It was incorrectly reported in yesterday's edition that Marywood College in Scranton, Pa., accepts only women. The school is primarily a woman's college, but it does accept a few men.
Mary Washington lived, gave birth to George and died near this historic town on the Rappahannock River. For her efforts, the state of Virginia named a college after her.
Now, because of declining enrollment and a fear that the school's future is at stake, there's a move afoot here to strip her name from the 72-year-old college and give it one that adolescent males won't think is sissy.
"We've got to cut the 'Mary,'" says Richard H. Warner, an assistant professor of history who has become the point man in the name-change movement at this public, coeducational college with the private, girl's-school name and image.
"What's going to happen here in the next decade when we have a 21.1 percent decline in available students?" "This could be a disaster for this school to face."
Warner's plan to cut the "Mary" and rename the school "Washington College of Virginia" has provoked sneers from students and alumni who are happy with the present name. Angered by the professor's campaign, they've come up with names of their own for the school.
Among them: "George's Old Lady's College," "My Mother's Place," "Fredericksburg Neutral College," "The College of Your Choice," and "The College of Mary and Her Son, George." The last suggestion is a take-off on The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, a school that apparently has all the sex-prejudice angles covered.
"If women can go to George Washington University in Washington, why can't men go to Mary Washington here?" asks Ruby Weinbrecht, an alumnus and head librarian for the 2,467-student college. "This name-change business flies in the face of getting society to think that women can do anything they want to do. Why change the name simply because some men don't like its sound. Sarah Lawrence College and Notre Dame University don't seem to have any problem."
No other college in America is named after George Washington's mother, notes Weinbrecht, and she says that that helps the school project an exclusive image. In fact, the only other thing in the country widely known by the name "Mary Washington" is a tender and tasty variety of asparagus.
Despite their sarcasm, most students and faculty members at the college, where four out of five students are women, agree that Mary Washington College suffers from a "perception problem." At "college nights" up and down the East Coast, Mary Washington recruiters continually have to assure prospective freshman that the school does indeed accept males.
The school, which once was the female version of the University of Virginia -- in its all-male days -- became coeducational in 1972.
However, Martin Wilder, assistant dean of admissions, says hundreds of young men dismiss Mary Washington because it sounds too much like Marymount College of Arlington, Marywood College of Scranton, Pa., or Mary Baldwin College of Staunton, Va., none of which accepts male students.
"Sure, I would shy away from Mary Washington, too," says Wilder. "But if we could just get the guys down here to see the male students out playing rugby, they'd see we are all not faggots, that we are all right."
A committee consisting of three students, three teachers and three administrators has been studying the proposed name change, but it isn't expected to make a recommendation until the end of the school year. Any change would have to be approved by the college Board of Visitors and the Virginia General Assembly, not to mention overcoming the opposition of school alumni.
The movement to snuff out the name of the mother of the father of the country is widely considered to have little chance on this picture-postcard campus with its white-columned, red-brick dormitories and an abiding tradition of quality graduates who are proud to have the name "Mary" on their diplomas.
Alumnus Weinbrecht and others argue that Mary Washington has built a national reputation for first-rate liberal arts education and that changing the name of the college would only confuse its image, sending out signals that, perhaps the college is in trouble.
"But we are not in trouble. We had the largest freshman enrollment [699 for 1980] in history last year," says Weinbrecht. "We don't see any indication that enrollment will decline." The college is considered by many to be the third best public college in the state, trailing only the University of Virginia and William and Mary.
In dormitory basements and lounges over past months, however, Mary Washington students have been hearing a different story from Richard Warner, the history teacher who fears the name "Mary" will doom the school in the increasingly competitive student market that has forced even prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale to hunt for prospects. Warner said recently in the basement of Madison Hall, loudly lecturing a less than enthusiastic audience of 17 male and three female students.
After the students listened to Warner for nearly one hour, Bob Mooney, a senior, asked a question that plagues many students here: "What happens when I graduate from Mary Washington and there is no longer a school named Mary Washington?"