History - Who We Are - Christopher Newport University

Who We Are


Founded in 1960 as Christopher Newport College, a two-year branch of the College of William & Mary, we are in Coastal Virginia, in the city of Newport News. Christopher Newport gained independence in 1977 and became a university in 1992.

Christopher Newport is named for the 17th-century mariner who helped establish the Jamestown colony, the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World, just a few miles from our campus.

Today, Christopher Newport is a four-year public university that enrolls 5,000 students in rigorous and rewarding academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences through the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Social Sciences, and the Luter School of Business. CNU offers great teaching and small class sizes with an emphasis on leadership, civic engagement and honor.



Christopher Newport is established and authorized by the Virginia General Assembly as a two-year branch of the College of William & Mary. H. Westcott Cunningham is Christopher Newport College’s first director, and later, president.


More than 170 students enroll in classes at the original location, a former public school building in downtown Newport News.


The city of Newport News purchases a 75-acre tract of land on Shoe Lane and gives it to Virginia as a permanent site for Christopher Newport.

The first student newspaper, Chris’s Crier (later renamed (The Captain’s Log), is published.


The first building, the original Christopher Newport Hall, is built at the new site.

The men’s basketball team plays its first season.


Captain John Smith Library opens.

The women’s basketball and men’s tennis teams play their first seasons.


Psychology professor and dean of students, Dr. James C. Windsor, becomes president. Among his many accomplishments, Windsor established the student counseling center, which was renamed in his honor in 2012.

The golf team is established.


Christopher Newport becomes a four-year degree-granting institution.

The women’s basketball team plays its first season.


Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York speaks at commencement. She was the first African American woman elected to Congress in 1968.


Christopher Newport gains independence from the College of William & Mary.


The women’s tennis team and the volleyball team are established.


Dr. John E. Anderson becomes president. After his tenure he returned to teaching, retiring in 2003 as distinguished professor of psychology. He died in 2009.


The baseball team plays its first season


The softball team is established.


The original Christopher Newport Hall is renamed McMurran Hall to honor Lewis A. McMurran Jr. for his role in helping to create Christopher Newport College.


Dr. Anthony R. Santoro becomes president, presiding over Christopher Newport’s transition to a residential campus. The first residence hall was completed in 1994 and named in honor of Santoro and his wife, Carol. After his tenure as president he returned to teaching, where he is distinguished professor of history.

The outdoor track and field team wins national championship.


The first graduate programs are offered at Christopher Newport.


Christopher Newport College is renamed Christopher Newport University.


The first residence hall opens and is dedicated to the president, Anthony R. Santoro, and his wife, Carol.

Scott Scovil ’96 wins the NCAA Division III national golf championship.


Former U.S. senator Paul S. Trible Jr. becomes president. Trible oversees wholesale improvements to academic offerings and a complete transformation of the campus into a world-class liberal arts and sciences university. He retired as president in 2022 and was named chancellor for the 2022-23 academic year.


French Professor Susan St. Onge wins Virginia’s “Outstanding Faculty Award.”

The women’s soccer team is established and plays its first season.


The President’s Leadership Program (PLP) is established. PLP is a four-year leadership education experience that empowers students to recognize their leadership potential and develop personal and social responsibility for the betterment of self and society.


CNU is named No. 2 among regional public liberal arts colleges in the South in U.S. News’ “America’s Best Colleges.”


The women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams are established and play their first seasons.


The football team is established, and plays its first season, winning the Dixie Conference championship. The team, under head coach Matt Kelchner, reached the NCAA playoffs in its first four seasons, the only school in college football history ever to do so.


The Ferguson Center for the Arts opens. Designed by the firm of renowned architect I. M. Pei, the Ferguson Center presents some of the finest cultural attractions in the world. More than two million people from around the world have experienced hundreds of performances.


The David Student Union opens. Longtime supporter Edward D. “Buddy” David and his siblings name the student center to honor their parents, William and Goldie David.


The men’s lacrosse team is established and plays its first season.


Paul and Rosemary Trible Library opens. It is the campus hub for research, learning and scholarly interaction.

The Luter School of Business is established. Named for longtime supporter and chairman of the board of Smithfield Foods, Joseph W. Luter, III, the Luter School offers a comprehensive curriculum in business administration with concentrations in accounting, finance, management and marketing.


Lewis Archer McMurran, Jr. Hall opens. Named in honor of one of Christopher Newport’s early champions, the building houses the Departments of English, Government, History, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, and Philosophy and Religion. McMurran Hall is also home to the five-year master of arts in teaching program.


The Princeton Review includes Christopher Newport University in its annual “best colleges” guidebook.

Forbes magazine ranks CNU No. 4 of the top 20 colleges for minorities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

U.S. News ranks Christopher Newport University the No. 6 Up-and-Coming” regional university in the South.

Mary Brock Forbes Hall opens, and is home to the Departments of Molecular Biology and Chemistry, Organismal and Environmental Biology, Neuroscience, and Psychology. Mary Brock Forbes was a beloved Newport News educator and mother of Dr. Sarah Forbes, Christopher Newport champion and benefactor.


Luter Hall opens, housing the Luter School of Business, and the Departments of Communication; Economics; Leadership and American Studies; Mathematics; Physics, Computer Science and Engineering; and Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology.


Christopher Newport earns a perfect ‘A’ rating from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for the strength of its liberal learning curriculum – the only public university in the nation to do so.

The Luter School of Business is separated from the College of Social Sciences and led by a new dean, Dr. George Ebbs.

The new Christopher Newport Hall opens. The building houses student success services from admission through graduation, including the Admissions Welcome Center, the offices of Admission, Registrar, Financial Aid, Housing, the Center for Academic Success and the Center for Career Planning, among others.


Bloomberg Names Luter School one of America’s 100 Best Undergraduate Business Schools.

Brook Byrd '17 wins a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, widely considered the most prestigious award bestowed on undergraduates studying​ the sciences and engineering.


Defining Significance: the First Comprehensive Campaign for Christopher Newport University ends. The six-year campaign raised a total of $66.2 million – well in excess of the $42 million goal – in support of five priorities: scholarships, Alumni House, faculty excellence and great teaching, programs of distinction, and annual giving and unrestricted support.


The Trible Library expansion is completed, adding 800 additional seats for students; two new classrooms, including one for digital humanities; a two-story reading room; a 100-seat theater; and a greatly enhanced collection of books, magazines and journals.

Business major and ROTC cadet Meg Copenhaver completes Army Airborne School and becomes the first-ever fourth-generation paratrooper in the nation.

The university launches a new Community Captains program to ease local students' path to college. In partnership with Newport News Public Schools, the pioneering initiative offers local 10th graders special programming and guidance. Participants are also eligible for early admission to Christopher Newport.


The university is selected as one of the first universities to participate in Virginia’s ambitious Tech-Talent Investment Program, a multimillion dollar investment by the commonwealth in Christopher Newport’s students, facilities, faculty and staff for the next two decades. In return, the university will enroll, prepare and graduate hundreds of students with degrees in computer science and related programs.

The football and outdoor track facility is named TowneBank Stadium and construction is completed on Jennings Family Stadium for lacrosse and field hockey.


The university pivots to an entirely online teaching format in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Residence halls are closed, many events are canceled and most employees work from home or other off-campus locations.

The university is one of the founding institutions of the new Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference that gives Captains an opportunity to compete against teams from across the United States.


Christopher Newport marks its 60th anniversary of providing inspiring leadership to Virginia and the world with a year-long celebration that commemorates our history and celebrates our exciting future.

The Mary M. Torggler Fine Arts Center opens to the public

Women's soccer wins the NCAA Division III national championship. The Captains were undefeated all season. It is the first title in an NCAA team tournament in Christopher Newport history.


Softball wins the NCAA Division III national championship.

The Captains were dominant all season, finishing with a 47-1 record. This is the second title in an NCAA team tournament in Christopher Newport history, coming just five months after women's soccer won in 2021.

President Paul S. Trible Jr retires and Adelia Thompson is appointed Interim President.

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