Charter Day

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Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.


The annual celebration of Charter Day at the College of William and Mary was primarily a twentieth century development that was initiated by President John Stewart Bryan in 1937. President Bryan’s love of pomp and pageantry also led to the annual Yule Log Ceremony.

During the eighteenth century Transfer Day, August 15th, was the usual time of celebrating the birth of William and Mary by observing the anniversary of the Transfer of the Charter from the founders of the College to the President and Masters of the College.

In 1859, the 166th anniversary of the College of William and Mary was celebrated on February 19 with an address by John Tyler, former president of the United States, and a reading of St. George Tucker’s celebratory poem by the poet himself. St. George Tucker was the grandson of the man for whom Tucker Hall is named. The book is the published version of these presentations and also contains a brief history of the College and lists of its officers, faculty and alumni.

The tradition of having Charter Day Speakers of note to address the audience carried over from the nineteenth century to the present.

Awards bestowed on Charter Day include the James Monroe Prize in Civic Leadership, Thomas Jefferson Award, Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy, Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, Alumni Medallion, as well as honorary degrees.