Philanthropist and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, Mellody Hobson, has gifted her alma mater Princeton University with a major donation to construct a new residential college on the site of one previously named after Woodrow Wilson.
This summer, the school’s Board of Trustees voted to remove Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs (which Hobson graduated from in 1991) as well as from the residential Wilson College, due to the former president’s documented racism. Among other things, Wilson championed the segregation of workers in federal agencies during his time in the White House.
Now his named residential college at Princeton will be replaced with one honoring Hobson, after the businesswoman and her Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation (which she established with her husband, Star Wars creator George Lucas) gave a lead gift to the University to begin building a new residential college at the Ivy League in 2023. It will be the first at the school to bear the name of a Black woman.
“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. Renaming Wilson College is my very personal way of letting them know that our past does not have to be our future,” said Hobson, in the official announcement from Princeton about her gift.
Hobson told the Washington Post that there is significant symbolism in Princeton removing Wilson’s name in favor of a Black woman’s, and that she was eager to make the gift to the school after its administrators offered to do so.