The University of Virginia Board of Visitors has tabled a discussion about renaming Alderman Library in honor of former UVa President Edgar F. Shannon until the Board’s February/March meeting.
John Nau, chair of the Buildings & Grounds Committee, told the full board Thursday that he had spoken to “every member of the board” about the measure but “there’s still work to address this issue.”
There was no discussion, and a presentation of the renaming proposal included in the board information packet was skipped.
Alderman was UVa’s first president, appointed after the job of running the university had proven too complex for the Board of Visitors alone. Serving from 1904 to 1931, he extended UVa’s outreach to a broader population, updated teaching methods, and admitted women to graduate programs at UVa despite resistance from faculty and alumni. Under his leadership, UVa entered a growth phase, growing enrollment dramatically, expanding the number of faculty, building the endowment, and increasing its budget more than ten-fold. Alderman has been criticized in recent years for his retrograde views on race and his embrace of the then-progressive enthusiasm for eugenics.
The timing of the renaming is meant to coincide with the reopening of Alderman Library after extensive renovations. In its backgrounder on the renaming of the library, the Ryan administration omitted criticism of the former president in favor of playing up Shannon’s role from 1959 to 1974 in navigating integration, the Vietnam War, and coeducation.
“Under President Shannon’s leadership,” says the briefing book, “the University developed the character and values it still embraces today as we strive to be both great and good.”
In a concession to traditionalists, the administration’s PowerPoint presentation (page 6) said the university would continue to honor Alderman’s legacy by retaining the existing dedication plaques in the main entrance of the
building and rename this portion of the building, now known as Memorial Hall, Alderman Hall.