Yale University recently announced that Calhoun College, named after Yale graduate John C. Calhoun, a fierce defender of slavery throughout his lifetime, will be renamed for the fall 2017 semester. The University intends to rename the college in honor of Yale graduate Grace Murray Hopper, an American computer scientist, mathematician, professor, and United States Navy rear admiral.
The decision comes off the heels of a reexamination of Calhoun’s legacy and its conflict with Yale’s values. “It is now clear to me, too, that the name of Calhoun College must change. Yale has changed magnificently over the past 300 years and will continue to evolve long after our time; today we have the opportunity to move the university forward in a way that reinforces our mission and core values,” said Peter Salovey, Yale University’s President.
As a Senator and later as Vice President, John C. Calhoun defended white supremacist views. After broad community outrage and suggestions from alumni, faculty, students, and staff, Hopper’s name was most recommended as the new namesake for the college. Students returning this fall saw signs bearing the name of Grace Hopper College.
Hopper graduated from Yale University with her master’s degree in mathematics in 1930 and received her PhD from Yale in 1934, also in mathematics. Hopper was a professor at Vassar College before enlisting in the United States Navy, serving in the Navy Reserve during World War II. However, her biggest contribution was in software. She is known to have developed the first word-based computer language, COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language), which allowed for programming using English words. Her contribution in the software field made computers easier to use and more accessible to people. Hopper was awarded Yale’s Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, the National Medal of Technology, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her great impact in computer science and her service to her country.
Media Sources: Yale News 2/11/17, Washington Post 2/12/17, The Atlantic 10/5/2015