Simpson Library

President Simpson


A lifelong resident of Virginia, Grellet Simpson was born in Norfolk and had a long educational relationship with Randolph-Macon College. He both attended and taught at Randolph-Macon, only pausing to get his post-graduate degrees from the University of Virginia and to work with the American Red Cross during WWII. His experience as a dean at Randolph-Macon made him well-prepared for his chancellorship at Mary Washington College starting in 1956, while the school was still attached to the University of Virginia. Chancellor Simpson was devoted to the school’s students, establishing the Counseling Center and the Career Placement Bureau to be sure of their well-being outside of academics. In addition, he promoted students’ achievements and brought chapters of the Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa to recognize student excellence.He oversaw greater diversity on campus with coeducation and integration coming through during the 1960s and 70s. For the growing and changing student population, many new buildings were constructed, including Combs Hall, Goolrick Hall, and  Bushnell Hall, Russell Hall, Jefferson Hall, and Marshall Hall as residences.When a new library had to be built to replace the outdated Trinkle Library, the college honored Simpson by giving it his name long before he passed away in 1997.[1. “Grellet C. Simpson: 1956-1974”, Presidential Inauguration of Richard V. Hurley website,] 

Building History

President Simpson by Library sign

Simpson Library was built in 1987 as a replacement for Trinkle Library. As the school grew, so did the need for larger facilities for its vast collections. At the time, Trinkle Library held 350,000 pieces and continued to expand. President Anderson authorized building the new library in place of extensions to Trinkle. Besides the vastly improved space for individual study, the library created special rooms for peaceful group study, converted from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress System, and for the first time had the catalog moved onto computers instead of the older card catalog filing system.[2. William B. Crawley Jr., University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008 (Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington Foundation, 2008), 374.] Housed within the library is the school’s Special Collections and University Archives, which are home to print and digital school records, rare books over 400 years old, and the website proudly states that the special collections contains “first editions from literary figures such as James Joyce, Willa Cather, Ellen Glasgow, John Dos Passos, and William B. Yeats.”[3. “Simpson Library Special Collections,” University of Mary Washington Libraries,] Currently, the library contains over 367,000 volumes and over 42,000 digital sources.[4. “Simpson Library,” University of Mary Washington Library website,] Today, Simpson Library is the sole library on the Fredericksburg Campus, and is open to the public.

Simpson Library, March 2012

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