with the goal of advancing our institution by breaking down barriers; enhancing our academic and student supports; and ensuring our campuses are welcoming and open environments to all we serve.

Our Naming Task Force was charged with reviewing the appropriateness of the names of our college, campuses and facilities. This task force includes representation from faculty, staff, administrative faculty, students, alumni, CCWA, the College Board, the Foundation Board, employers and donors. Over the past several weeks, task force members examined historical research, round table discussion findings, case studies, and college data and looked at whether this information aligned with the college’s mission, vision and values. Task force members discussed the importance of the names associated with our institution reflecting our culture of diversity and inclusion that empowers anyone from anywhere to be successful; our dedication to ensuring access to high-quality, high-value education for all; and our vision of a success story for every student.

After thoughtful dialogue and careful consideration, the task force unanimously voted to recommend our institution, John Tyler Community College, change its name and recommended we change the names of two of our buildings, Godwin Hall and Bird Hall. They also recommended several campus street names directly associated with President Tyler be changed: John Tyler Drive at the Chester Campus and Gardiner Court, Greenway Crossing Drive, Peacemaker Court, Tippecanoe Lane, and Tippecanoe Trail at the Midlothian Campus.

In discussions, task force members recognized that all humans are fallible. However, they found the ideologies and actions of former U.S. President John Tyler, for whom our college is named; former Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin, for whom Godwin Hall is named; and former Virginia State Senator Lloyd C. Bird, for whom Bird Hall is named, go against our institution’s values and are in direct conflict with our mission, vision and commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.

  • John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States, and during his lifetime, he owned two plantations in Charles City County. He was a slaveholder, supported slavery throughout his political career, and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives.
  • Former Virginia Governor Mills E. Godwin worked to establish the Virginia Community College System, however, he was a key figure in the Massive Resistance movement, which opposed the desegregation of schools, and he remained a supporter of school segregation throughout his political career.
  • Former Virginia Senator Lloyd C. Bird helped secure funding for the construction of our college, but he was also a supporter of Massive Resistance, and during his political career, he actively opposed public school integration.

Now that it has identified names it recommends be changed, the task force’s focus turns to possible new names for our institution. This work is underway, and it will include an opportunity for our college community to provide feedback. Be on the lookout for an email, which we plan to send to key college stakeholders during the first part of December. Just a reminder, the decision to change the name of any community college in Virginia, as well as any campus, is at the sole discretion of our State Board for Community Colleges. We are still planning to submit our recommendation in time for the Board’s March 2021 meeting.

This is a historic time for our college and for our community, as we take steps to ensure we are truly an inclusive environment where everyone can succeed.

Thank you.


Edward “Ted” Raspiller, Ed.D.
John Tyler Community College

July 16, 2020

Students, faculty and staff,

As I stated in my message shared in June, it is no longer enough to talk about our college’s commitment to equity. We must take responsibility and enact change to ensure that commitment is a reality for our employees, students and community. There are many layers to this work, but we understand the name of our institution and the names on our facilities must reflect the values of a college that is forward-looking and committed to supporting all who live, work, and do business in the communities we serve.

At its meeting on July 16, the State Board for Community Colleges, which governs Virginia’s 23 community colleges, passed a resolution asking each institution’s local board to review the appropriateness of its college, campus and facilities names and to report its findings and recommendations by no later than March 2021 to the State Board for its consideration.

These important discussions, as well as historical research, have already been underway at our institution. Over the coming weeks, we will be working closely with our College Board members on the report that will be submitted to the State Board.

An online form is available for those who wish to share comments on this topic. Comments submitted through this form will be shared with our College Board and college leadership.

Thank you.

Edward “Ted” Raspiller, Ed.D.
John Tyler Community College

June 17, 2020

Students, faculty and staff,
Like so many people who believe in the hope and promise of American ingenuity, inclusiveness, and vitality, the John Tyler Community College administration has watched the events of the past weeks in both shock and anger.  
Enough is enough. The killing of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis was far from the first senseless and inexcusable act against Black citizens. But our hope is that it was society’s breaking point. It was certainly ours. Everyone must now accept the responsibility for change. And that includes our college community.
Tyler is committed to equity. One of our stated goals is that “we empower anyone from anywhere to be successful in their academic and professional pursuits.” We still consider that a noble aspiration. In retrospect, however, we have been naïve to believe that if we help our students receive a great education, then a prosperous and rewarding life will magically unfold for them. But we are a learning organization, and that’s what we’ve been doing intently for the past few weeks. 
Now it’s time that the persistent voices of outrage from Black and Brown people be joined with a chorus of voices of people of all colors, all backgrounds, and all walks of life. And we must understand that voices are powerful, but they have never been enough. Least of all now. We need substantive, enduring, and systemic changes, and John Tyler Community College is starting today with these steps:

  1. We have a significant impact on law enforcement in the state. Collectively, Virginia’s community colleges are among the largest educators of law enforcement and criminal justice personnel. As our Chancellor has announced, effective immediately, we are participating in the examination and reform of the curricula we use to educate students across our 23 colleges.
  2. We’re expanding this examination beyond criminal justice into all of our educational programs. Equity, multiculturalism, and intolerance for discrimination needs to be embedded in every discipline if we are going to effect change.
  3. Diversity, empathy, and justice are values that must be reflected across our entire college community—including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners. We will hold one another to account. Wherever we fall short of our standard, we will work on the problem until we fix it.

Let’s be clear: We’ve outlined only three steps. Honestly, we need 300 steps with 300 other institutions of higher learning walking with us. But it’s a start. And even more importantly, it’s more than conversation. These are specific and sustained actions we are committing to for the long haul.  
Clear and measurable actions and the empathy created through diversity are the only ways that we are going to change outcomes…rather than repeat them. 
Edward “Ted” Raspiller, Ed.D.
John Tyler Community College

Support and Resources

Do you want to talk to someone about how you have you been impacted by recent events?  We’re here to support you.


Contact the Tyler Care Team.


Tyler employees may utilize the Employee Assistance Program. Those with a state health plan are able to set up appointments with counselors. Those who don’t have a health plan can access resources on the EAP site.



Search Virginia 211 or dial 2-1-1 TOLL FREE to find community services and programs in your area.

A group of area localities has also created the “Know Your Rights and Resources” webpage at It includes resources to help you recognize and break the many forms and cycles of discrimination and outlines pathways to help if you believe you’ve been wronged or know someone who has been wronged.


Transformative Police Reform: An Open Letter from the Virginia Association of Criminal Justice Educators
21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge (faculty and staff login required)

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