University of Georgia to name buildings after trailblazing Black graduates

From left to right: Kerry Rushin Miller, Mary B. Diallo, and Harold A. Black, take part in a conversation on stage titled “Conversations with the Class of 1966: UGA’s First Black Freshman Graduates” in 2017 in the UGA Chapel. UGA officials are proposing naming a new residence hall after the three alumni. (Photo Credit: University of Georgia.)
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From left to right: Kerry Rushin Miller, Mary B. Diallo, and Harold A. Black, take part in a conversation on stage titled “Conversations with the Class of 1966: UGA’s First Black Freshman Graduates” in 2017 in the UGA Chapel. UGA officials are proposing naming a new residence hall after the three alumni. (Photo Credit: University of Georgia.)

Credit: Pho

Credit: Pho

University of Georgia administrators announced plans Wednesday to name two campus buildings after Black graduates who made history at the school.

Officials want to name the science library in memory of Shirley Mathis McBay, the first Black student to earn a doctorate from UGA in 1966. McBay, who became a math professor at Spelman College and championed the need for diversity in the STEM fields, died Saturday. She was 86.

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Shirley Mathis McBay was the first Black graduate to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. (Photo Courtesy: University of Georgia.)

Credit: pho

Shirley Mathis McBay was the first Black graduate to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. (Photo Courtesy: University of Georgia.)
caption arrowCaption
Shirley Mathis McBay was the first Black graduate to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. (Photo Courtesy: University of Georgia.)

Credit: pho

Credit: pho

They also want to name a 525-unit student residential hall under construction after Harold A. Black, Mary Blackwell Diallo and Kerry Rushin Miller, the first Black students to enroll as freshmen and complete their undergraduate degrees. Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of their enrollment.

“It is an excellent time to recognize their contributions,” UGA President Jere Morehead said during a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

ExploreUniversity of Georgia commemorates 60th anniversary of desegregation

Miller’s husband, Samuel, told her the university would someday name a building after her. Miller didn’t believe it, noting UGA has already done other things such as naming a scholarship after her. Miller, who lives in Charlotte, said she was speechless when a university official contacted her last week about the plans.

“It was quite a surprise,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I think it’s wonderful.”

The names must be approved by the state’s Board of Regents, which last week announced it would not act on an advisory group’s recommendations to rename 75 buildings — many located at UGA — that are named after white supremacists and people with ties to slavery.

UGA has made several efforts in recent years to recognize the achievements of barrier-breaking Black students. Last year, it named its College of Education after Mary Frances Early, the university’s first Black graduate. Miller hopes UGA will continue to explore the legacies of Black students who enrolled there in the 1960s.

The university’s science library is located in the Boyd Graduate Studies Building. The new residential hall is scheduled to be completed by the start of the fall 2022 semester. UGA officials did not discuss during the meeting ongoing complaints by parents about housing conditions in several residential halls they say are causing health issues among many students.

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