On April 25, 2001, the day after a catastrophic fire destroyed the architectural heart of Longwood University, President Patricia P. Cormier told the campus and community, “Let me tell you again, Longwood remains strong and we will see Ruffner and the Rotunda rise from the ashes and assume new life. This I promise you.” The flagship of Longwood University – Ruffner Hall with its beautiful Rotunda – was completely destroyed by the Great Fire of 2001 during a major renovation. Luckily, all of the historic memorabilia, paintings, plaques, and other mementos, including the dome paintings of the interior of the rotunda dome, had been removed prior to the fire. All items were returned to their rightful place once construction was completed. Many alumni and visitors will recall the dome paintings which feature portraits of four educational leaders: Thomas Jefferson, Horace Mann, Dr. J. L. Curry and Dr. William H. Ruffner. The original Ruffner Hall was constructed in the mid to late 1800’s and the Rotunda was built in 1905. The new Ruffner Hall was rebuilt to its former splendor based on the original plans and blueprints obtained from the state archives in Richmond under the direction of Kuntz & Associates Architects from Alexandria. Although the new structure looks exactly like the old Ruffner on the outside, the inside now features a learning environment for students and faculty. Completed in early 2005, the new complex encompasses over 83,000 square feet and provides 20 classrooms, 63 faculty offices and 28 offices for the Provost and staff of the Office of Academic Affairs. Once again, the gold dome of the Rotunda shines as the hallmark of Longwood University.
JOAN OF ARC EQUESTRIAN STATUE
Longwood University’s Joan of Arc, affectionately known as “Joanie on the Pony” was created by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973). Known primarily for her equestrian statues, she was one of the foremost American sculptors of the 20th century. Huntington’s 1915 bronze monument of Joan of Arc brought her international recognition. Longwood’s 4 ft. 3 in. bronze statuette was based on this work. Joan of Arc was the patron saint of the Joan Circle of Alpha Delta Rho, the honorary leadership society founded in 1926, later known as Giest, and now Mortar Board. This work of art was gifted to Longwood by the Artist and presented in 1927 by the Joan Circle. The statue of Saint Joan in full armor riding her horse triumphantly with her sword raised has come to symbolize the spirit of Longwood. It carries with it a tremendous emotional attachment. The fire of 2001 which destroyed the Rotunda was extinguished only yards from where the statue stood under the colonnade. (Taken from Longwood’s News Release – 18 July 2003.)