NORFOLK, Va. — The way the College of William and Mary sees it, if not for its alumni, most of modern-day Colorado may never have been sold by France.
So more than two centuries after Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe orchestrated the Louisiana Purchase, the Virginia college is hoping Coloradoans will support having one of their mountains named after it.
An application with the United States Board on Geographic Names was filed earlier this month to have a 14,134-foot geographical feature in Lake County, Colorado, named Mount William and Mary. The location is where the college has done extensive high-altitude research.
The college first sought to have the feature near Colorado's highest summit — Mount Elbert — named Mount William and Mary in 1998. But it ran into opposition from some in the state who said the college didn't have a strong enough connection to Colorado.
The federal board relies heavily on local input. So this time, the college has enlisted a Colorado resident who is an honorary alumna to file the application. It is also asking the board to reconsider its position by presenting the Jefferson and Monroe angle.
"Without two of our most illustrious alumni, Colorado wouldn't exist," Ken Kambis, a professor of kinesiology and health sciences at the college leading the efforts, said in a statement on the college's website. "In fact, the connection is so strong and unique that no other university can claim to have the same kind of relationship with Colorado, particularly with the Lake County location of this unnamed geographical feature."
The college notes other mountains in Colorado are already named after out-of-state colleges, including Harvard, Princeton and Yale. But as recently as 2001, the Colorado Board of Geographic Names opposed naming the feature anything, much less Mount William and Mary.
"The Board does not want to set a precedent that any unnamed feature in the State of Colorado can be titled after an out of state institution simply by requesting such," the minutes from a board meeting read. "Collegiate Peaks should NOT be used as an example or reason to continue such a practice."
At the same meeting, the board denied a request to have the same summit named after Duke University. Chief among the reasons was that the board said the mountain was actually a sub-summit of Mount Elbert, not its own peak.
The Colorado board also noted in its denial that naming the feature a mountain would create another mountain above 14,000 feet in elevation, which is a prized designation in mountain climbing circles. Doing so would lead to increased maintenance, repairs and land use on the mountain.
Still, the college is pushing forward. On Tuesday, William and Mary President Taylor Reveley emailed the college's 1,178 alumni in Colorado urging them to write in support of the naming.
The United States Board on Geographic Names says it typically takes about six months to make a decision.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis .