MARIETTA - Marietta College's Board of Trustees has approved naming a new residence hall, which will open in August, after a local family that included the college's first African-American graduate.
Harrison Hall, which is being constructed at the corner of Seventh and Putnam streets, will honor Charles Sumner Harrison, John Langston Harrison and Walter Clifton Harrison.
"I cannot know what it must have been like for the Harrison brothers to attend Marietta College in the late 1800s or what obstacles they may have faced," says Jean A. Scott, Marietta's president. "What I do know is that their desire to get an education and to contribute to the well-being of society continues to inspire us all. Theirs is a significant story in the long history and tradition of educating people with diverse backgrounds at Marietta College."
Charles Sumner, who was the first African-American to graduate from Marietta in 1876, is the best known of the Harrison brothers to attend the college. He earned a bachelor of philosophy degree and went on to earn a doctorate in medicine from Howard University in 1895. The Charles Sumner Harrison Organization, which was organized to promote unity and understanding among all of the college's students and faculty was named for him.
After digging a little deeper into the history of Charles Sumner, the college also learned he had two brothers who had also earned bachelor of philosophy degrees. So the trustees wanted to honor the entire family for their achievements at Marietta, but also for their contributions in the fields of medicine, education and engineering.
John Langston, a writer and an educator, graduated from Marietta in 1887, while Walter Clifton, an electrical engineer and amateur naturalist, graduated in 1891.
"We are proud to recognize and honor the Harrison family for their perseverance, determination and love of learning," Scott says. "It is appropriate that the college can announce the naming of this building for an African-American family that played such an integral role in the history of Marietta College during Black History Month."
Senior LaTisha Taylor of East Cleveland, Ohio, president of the Charles Sumner Harrison Organization, says she is ready to talk to friends and family about the naming.
"As an organization we are very excited. We heard this news through the grapevine and we have been wanting to tell everyone we know about it," she says. "We feel this is a huge step by Marietta College in recognizing the importance of diversity on campus. We've had some concerns in the past, but this really shows us the administration is listening to the students."
The trustees approved the construction of the $24 million, 105,000-square-foot complex that will include the Dr. J. Michael Harding Health and Wellness Center, a dining area and some apartment-style units for 364 students back in October 2010. Miles-McClellan Construction began the project in May 2011.
Harrison Hall, which was designed by the Design Group in Columbus, Ohio, will be a combination of apartments, single and double rooms. Residents of two single rooms will share a full bathroom, as will residents of two double rooms.
The building will replace Parsons Hall, which will be razed after construction is completed. Parsons opened in the fall of 1961 and is named for President Edward S. Parsons (1919-36). This is Marietta College's first residence hall construction since McCoy Hall was completed in the fall of 2001. The college also renovated Fayerweather Hall in the fall of 2005.
The college will conduct two open houses for students on March 25 and April 1. The community will get its first look during an open house sometime in August.