Cornell announced the names of three new North Campus residence halls that will soon welcome students as part of the North Campus Residential Expansion — named for notable alumni including Nobel Prize-winning scientist Barbara McClintock, ’23, M.A. ’25 Ph.D. ’27 and Chinese philosopher Hu Shih 1914, as well as honoring the Cayuga Nation and Indigenous land on which Cornell was built.
The Tuesday announcement comes after President Martha Pollack announced in the fall that Cornell would name two of the five new residential halls after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’54 and Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, M.A. ’55. The dorms are part of the massive North Campus project, which is scheduled to be fully completed by fall 2022.
Following the October announcement, Cornell launched a search for the names of the remaining three buildings. After collecting community responses, a seven-person committee selected three out of the potential 188 names. The committee focused on several guiding principles, including wishing to honor “those deceased Cornellians who offered inspirational, groundbreaking careers” when making their decision.
The new Ganędagǫ: Hall is the first Cornell building to be named after a group of people instead of an individual. The word Ganędagǫ:, meaning “hill” in the native language of the Cayuga Nation (Gayogo̱ hó꞉nǫ’), is the ancestral name for the land on which Cornell was built.
Prof. Kurt Jordan ’88, anthropology, who serves as chair of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, worked with leadership of the Cayuga Nation to propose the name of the new building.
The announcement follows numerous calls by students and activists that grew louder in the fall for the University to reconcile its history with Indigenous peoples and its status as a land-grant institution that sits on dispossessed lands.
“I think this is a step in honoring these native people and their lands, so I would just say it is one step, not a first nor a last,” Ryan Lombardi, vice president of student and campus life, told The Sun.
The Barbara McClintock hall will commemorate the pioneering geneticist, who came to Cornell as an undergraduate student in 1919. She went on to become the first woman to receive an unshared Nobel prize in physiology or medicine for her discovery of mobile genetic elements. In doing so, she became the first to prove that genetic elements can change position on a chromosome and alter gene function.
The Hu Shih hall will become the first building on Cornell’s campus named for an international alumni or for a person of Asian descent. After his time at Cornell, Hu became a prominent leader in China’s new culture movement, a cultural push against the teachings of Confucianism, and served as the Chinese ambassador to the United States from 1938 to 1942.
During his sophomore year, Hu, along with other students, donated about 350 Chinese classic books to the library, initiating the development of the expansive East Asian collection that exists today at Cornell.
Now, the names and work of these Cornellians will be at the center of the student experience.
“Our buildings are usually for certain majors or certain colleges so there’s a pretty good chance a student might not ever interact with them,” Lombardi said. “There’s a greater chance for the story of these individuals to be a part of the fabric of many more students’ experiences on campus over the course of time.”