This time of year, signs welcoming students back to Saint Paul’s should be ready to roll out, but instead, quiet fills the campus air. For those making the drive along the rolling hills and backroads of rural Lawrenceville, Va.’s Brunswick County to the sprawling lifeless campus on a hill, they know it will probably be their last look when they enter the gates of their alma mater.
The security guard stationed at the entrance is instructed to check drivers’ licenses, then welcome and wave guests through onto Saint Paul’s College campus, the place these former students have called home for four years, says Millard D. “Pete” Stith Jr., who was appointed executive administrator of the College on July 2. Since news of the college’s closing, alumni cruising and strolling about the ghostlike campus have been frequent visitors. In Saint Paul’s final months and days of operation, Stith’s predecessor stepped down, and the interim president’s contract ran out.
Today, Stith, the former vice president for institutional advancement, is the Saint Paul’s College “closer.”
For Stith, a small part of the plan for shuttering the 125-year-old historically Black college will be as simple as turning off the lights and locking the doors to all but the administration and finance buildings. Stith and about 26 staff members are trying to pay eager creditors while coordinating the transfer of Saint Paul students to nearby Black colleges as a part of a state Teach Out Agreement that allows them to enroll if they meet admissions requirements. In the other 36 campus buildings, the water, electricity and phone service is being shut off in classrooms, faculty apartments, the president’s house, the cafeteria and in dormitories.