Princeton University names building for Mellody Hobson, replacing Woodrow Wilson

The school that Hobson graduated from will don her name when the new building opens later this decade

The residential college at Princeton University that was named for former President Woodrow Wilson will be rebuilt and renamed after Mellody Hobson, a Black businesswoman who is an alumna of and a major donor to the school.

In June, Princeton announced it would remove the name of the 28th U.S. president from the School of Public and International Affairs building, citing his racist thinking and his support for segregation as the reason. Wilson led Princeton in New Jersey for eight years and banned Black students from attending.

A Chicago native, Hobson is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a Black-owned investment company in Chicago. She graduated from the same school being named for her in 1991. It will be called Hobson College when it opens, which is slated for 2026.

Mellody Hobson (via Princeton University)

Along with the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, she gave an undisclosed donation to fund the reconstruction of the dorm. She is married to filmmaker George Lucas.

The move makes Hobson the first Black woman to have an Ivy League school’s residential college named for her. She hopes that other Black and brown students will view her name on the building as a reminder that they belong.

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In a phone interview, Hobson told the Washington Post she was a first generation college student when she enrolled at Princeton.

“When I was approached last year about this opportunity, I was most compelled by the symbolism of a Black woman replacing the name of someone who would have not supported my admission three decades ago,” Hobson said in a video on the university’s website announcing the donation.

Princeton, among the most selective colleges in the country, has reached gender parity, but continues to fall short on racial diversity in proportion to the make of the United States population. Of its roughly 5,300 undergraduate students in the 2019-2020 academic year, 9% were Black. Asians made up 25%, Hispanics were 12% and white students made up 44% of the pie.

Black people make up about 13% of the general population in the United States.

Hobson started as an intern at Ariel Investments in 1989 and rose to lead the company. The company, now the largest minority-run mutual fund firm in the country, was founded earlier that decade by the investor and philanthropist John Rogers.

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She currently serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase and on the leadership bodies of multiple foundations and nonprofit organizations, the university said in a statement.

Hobson, who graduated with a degree from the School of Public and International Affairs, formerly named for Woodrow Wilson, celebrates with classmates at Commencement. (Photo courtesy of Mellody Hobson)

The reconstruction of Hobson College is scheduled to begin in 2023 and is expected to open by fall 2026. The new dorm is one of three new freshman dorms being built to accommodate a planned expansion of Princeton’s student body.

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