The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW Humanist Society pushes for university motto change

3 min read

The University of Mary Washington’ seal as seen in the rotunda of James Farmer Hall. | Photo courtesy of


Senior Writer

On Jan. 23, members of the UMW Humanist Society met with the Student Government Association to propose changing the school’s motto. The current motto is “Pro Deo Domo Patria,” which translates from Latin to “For God, Home and Country.”

“As a group that advocates for human dignity and wellbeing, we have been disturbed by the political events of the last few years,” said class of 2022 alumna Kelly Pedigo, one of the club’s founding members. “Current movements that encourage the mixing of religion and politics and call for returning to traditional values are movements we think the student body and university administration may be interested in distancing themselves from. Changing the school’s motto to something that better reflects UMW’s current priorities would be a step in the right direction. It’s our motto. It should be something we’d be proud to wear on a t-shirt or shout at graduation.”

According to the Humanist Society’s proposal, “the fact that this motto has not been reassessed since the school’s founding in 1908 shows that it is not a representation of the current diverse student body our school encapsulates.”

The Humanist Society believes that the current motto is out of date and invokes different ideas than it likely did when it was first selected.

“Largely it was an opening meeting to answer any first questions about our proposal and make our goals known to them,” said Humanist Society President Ava Spencer, a senior Earth and environmental science major. “We talked with them about how we could help each other accomplish this goal.”

The Humanist Society’s plan to change the school’s motto begins with talking with the student body.

“We as a club will be having another interest meeting in early February to discuss the issue with students and plan on doing word on the street style videos asking students on Campus Walk to guess what our motto is out of a handful of other fake mottos,” Spencer said. “We’ll then get their opinion on the issue and take those opinions to the administration.”

The Humanist Society has planned to change the motto since the club’s founding.

“Changing the school’s motto was one of our first long-term goals, so it has been in the works from the beginning,” said Pedigo.

Because the logo is written in latin on the UMW seal, many do not know what it means.

“I was not aware that our school had a motto,” said Jenna Montijo, junior studio art and religious studies double major. “I believe the motto should be changed. ‘For God and Country’ no longer fits the atmosphere of the school.”

Pedigo believes that changing UMW’s motto would not be as much of a step back from tradition as other actions the university has taken.

“Frankly, if UMW really wants to embrace tradition, maybe it should stop tearing down historic buildings on campus, as well as stop turning historic interiors into spaces that look more like airport lounges than classrooms,” she said.

The Humanist Society plans to propose a campus-wide email that will allow students to submit new motto ideas that can then be narrowed down by the Student Government Association and other student leaders.

Pedigo is hopeful for what the Humanist Society will accomplish.

“The club has been a service organization since day one, and I’m sure their first steps will involve engaging with the student body and making sure everyone’s voice is heard on this issue,” she said. “The club has also done a great job in the past of coordinating with UMW administration, as well as local leaders like Mayor Greenlaw. I’m sure that the club will facilitate open, honest conversations with all stakeholders as they work to make the change happen. As an alumna, I can’t wait to see what they accomplish.”