Wingate University not considering name change after learning its namesake has ties to slavery

WINGATE, N.C. — Wingate University announced that it is not considering a name change after history revealed its namesake has ties to slavery.

In May, the university said it had a team in the process of figuring out how to move forward.

The president said Friday in a statement that after taking some time to process, the university has asked a team of researchers to study the school’s namesake and report their findings to an advisory group.

Based on the findings, Wingate said the advisory group will “recommend to the Board of Trustees ways to improve how [the university] serves all students an environment where each individual belongs and thrives.”

When Wingate learned of its history, the university’s president said in a statement, “The truth hurts.”

“It sure caught us all by surprise,” sophomore Saul Valdez told Channel 9.

The school recently discovered its namesake sold slaves.

“For me, this is personal, and it hurts,” said Rhett Brown, president of Wingate. “It casts a shadow over our university, alma mater.”

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Brown said in an interview provided by the university that Washington Manly Wingate was the president of Wake Forest University when the college sold 16 enslaved people to fund the school.

Wake Forest announced in May that it was removing the Wingate name from a hall on its campus, which prompted leaders at Wingate to consider how they would handle the revelation.

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Rashaard Pringle graduated this year and was interested in the discussions the school had.

“I immediately began considering how the university should move forward,” Pringle said.

The university put together a group of faculty, students, alumni and town officials to discuss the next steps.

“It’s probably something that needs to be changed, but if it doesn’t, if it’s not changed, this is a good environment that we are in,” Pringle said.

Some alumni said the next steps should not include a name change. A Facebook group encouraged alumni to call the school and oppose any changes to the name.

Students on campus said they were less concerned with the name.

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“We don’t really care what it’s called, as long as we have the same family, same family atmosphere, the same traditions,” senior Grayson Chapman said. “I’m proud to be a Wingate student. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made.”

In 2018, Wingate asked three staff members to look into whether any of the buildings or statues on campus were named for people with egregious pasts. They didn’t find anything.

Full statement from Wingate University:

“I appreciate your patience as we took time to process the news about Washington manly Wingate.I would first like to clear up an assumption some mad have made since the news first broke. Wingate University is not considering a name change. Instead, I have asked a small team of researchers to study our namesake and report their findings to an advisory group. The work of the research team will enable us to acknowledge and develop a more complete understanding of our history. Based on these findings, the advisory group will recommend to our Board of Trustees ways to improve how we serve all students in an environment where each individual belongs and thrives.

“I pledge to you at these recommendations will lead to meaningful action and long-standing, tangible change.

“It’s time to reclaim the Wingate name and reaffirm our position statement: To all students who strive to improve themselves and their communities, Wingate University is a laboratory of difference-making where students’ desire to learn intersects with faculty expertise and with opportunities in our region, to serve the common good. I look forward to updating you on the progress the advisory group makes as we move forward.”