Princeton college building named for Woodrow Wilson to be replaced

Princeton building named for Woodrow Wilson will be renamed to honor black alumna and hedge fund CEO Mellody Hobson who is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas

  • Princeton’s former Wilson College will be replaced with a residential school named after businesswoman and philanthropist Mellody Hobson
  • Hobson College is the first on campus to be named after a black woman
  • Hobson, who is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas, was honored after their foundation made the lead gift on the building
  • The Ariel Investments co-CEO said she was proud her name would erase Wilson’s racist legacy as the change was announced Thursday
  • Princeton has this sought to remove itself from Wilson, its 13th president
  • He oversaw the segregation of parts of the federal government
  • Construction of Hobson College will begin in 1923 

Princeton is replacing a residential college once named after 28th president Woodrow Wilson with a new one named for a black female alumna and major donor. 

Mellody Hobson, who is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas, will become the first black woman to have a residential college on the prestigious campus named for her after she and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation made the lead gift on the building. 

Hobson, who graduated from Princeton in 1991, said during yesterday’s announcement that she was proud her name would ‘erase Wilson’s racist legacy’. 

Wilson was not only president of the United States but Princeton’s 13th president. The university has worked to remove itself from his ‘racist thinking’ this year following protests. 

Scroll down for video 

Princeton’s former Wilson College will be replaced with a residential school named after businesswoman and philanthropist Mellody Hobson, pictured

Hobson made the lead gift on the building for the new residential college through the foundation she runs with husband, Star Wars creator George Lucas, pictured together

The former Wilson College which will now be replaced with Hobson College

Candid photograph of Woodrow Wilson, sitting at roll-top desk at Princeton University, 1909

‘I am so honored to be part of this historic moment for Princeton University,’ Hobson, 51, said of the new college. 

‘No one in my family had graduated from college when I arrived on campus and yet, as I looked up at the buildings named after the likes of Rockefeller and Forbes, I felt at home. 

Woodrow Wilson’s troubled history with race and segregation 

Wilson was the 28th US president

Wilson served as president from 1913 to 1921, during the period following Reconstruction that is known as  a low point in American race relations.

A Democrat, he oversaw progressive policies and led the nation in World War I, as well as establishing the UN-precursor League of Nations.

His domestic agenda included the implementation of federal income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve. 

He was also the first southerner to be elected president after the Civil War, and oversaw the segregation of parts of the federal government.

While Wilson did not mandate the segregation of the entire government, he allowed Cabinet members to segregate their respective departments. 

In a July 1913 letter to a civil rights activist, Wilson defended the segregation of government offices, arguing that it removed ‘friction’ between the races.

Famously during Wilson’s presidency, D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation, which celebrated the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, was the first motion picture to be screened in the White House.

The film also quotes Wilson’s historical scholarship on the KKK, but after seeing it Wilson disavowed the movie, saying he had been ‘unaware of the character of the play before it was presented.’ 

 

‘When I was approached last year about this opportunity, I was most compelled by the symbolism of a black woman replacing the name of someone who would not have supported my admission three decades ago and what that would represent for future generations,’ the philanthropist and business woman added of Wilson.  

‘Education has the power to transform lives as it did mine. Hobson College will play an important role in telling every student especially those who are black and brown and first in their families, like me, that they belong in Princeton.’

She hit out at Wilson further by stating that the president ‘failed to see that orange and black belong together’, citing the Princeton colors.   

In June, Princeton stripped Wilson’s name from a public policy school, as well as the residential college that will now be replaced with Hobson College.  

Wilson served as president from 1913 to 1921, during the period following Reconstruction that is known as a low point in American race relations.

A Democrat, he oversaw progressive policies and led the nation in World War I, as well as establishing the UN-precursor League of Nations.

He was also the first southerner to be elected president after the Civil War, and oversaw the segregation of the federal government.

In a July 1913 letter to a civil rights activist, Wilson defended the segregation of government offices, arguing that it removed ‘friction’ between the races.

Famously during Wilson’s presidency, D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation, which celebrated the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, was the first motion picture to be screened in the White House.

The film also quotes Wilson’s historical scholarship on the KKK, but after seeing it Wilson disavowed the movie, saying he had been ‘unaware of the character of the play before it was presented.’ 

Wilson had deep ties to Princeton, where he studied as an undergraduate, and later became president of the university before going on to become the governor of New Jersey and U.S. president. 

In 2016, Princeton’s board rejected activist demands to remove Wilson’s name from campus, opting instead to take steps to highlight troublesome aspects of his administration. 

However, this year the university cited the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks as the reason for reconsidering the move. All were black people who died in encounters with police or civilians. 

Princeton had already planned to close Wilson College and retire its name after opening two new residential colleges currently under construction but changed the name to First College in June. 

It will now be replaced completely with Hobson College which is set to begin construction in 2023. 

It will be the third new residential college and is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2026, in time to welcome the Class of 2030.  

Hobson announced her donation and the new college on Thursday

Hobson is pictured second from right while a student at Princeton University

Hobson, pictured far right, was the first in her family to attend Princeton

Hobson, pictured second from left, said she immediately felt at home at the university

‘This extraordinary gift will be transformative for Princeton,’ said President Christopher L. Eisgruber, who began discussing the gift with Hobson last year. 

‘It will enable us to improve the student experience at Princeton and to reimagine a central part of our campus, while also recognizing a remarkable woman who is a positive, powerful force for change in the world. 

‘Mellody Hobson is a wonderful role model for our students, and we are thrilled that her name will now grace our newest residential college,’ he added. 

‘I am grateful to Mellody and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation for their generosity and their forward-thinking commitment to Princeton.’ 

‘Everyone deserves access to the best education, and Princeton is leading the way to make sure higher education better reflects our society as a whole,’ said Hobson, a Princeton trustee from 2002 to 2006. 

‘I was so proud to serve on the board when the University developed its generous ‘no-loan’ financial aid program. By inviting more students from a variety of backgrounds to attend and contribute, we are not only building a better University community, we’re helping create a better world.’

Hobson is pictured with her mother on her graduation from Princeton University

Wilson as a Princeton alumnus and later served as president of the university. He is seen above, holding his hat, as an undergraduate with the Princeton University ‘Alligator Club’

Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, starting her career with them with a summer internship in 1989. 

She serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase and previously served as a director of Estée Lauder and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG. 

Hobson and Lucas were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019. 

‘Our shared passion is education and its power to transform lives — as it did ours,’ she said. 

In 2015, Time Magazine named Hobson one of the ‘100 Most Influential People’ in the world. 

Source: Read Full Article