Looking back on Christopher Newport University's 60-year history

CNU original building.PNG
Posted at 6:51 AM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 18:04:40-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A lot has changed in 60 years: Gas was 31 cents a gallon, and Christopher Newport University was located in Downtown Newport News.

To celebrate six decades of transformation and education, students, faculty, alumni and the community as a whole are invited to a big event on campus Friday evening.

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Erin Freeman with a special guest appearance by Nick Ziobro, will perform a free concert on the Great Lawn starting at 7:30 p.m. There will also be fireworks and food trucks.

While the event will bring in quite the crowd, it's reminiscent of the fact that campus didn't always look like it does now.

The Daniel Building, otherwise known as the original Christopher Newport, was located in Downtown Newport News in a former public school. The first class was a biology class in 1961.

Now, walking around campus in 2021 is quite a different experience. You won't find the original landmarks and buildings, but instead newly designed pristine brick buildings.

Sean Heuvel, the Director of Institutional History, said the university's evolution had an impact on the rest of Newport News.

"If you drive down the J Clyde Morris Blvd., corridor you see, you know, the striking Riverside hospital that’s recently been developed, you see museums, you see the City Center and so all of these things, I think, have been helped in their development by the development that's happening in Christopher Newport," Heuvel said.

He also said that CNU is local to its core in the sense that the buildings and other designs on campus were mostly created and developed by contractors in the area.

"There is a strong connection with Newport News and the Peninsula and I think it hearkens back to the idea that we began as an institution to, sort of, service the Peninsula's students," Heuvel said.

Of the some 5,000 students enrolled, a lot of them are from Hampton Roads and Virginia.

Friday's program includes these selections:

  • “Can-Can - Selection for Orchestra” (Cole Porter, composer)
  • “This Guy’s in Love With You” (Hal David)
  • “Lotta Livin’ To Do/Shall We Dance” (Charles Strouse)
  • “Duke Ellington! A Medley for Orchestra”
  • “Forever Young” (Marian Gold)
  • “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (Cole Porter)
  • “An American in Paris” (George Gershwin)
  • “Patriotic Sing-Along” (James Hosay)