Growing up in Princeton, Caasi Love always knew where his grandmother Laura Wooten would be on Election Day: at the polls. “I don’t think we ever thought twice about it,” said Love, the assistant director of finance and planning at Princeton’s engineering school.
It wasn’t until relatively late in Wooten’s life that the broader community learned just how remarkable her service as an elections volunteer had been: The longtime Campus Dining employee was the longest-serving poll worker in the United States, beginning the role in Princeton as a recent high school graduate in 1939 and continuing in nearby Lawrence Township until 2018, a few months before her death at age 98.
In June, the University decided to honor Wooten by renaming a campus building, the former Marx Hall, Laura Wooten Hall. President Eisgruber ’83, who thanked the CPUC’s Committee on Naming for its recommendation, said in an announcement, “The addition of Laura Wooten’s name to the tapestry of our campus will recognize Princeton’s history, the breadth of our community, and the positive impact that one remarkable person can have through lifelong dedication to public service and civic values.”
Naming Committee chair Beth Lew-Williams, an associate professor of history, added that Wooten’s life “offers a powerful example of how ordinary citizens can perform extraordinary service to the nation.”
Love said his grandmother’s contributions were informed by the value of voting for those who had been denied that opportunity. She was born in 1920, the year the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, and lived through the voting-rights efforts of the 1950s and ’60s. “I think that was ingrained in her, to make sure that people had a voice through the democratic process,” Love said.
Wooten’s survivors include 16 grandchildren (including Isaac Love III, who works at Princeton as a custodian) and 31 great-grandchildren. Caasi Love said the family looks forward to celebrating her legacy at an upcoming dedication ceremony.
Wooten’s contributions were honored last year by the New Jersey legislature, which passed Laura Wooten’s Law, a measure that requires the state’s middle schools to teach civics and active citizenship.
Princeton first announced plans to rename Marx Hall in 2019, saying that its donor was unable to fulfill his pledge. The building houses offices and teaching spaces, a departmental library, and the University Center for Human Values.