Reflecting on our namesakes
We value diversity, equity and inclusion in all of its complexity and richness. We strive to make purposeful and meaningful efforts to live this value every day.
The Curry School of Education and Human Development has a mission to recognize and work to realize the potential of all individuals. The work of the school is inherently multidisciplinary and aspires to impact a broad range of stakeholders through teaching, research, and public service with partners locally and around the world.
Several years ago, the school engaged in a process of inquiry and strategic thinking focused on its aims and aspirations in the coming decades. Part of that effort involved inquiry into the school’s name, specifically whether the legacies of our namesakes were consistent with our mission to promote human development, for all individuals, across a broad array of settings, experiences and backgrounds. As one step in this process, at the start of 2017, the school initiated an exploratory historical study concerning the namesake of the school, Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, given his role in advancing public education in the South and also as a defender of slavery prior to the Civil War. That process resulted in a report on Mr. Curry’s background that was shared with the faculty in April 2017.
As another part of that process, the school explored alternatives to broadening the scope of its title beyond “education.” In August 2018, as part of this larger effort in strategic planning, the school expanded its name to include “and Human Development” as a reflection of its broader and integrative interdisciplinary mission to foster the successful development of all individuals.
At that time, the school also returned to a more thorough examination of its namesake, Mr. Curry and that of one of its buildings, Mr. Ruffner. This multi-year consideration of the school’s mission, strategies, and name led to a decision to assess the extent to which the honorific names it used for the past 50-100 years, specifically Curry and Ruffner, reflected this mission and aspirations for the future.
Who and How We Memorialize
On November 19, 2018, consistent with the University of Virginia Policy on Names, Dean Pianta announced plans for a review of two of the namesakes associated with the school: Jabez L. M. Curry and William H. Ruffner. Dean Pianta charged an Ad Hoc Committee on Naming, representing a broad array of the school’s stakeholders, to conduct due diligence to inform any further considerations or recommendations he might make to the University. The results of the ad hoc committee’s year-long efforts were published in November 2019 at http://community.village.virginia.edu/howwememorialize/. The website includes information about these namesakes as well as a description of guiding principles and process conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee on Naming.
Community Engagement and Reflections
Curry School faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and friends were invited to review the materials published on the Who and How We Memorialize website and provide their reflections on the information, submitting more than 350 statements. Open comment sessions were also hosted on-Grounds for the Curry School community.
Following this process of diligence and reflection and consistent with the University of Virginia Policy on Names, in late March 2020 Dean Pianta submitted his recommendation to the University of Virginia Committee on Names for their independent review and separate process of diligence to inform any recommendations they might make to the University President. Pianta recommended that the school name become “The University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development” and that Ruffner Hall be renamed as “Ridley Hall” in honor of Walter N. Ridley. A final decision on any recommendations is made by the Board of Visitors. Dean Pianta’s submission packet included an Executive Summary and supporting materials for the committee’s review. A link to the Executive Summary is below:
- Executive Summary (pdf)
The University Committee on Names established a special subcommittee to augment the Curry School’s findings. A link to the subcommittee’s report and recommendations is below:
The University Committee on Names endorsed the subcommittee’s proposal, and with President Jim Ryan’s support, the recommendation moves forward to the Board of Visitors for formal consideration. The Board of Visitors has final authority on the decision.
Decision on Ruffner Hall
On Thursday, June 4, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors approved a recommendation by the Rector that Ruffner Hall be renamed in honor or Walter N. Ridley. Dr. Ridley was the first African-American to receive an academic doctoral degree from a traditional Southern white college or university. Dr. Walter Ridley earned the doctorate of education degree from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education in 1953 and went on to serve as president of Elizabeth City State College, the America Teachers Association, and the National Association of Black Educators in Colleges and Universities.