The residential hall at Princeton University once named for Woodrow Wilson will now be named after a Black alum and major donor, Mellody Hobson. Hobson, a successful businesswoman, graduated from Princeton in 1991 and will now be the first Black woman whose name is on the university’s residential college.
Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments and serves as chair of the board of trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. Hobson College, bearing her name, will be built at the site of First College, formerly known as Wilson College, Princeton said Thursday in a statement.
Hobson and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation had before the announcement donated an undisclosed amount of money to help convert Wilson College into Hobson College, according to the Ivy League school.
Princeton’s Board of Trustees decided to remove Wilson’s name after protests in 2015 but shelved the plan until this June when it considered it again “as the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America.”
The university’s board said it finally decided to remove Wilson’s name from the public policy school and the residential college after discovering that his persistent “racism makes him an inappropriate namesake.” Wilson, apart from being a former U.S. president, served as president of Princeton and banned Black students from attending.
“No one from my family had graduated from college when I arrived at Princeton from Chicago, and yet even as I looked up at buildings named after the likes of Rockefeller and Forbes I felt at home,” Hobson said in the statement released by Princeton.
“My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families — that they too belong.”
Hobson, who is married to George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame, serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. She was also the board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG and the director of Estée Lauder.
Work on Hobson College will begin in 2023 and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2026, said the university.