DeFord Manor

DeFord Manor, constructed in 2021, is the private on-campus residence of the president of Virginia Wesleyan University. The 14-room, five bath, 7,771-square-foot home in federal-style architectural design is named in honor of longtime Trustees and benefactors Bob and Nancy DeFord. It features extensive indoor and outdoor entertainment areas on the ground level and the president's private residence on the second floor. It is located on the west side of Smith Drive across from the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center and faces north toward Wesleyan Drive. 

DeFord Manor is fronted by The Shelhorse Lawn and Ponds. Named in honor of Bill Shelhorse ’70, a distinguished graduate, Trustee, friend, and supporter, it is a place where students and alumni can gather for recreation and reflection. 

The garden and pool area immediately behind DeFord Manor is named Virginia Oveda Williams DeFord Terrace in honor of Bob DeFord’s mother. She was a teacher and sparked her son’s interest in education.

Located just outside the terrace is a Japanese Garden, with 10 trees—Japanese Cherry, Japanese Snowbell, and Japanese Holly—named in honor of David R. Black (H’21), a university president for nearly 30 years and executive-in-residence at VWU. Black provided visionary leadership with the establishment of the Batten Honors College, the Work and Learn Program, and the formation of the Lakeland University Japan and VWU Global (Japan) collaborative. 

In keeping with the University's environmental sustainability initiatives, approximately 460 trees, shrubs and plants fill the landscape surrounding DeFord Manor. Nearly a mile of underground stormwater chambers and a bio pond are also a part of the project. 

DeFord Manor circle and driveway are a "green" driveway. This surface helps control runoff, prevents flooding and replenishes groundwater by allowing water to penetrate through the driveway rather than running off the top. Surface water is absorbed through the permeable driveway material, and the soil below filters the water, preventing chemicals from vehicles and other sources from getting into the ground water or contaminating the water in storm drain systems.

DeFord Manor continues to honor our founders’ legacy of environmental protection. Our horticultural experts continually work to preserve VWU’s original vision for the grounds, gardens and ponds including more than 25,000 native plants cultivated at DeFord Manor and throughout the Virginia Wesleyan campus. 

For inquiries, please contact or 757.455.3215.

DeFord Manor Usage Guidelines

The following guidelines offer parameters for the institutional use of DeFord Manor, the home of the President of Virginia Wesleyan University and his or her family.

DeFord Manor functions first and foremost as a residence. Secondarily, it is a place for the President of the University and/or the president’s spouse to host events, meals, meetings, and more as a way of extending good will to the campus community and to friends of the University who support its mission and goals.

Under no circumstances should DeFord Manor be considered an extension of the campus for regular meeting space. Virginia Wesleyan has a wide variety of venues across the University’s campus suitable for meetings, events, conferences and other functions for campus constituents. In general, a meeting or event that does not directly involve the President or the president’s spouse would never be considered suitable to host at DeFord Manor.

All meetings and events that take place at DeFord Manor are initiated by the Office of the President. The home may host events on the weekdays or weekends as appropriate. All meetings and events should take place between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. unless there is express permission from the Office of the President to deviate from these hours.

For campus organizations wishing to request the use of DeFord Manor, its availability is at the discretion of the President and the Office of the President based on the nature and purpose of the event and the availability of the home.

DeFord Manor is not available to persons or organizations outside of Virginia Wesleyan University under any circumstances.

For campus personnel or organizations requesting to hold an event at DeFord Manor, please send a high-level overview about the event via email to including the following information:

  • Purpose of event
  • Type of event (reception; a seated-served dinner; a buffet lunch, etc.)
  • Date/time of event – Does the event need to occur on a specific day/time? Or is there flexibility for when the event can be held? Make note of ideal time frames.
  • The program for the evening:
    • Do you want the president to give remarks at the event? If so, what topic would he be asked to address? Length of remarks?
    • Any additional speakers (Please include name, title, and the topic of their remarks).
  • Other known information as appropriate

The Executive Assistant to the President will evaluate the event for compliance with appropriate use guidelines, check the availability of DeFord Manor, and then contact the requester as soon as possible. All requests must be made at least six (6) weeks in advance.

Due to room size constraints and the desire to preserve DeFord Manor, the following guest accommodation plans will prevail:

  • The East Room may accommodate 36 guests at a seated dinner or 65 at a standing reception. 
  • Twelve (12) guests may be seated at the Dining Room table.
  • There is an option for indoor/outdoor events to take place both in the East Room and the Virginia Oveda Williams DeFord Terrace, allowing for additional guests. If hosting an indoor/outdoor event, the following considerations must be decided:
    • Use of terrace tent
    • Use of terrace portable heaters

The East Room of DeFord Manor has a smart TV that can be used to display basic audio/visual needs. There is no teleconference or virtual meeting equipment available.

A Steinway Spirio player piano is also available to provide select music. Express and advance permission must be obtained for the Spirio’s use during the requestor’s event.

All guests must park at the Susan S. Goode Center for the Fine and Performing Arts across Smith Drive from DeFord Manor. Only guests with express permission from the Office of the President and catering staff are permitted to park at DeFord Manor.

In keeping with the status of DeFord Manor at Virginia Wesleyan University, certain standards must be observed.


  1. Catering Services assistance is required for all events. For all events that involve dining, rental table linens and floral arrangements must be provided at the requester’s expense. Additional costs for other necessary amenities will also be borne by the requester. The Executive Assistant to the President will provide guidance.
  2. Event set-up and clean-up is the responsibility of the requestor, Catering Services, and Facilities Management. Scheduling event set-up must be secured through the Executive Assistant to the President. 
  3. The Office of the President must approve any and all communications and invitations regarding the requester’s meeting or event in advance.
    • In the University’s efforts to be “green,” most invitations for events should be created and sent electronically. 
    • Please provide a complete and accurate list of email addresses for all guests to the Executive Assistant to the President for invitation distribution.
    • Each event must supply a guest list of the meeting/event no later than three (3) days beforehand. The list should include guests’ titles and/or the guests’ relationship to the University.
  4. Housekeeping for DeFord Manor (managed through Facilities Management) must be scheduled prior to the event and after the event.
  5. Campus Security must be informed of the event by the requester to assist with guest parking and security at DeFord Circle.
  6. Use of the outdoor heaters and tent, indoor fireplaces, and Steinway Spirio must be requested and approved in advance by the Executive Assistant to the President.

Day-Of Event

  • All events must be attended by appropriate staff members related to the event.
  • Catering staff working the event should park by the garage door with service entrance/exit through the back garage gate and service door. All other staff and guests must park at the Goode Center.
  • All guests enter through the front door; they may exit through the front door or the back gate of the terrace. The terrace gate is for exit only.
  • All guests and staff in attendance must be given and wear name tags.
  • If the event is a seated meal, name cards must be at each place setting to ensure appropriate seating.
  • If using the East Room, a welcome message to the group/organization should be displayed on the smart TV.
  • Printed flyers about DeFord Manor (provided at the house by the Office of the President) should be made available to guests.
  • Facilities Management (Aramark) must be instructed to attend to the grounds of DeFord Manor, including goose droppings on sidewalks and on the patio.
  • Campus Security must be in place at least 30 minutes prior to the event.
  • No smoking or vaping in any area of the house or grounds.
  • The phone in the East Room catering closet is for emergencies only. 


  • The President likes to personally thank guests following events; please provide a complete and accurate list of email addresses for all guests for such purposes.
  • After the event, staff must ensure that the outside heaters, the fireplaces and the Steinway Spirio piano are properly turned off.
  • The front door, East Room door, and pool terrace doors must be locked. Staff working the event may come and go from the service entrance, but it should be locked by the last person out. 

Housekeeping for DeFord Manor (managed through Facilities Management) must be scheduled prior and after the event.

In the event Virginia Wesleyan University must close due to inclement weather, reasons pertaining to security, and/or other acts of God, DeFord Manor will also be closed for meetings and events as well.