The faces of places


Norman Borlaug and Elvin Stakman
Borlaug Hall and Stakman Hall, St. Paul campus
– Stakman and his graduate student, Borlaug, studied diseases in wheat during the 1940s
– Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to increase wheat production in Pakistan, India and Latin America

Walter Mondale
Mondale Hall
– Earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University
– Went on to become a U.S. senator and vice president for former President Carter

Hubert H. Humphrey
Hubert H. Humphrey Center
– Earned a bachelor’s degree and taught at the University
– Went on to become a U.S. senator and vice president for former President Lyndon Johnson

Ada Comstock
Comstock Hall
– First dean of women at the University in 1907; helped make Shevlin Hall the women’s student union in 1906
– First female president of a college or university when she became president of Radcliffe College in 1923

Katharine Densford
Weaver-Densford Hall
– Director of the School of Nursing, 1930 ñ 1959
– Known for her advocacy for social change through compassion for Japanese nurses after WWII and for black nurses

Roy Wilkins
Roy Wilkins Hall
– 1923 University graduate
– Head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1955 ñ 1977

What’s in a name?

Old Main was the University’s first and only building in 1857. It housed all parts of the University, including the library, classrooms and faculty offices.

Now, 151 years later, the University comprises 288 buildings, most of which are named after notable people.

Most are named for distinguished faculty members and past presidents, while a small percentage are named for donors, said University historian Anne Pflaum.

The Honors Committee reviews building name proposals and recommends them to the University president, who recommends them to the Board of Regents. Then, the regents decide whether to approve it.

Faculty buildings

The most buildings are named in honor of distinguished faculty members, Pflaum said, who include a Nobel Peace Prize winner and many others who have had national and international impacts.

For example, Borlaug Hall and Stakman Hall on the St. Paul campus honor Nobel winner Norman Borlaug and his teacher Elvin Stakman, who studied wheat diseases. Borlaug’s work increased wheat production in many developing countries.

All the president’s buildings

Building names are specifically reserved for former University presidents, according to the Board of Regents policy. A building will usually be named after a president between one and five years after their term.

Of 14 former presidents, Kenneth Keller, who served from 1985 to 1988, is the only one without a building named after him.

“There was a complicated period under his administration,” Pflaum said. Keller resigned because of concerns over narrowing access to the University, allegedly expensive repair costs to his official residence and debates over a contingency fund, Pflaum said.

However, buildings are only named for people after they’ve left the University, according to policy.

Keller is on academic leave, but is still a professor in the Humphrey Institute.

Laura Gurak, chairwoman of the All-University Honors Committee, said in an e-mail that Keller doesn’t have a building named after him because he’s still on the faculty.

Can’t buy me a name

While people may think buildings are only named for donors with heavy pocketbooks, only a small percentage of buildings are named for donors, Martha Douglas, a University of Minnesota Foundation spokeswoman, said.

“Buildings are named to honor people,” Douglas said. “People don’t buy names.”

Buildings named for donors include the Carlson School of Management, Weisman Art Museum and Pillsbury Hall. Douglas said donors pay roughly one-third of the cost to build it.

New and future names

The regents can also rename a building or revoke its name, according to policy. Pflaum said a few buildings have been renamed, including Riverbend Commons, renamed Yudof Hall to honor former University President Mark Yudof.

Hanson Hall, which will house the Carlson undergraduate program and is scheduled to open Sept. 25, honors alumnus Herbert Hanson, who donated $10 million to the Carlson school in 2004.

And some buildings aren’t named for people at all. The Science Classroom Building and the University Aquatic Center simply describe the facilities’ functions.

Parking ramps also aren’t named for people, although Pflaum said maybe they should be.

“Parking is so difficult,” she said. “It would guarantee (the honoree) a spot.”