Updated: Nov 22, 2020
We live here, and we learn here, yet we aren’t wholly represented at Meredith. As a women’s college, it would be logical to think that most of the buildings on campus would be named after strong women like ourselves. This is incorrect. All but one residence hall is named after a man. Most of the buildings we learn in are named after men. The first building you see when you enter school grounds is named after a man, and the buildings some students fall asleep in are named after one too. The only buildings not named after men are the Wainwright Music Building, Poteat Residence Hall, Carroll Hall and Martin Hall. There is a strong trend here, but it’s what we do with this information that makes the difference.
According to Carlyle Campbell Library’s Archives and College History collection and the Meredith College website, Richard Tillman Vann was the second president of Meredith. In his time, he helped raise enrollment and created Meredith’s Alma Mater. For him, Vann Residence Hall was dedicated. Charles Edward Brewer, for whom another residence hall is named, was the third president of Meredith. He was president when the school moved to its current location, and he also helped double staff and enrollment rates. Carlyle Campbell was the fourth president, and he helped immensely with the creation of most of the campus buildings. He even made plans for the building of the library, which would be named after him. Finally, E. Bruce Heilman was the fifth president of the school, and he also helped develop more buildings on campus. Heilman created the annual giving fund and strengthened the college’s Board of Trustees. Some other notable names are Oliver Stringfield, Shearon Harris, William Faircloth and Livingston Johnson, all men who contributed to Meredith monetarily. Most of the buildings are named after men who have given money or held positions of power on campus. While money and power often go hand in hand, it is interesting to see how the honoring of women’s education can be clouded by this. Of course, these men have been of great service, and they do deserve credit for what they have done, but times are changing. Today, we need to focus on empowering women and all women that enter Meredith’s campus.
Meredith preaches about women’s strength and how powerful women can be, but the campus buildings do not emphasize this. If Meredith-educated women truly leave marks as leaders, don’t we owe it to all students to honor them for their influential work at the school or in the community? Wouldn’t the sentiment of being honored with a building that can help other women grow mean that they were strong? If we don’t let students see that they can make their mark on campus and help inspire other students, it may make students feel that they too can’t make their mark on the institution. It would be a never-ending cycle—but luckily, it’s a cycle that can easily be changed.
The Herald interviewed a student who had an opinion on the lack of female recognition with the campus’s buildings. The student stated, “Meredith’s community is built upon strong women empowering one another to reach the highest levels of success. Though Meredith prides itself on its rich history, I have always wondered why the buildings aren’t named after more women. After all, we are an all women’s college!” While we may know we are strong women, and we do recognize the women who came before us at Meredith, it would be nice to see the representation shown through something tangible.
We have and have always had remarkable women receive their education at Meredith. There are already plenty of candidates for whom buildings could be renamed—people who don’t have any negative ties to the Confederacy, unlike many of our current honorees. For example, we could have a building named after Sarah Parker. She served as the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 2006 to 2014. That is no easy task, and she is a strong woman who would be deserving of a building. Susan Hill is also a notable Meredith alum. She was an influential activist for women’s health and could inspire many current Meredith students. Having more buildings named after women could open up a whole new world; students can become inspired by the person their residence hall or educational building is named after. If we don’t include building dedications to strong alumnae, their histories may remain unknown.
By Kaylee Haas, Contributing Writer