As we celebrate Brown's largest-ever Black Alumni Reunion this weekend, I'm delighted to share some exciting news about the renaming of a building in the heart of our campus.
In honor of two trailblazing black graduates, Brown will rename the J. Walter Wilson building as Page-Robinson Hall. The six-story facility will be renamed for Inman Edward Page - who, with a classmate, became one of the first two black graduates of Brown in 1877 - and Ethel Tremaine Robinson, who earned her degree in 1905 as the first black woman to graduate from the University.
Page was born into slavery, sought liberty and opportunity, and found them at Brown. He saw the power of education to cultivate the innate "genius" in everyone. Robinson broke a color barrier and a glass ceiling when she graduated from Brown in 1905. Together, these two pioneers embodied the faith in learning, knowledge and understanding that has animated Brown for generations.
We decided to memorialize the contributions and the struggles of black alumni through this building renaming in recognition of the historic significance of this year. The year 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of 1968, a time of upheaval in the Civil Right Movement, including the assassination of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and major black student walkouts and civil actions at universities across the country, including at Brown.
Given the historical and academic significance of this renaming, we undertook a deliberate process in determining the right building to bear the new designation. We wanted a building at the heart of campus that every student, faculty member and staff member uses on a regular basis. And one that serves as a center of classroom activity, teaching and learning - the core of the Brown experience.
Originally built as a home for life sciences laboratories, J. Walter Wilson Laboratory opened in 1962. After a top-to-bottom renovation in 2008, the building no longer serves as laboratory space. Today, it is home to a range of central administrative services as well as classrooms and seminar rooms.
James Walter Wilson was an undergraduate and graduate alumnus of Brown who served as a beloved professor of biology at the University for more than four decades. He helped the Department of Biology achieve a national reputation for research and teaching. An accomplished researcher who studied kidney function, cytology and cancer in animal tissues, he was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and president of the American Society of Zoologists. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy invited him to speak at the President's Conference on Heart Disease and Cancer. The building at 69 Brown St. was named in his honor when it was constructed as a laboratory. A plaque in the renamed building will honor Wilson's enduring legacy at Brown.
The target date for formally implementing the Page-Robinson Hall name change throughout various campus maps and business systems will coincide with the start of the Spring 2019 semester at Brown. I invite you to read more about Page, Robinson and the significance of this renaming in the University's news announcement: