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Brightpoint Points The Way For John Tyler Community College

A map of the Midlothian campus of the soon-to-be Brightpoint Community College. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

On Thursday, the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges approved changing the name of John Tyler Community College to Brightpoint Community College. The new name was selected after a year of outreach--first initiated because of the murder of George Floyd.

Student Lily Miller and the rest of her art class took advantage of the day’s nice weather by working on projects outside.

“We were doing a little clay Olympics. So for ceramics class, we were throwing clay at a target,” Miller said.

Miller, who actually graduated last year, is taking summer classes. In between classes last year, she also worked as student ambassador. Part of her duties included leading students on tours around campus.

She said as she gave tours, she had to talk about the history of the campus and it’s namesake.

“John Tyler was a little bit irrelevant to the school's history. It was just always kind of a weird point of like, how much do we talk about this?” she said.

Tyler -- the tenth president and first to never be elected -- owned two plantations where he enslaved nearly 50 people and supported slavery throughout his political career.

Miller also said it felt weird to give tours during the day, then head to Richmond to join the Black Lives Matter protests. She said it was a good move for the faculty to change the name from John Tyler to Brightpoint.

“I think that it just shows they are willing to acknowledge people’s feelings at least,” Miller said.

John Tyler Community College President Ted Raspiller said Tyler’s name wasn’t the most forward-thinking and inviting for the school. But he said the school isn’t trying to erase history.

“All we’re trying to do is really get pointed in the right direction, so everybody, everybody can feel the success and feel the difference that a community college education and experience makes,” said Raspiller.

He said the new Brightpoint name was selected after a year of campus and community outreach, which included over 1400 people responding to a survey where over 50% expressed support for the name change. According to school records for the last academic year, 22% of students at John Tyler were Black.

The push to update the moniker was first initiated by the murder of George Floyd, which prompted the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges to review the appropriateness of  names for colleges and buildings. Raspiller followed suit with a letter to students, staff and the community calling for a change.

In addition to Brightpoint, the school will be updating the names of two buildings and several streets. Raspiller says it’ll take at least a year to put the new name on everything from school signs to financial aid paperwork.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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