A group of incoming Lakeshore residents will be the first to call Phillips Hall their home, although the building has been open for nearly four decades.
The newly rechristened building, formerly known as Friedrick Hall, was dedicated in a ceremony Aug. 21 and is intended to reflect the history of women influential for the university, the state and the nation.
The building’s namesake, Vel Phillips, was the first black woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1951 and in 1978 became the state’s first black person and woman to be elected secretary of state.
The houses and floors of the hall will also be renamed after influential women for the university, including Nellie McKay, a distinguished scholar, Gerda Lerner, one of the creators of Women’s History Month and Kay Clarenbach, founder of the National Organization for Women.
University Housing administrator Jeff Hinz said the division had the opportunity to rename the hall after the building, which was previously run by UW-Extension, was converted for use as a residence hall in 2008.
The Friedrick name will continue to be used elsewhere on campus in a facility operated by Extension.
“It’s a way to keep history alive,” he said. “It gives students the opportunity to learn about them and to hear stories about the struggles that took place.”
He also said Phillips agreed to meet with students living in the hall in September or October to share her personal history and give residents the opportunity for an open dialogue.
The name change, which was granted final approval by the UW System Board of Regents, was the result of a collaborative process with individuals from across campus, including representatives from the gender and women’s studies and history departments.
“It used to be the case that Lakeshore was housing for men, so all houses and floors were named after men,” Scott Seyforth, a Residence Life administrator, said. “A lot of these stories are not often told.”
He said assembling a list of possible names included interviewing family members, gathering original documents for fact checking and compiling personal biographies. He added it was not long before a short list became apparent.
Seyforth said Phillips was “deeply honored” by the final decision.