West College to become Morrison Hall; WWS auditorium to honor W. Arthur Lewis

Toni Morrison and W. Arthur Lewis
From left: Sameer A. Khan; Robert Matthews/Office of Communications

West College will be renamed for professor emerita and Nobel laureate in literature Toni Morrison, the University announced last month, and Dodds Auditorium — the most prominent teaching space in the Woodrow Wilson School’s Robertson Hall — will be renamed the Arthur Lewis Auditorium. It honors W. Arthur Lewis, a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics and a member of the Wilson School’s faculty from 1963 to 1983. 

The name of former Princeton president Harold Dodds *1914 will be transferred to the atrium of Robertson Hall, recognizing Dodds’ role in the development of the Wilson School.

“By taking these steps we begin to recognize more completely the extraordinary range of individuals and groups that have made this University what it is today,” President Eisgruber ’83 said, “and to inscribe upon the fabric of our campus a fuller account not only of Princeton’s history, but also of the commitments to both excellence and inclusivity that must guide our aspirations for the future.”

The changes, approved by Princeton trustees to take effect July 1, were recommended by a committee created to suggest names for buildings or other spaces “to recognize individuals who would bring a more diverse presence to the campus.” 

The naming review was one of several initiatives resulting from the report of the University trustees’ Wilson Legacy Review Committee, which was formed following a Nassau Hall sit-in by the Black Justice League in November 2015 that raised issues of Princeton’s racial climate and the legacy of Woodrow Wilson 1879. More than 210 members of the University community submitted naming suggestions through a website created last fall. 

Morrison taught courses at Princeton in the humanities and African American studies from 1989 to 2006, and her papers are part of the University library’s permanent collection. In 1993, she became the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Morrison gave the keynote address at the University’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1996 — titled “The Place of the Idea, the Idea of the Place” — and she received an honorary doctorate from Princeton in 2013. 

Lewis taught courses in economic development and economic history at Princeton from 1963 to 1983. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1963 and won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1979, and he remains the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in a field other than literature or peace. He died in 1991. (See related story on Lewis on page 18.)

Eisgruber described West College, built in 1836, as “the most prominent and central building on campus that is not currently named to honor an individual, family, or group.” The “west” in West College refers to its location to the west of Cannon Green. The building was originally a student dormitory; it is now home to the admission office and the office of the dean of the college.

Other campus spaces named for black Princetonians are the Carl A. Fields Center, named for the assistant dean at Princeton who was the first African American administrator in the Ivy League; the Dickerson Room in the Fields Center, named for former vice president for campus life Janet Dickerson; the Barfield-Johnson seminar room in Stanhope Hall, named for Jon Barfield ’74, Kimberly Johnson ’95, and Mark Johnson ’95; the Hobson-Rogers seminar room in Stanhope Hall, named for Mellody Hobson ’91 and John W. Rogers ’80; and the Rogers team rooms in athletics facilities, also named for Rogers. 

Last winter, the Princeton Club of New York changed the name of its dining room from the Woodrow Wilson Room to Nassau 1756, the year Nassau Hall opened its doors, said club president Richard Block ’73. He said that the club’s board acted after a group of minority members had requested changing the name.