Douglas Hall to be renamed Powell-Norton Hall

Joseph+Dively+adds+his+input+to+the+topic+of+the+Douglas+Hall+rename+during+the+Board+of+Trustees+meeting+Friday+in+the+Grand+Ballroom.

Rob Le Cates

Joseph Dively adds his input to the topic of the Douglas Hall rename during the Board of Trustees meeting Friday in the Grand Ballroom.

Corryn Brock, Editor-in-Chief

After over a decade since the idea of renaming Douglas Hall was first brought to the university’s attention, the residence hall will be renamed Powell-Norton Hall.

The change follows a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees to approve the rename Friday afternoon.

The name honors both Zella Powell and Ona Norton, two Black women with deep ties to both Eastern and Coles County.

Powell was Eastern’s first Black graduate in 1910, and Norton was a community member who helped Black students find housing off campus in the 1950s.

Student Trustee Lucy Ade said as she spoke to students to gauge how they felt on the matter, she found that students were ready for a name change.

She said she was specifically happy to see the name change to honor two Black women.

“I’m very happy that it happened,” Ade said. “As far as I know, we don’t have any buildings named after a Black woman and I think it’s amazing to see that finally happen. I think the name with both women on there is amazing.”

Trustee Joe Dively, a longtime Charleston resident, shared during the meeting that he was excited to see a name that honored Norton, a woman he knew growing up.

Dively said he was ready to see the name change after watching the idea be debated over the last decade.

“I’m just delighted that we’re moving forward. I think Powell-Norton are two great women in our history, two African-American women who we can celebrate and be proud of, and so I’m very excited to come to this conclusion.”

BOT secretary Audrey Edwards said that while she liked the name, she would have preferred one name over hyphenating the two.

“I think two is a mouthful, but I’m delighted that it has been resolved,” Edwards said.

Trustee Chris Hicks said he was impressed by the efforts that went into the rename.

“I think it’s just a great thing for the university. It supports our mission, and I’m fully supportive of the work that the Naming Committee did and the president did to come up with it with the name,” Hicks said.

Director of Housing and Dining Mark Hudson said he knows some may not like the new name, but he sees it as an opportunity.

“Whereas I appreciate people’s sense of connection to that name, I also can imagine how people will now know about other people that had very specific university connections who are were leaders and helping the community reflect what our current values are, and I think that’s also it’s exciting,” Hudson said.

Stephanie Wright-Griggs, the granddaughter of Powell, said she felt “tremendous pride” knowing the building will soon honor her grandmother.

“She, like so many other people, made an impact on society, especially in southern Illinois where she grew up,” Wright-Griggs said.

She said she is also excited to see the new name honor Norton as well.

“I think Ona Norton was definitely a trailblazer too like the president said today,” Wright-Griggs said. “You know, she made her own mark at Eastern Illinois, and like somebody else said, you really couldn’t have picked to better women representing Eastern Illinois with their own stories of struggle and success, perseverance and success.”

Wright-Griggs said she thinks the name will be a point of pride for Eastern students.

“It helps the students be proud of the history of their alma mater when they leave,” Wright-Griggs said. “It instills a different appreciation for where they’re going to school.”

She said she is thankful for the board’s decision.

“I’d like to thank the school for honoring my grandmother like this,” Wright-Griggs said. “She is a proud alum wherever she is.”

 

Madelyn Kidd, Luke Taylor, Rob Le Cates and Ryan Meyer contributed to this article.

 

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]