North Hall to be renamed in honor of University’s first African American graduate

FSU’s North Hall dorm will be renamed Mary Miles Bibb Hall, following the approval of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) Oct. 22.

The Fiscal Affairs and Administrative Policy (FAAP) Committee of the BHE heard the motion to rename the eight-year-old, 410-bed dorm at an Oct. 15 meeting.

The motion was adopted by FAAP, then subsequently, the BHE.

According to the written “request for committee and board action” found on the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education website, there are certain criteria set by a FAAP policy that must be met for the BHE to consider naming rights.

“For living donors, there are specific monetary thresholds that apply for such naming rights,” according to the document. 

“However, naming rights also may be given ‘in honor of an individual, organization, or group having made a distinguished contribution of service, research, teaching, or support to the campus; in honor of an individual, organization, or group having made a distinguished contribution of service or support to the community, the Commonwealth, or the nation.’

“The request by Framingham State University (‘FSU’) to name the North Hall in honor of Mary Miles Bibb, a former student and civil rights leader, meets these criteria,” it further states.

According to an Oct. 22 FSU press release, Bibb – born Mary Elizabeth Miles in 1820 to a family of abolitionists – graduated from Framingham State in 1843. At the time of her matriculation, the University was known as the Lexington Normal School.

The press release states, “Bibb met her husband, Henry Bibb, an escaped slave and abolitionist, in 1847. The couple moved to Canada following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, where they frequently took fugitive slaves into their home who had arrived via the Underground Railroad. 

“In 1851, they began publishing a newspaper called ‘Voice of the Fugitive,’ the first major newspaper targeted at Black Canadians,” according to the document.

Originally a student-led initiative by former Student Trustee Karl Bryan, the petition to rename the dorm garnered more than 100 signatures during the spring 2018 semester, according to a Gatepost article from Sept. 22, 2018.

This petition came in the wake of a series of racially motivated hate crimes over the last few years.

The BHE document states, “Student leaders at FSU extensively researched the life and work of Mary Miles Bibb and led a student petition to support the naming of North Hall in her honor. 

“Although this particular building naming is not tied to a specific monetary threshold, the institution references prospects of future fundraising opportunities for naming rights within sections of the building, as well as for other unnamed buildings at the University,” it states.

According to the document, the FSU Board of Trustees voted to approve this request earlier this year in May.

BHE Commissioner Carlos E. Santiago said, “This year marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in North America.

“I cannot think of a better time to honor the legacy of a Framingham graduate who devoted her life to ending the scourge of slavery, all the while serving as a role model for women of color. I congratulate the Framingham State community for its work to honor the legacy of Mary Miles Bibb,” he added.

FSU President F. Javier Cevallos read a letter he wrote to board members during meetings with the FSU Board of Trustees and the BHE on behalf of FSU students.

In an email, Cevallos stated, “I am proud that this was a student-driven initiative. Renaming North Hall to honor the first African American to graduate from our institution is one more important step in our efforts to make this an inclusive and welcoming campus for all.”

A renaming and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held for Mary Miles Bibb Hall once details are confirmed. It will be open to the public.