Brown University Renames Building to Honor Two Early Black Graduates

Brown University will rename the J. Walter Wilson Building to honor two Black graduates. The six-story academic and administrative facility will now be known as Page-Robinson Hall in honor of Inman Edward Page, who became one of the first two Black graduates of Brown in 1877, and Ethel Tremaine Robinson, who became the first Black woman to graduate from Brown in 1905.

“Inman Page was born into slavery, sought liberty and opportunity and found them at Brown — and he saw the power of education to cultivate the innate ‘genius’ in everyone,” Brown University President Christina Paxson said. “Ethel 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.”

After their time at Brown, both graduates went on to lead influential careers in education. Page served as president of four historically Black colleges and universities: the Agricultural and Normal University in Langston, Oklahoma, Western Baptist College in Macon, Missouri, Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri. Robinson taught English and literature at historically Black Howard University in her hometown of Washington, D.C. She also mentored one of her students, Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, in her efforts to establish the nation’s first Black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which today has nearly 300,000 members.

The new Page-Robinson Hall was originally opened in 1962 as a home for life sciences laboratories. After a large renovation project in 2008, the building became home to many central services including the financial aid office, the office of international student and scholar services, the mail center, the chaplain’s office, the university cashier, and various classrooms and seminar rooms.

Brown University chose this building to honor Page and Robinson because it is “a building at the heart of campus that every student, faculty member and staff member uses on a regular basis,” according to President Paxson, “and one that serves as a center of classroom activity, teaching and learning — the core of the Brown experience.”

The name change will be formally implemented at the start of the Spring 2019 semester.

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