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New names approved for James Madison University buildings

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 9:11 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - On Friday, the James Madison University Board of Visitors (BOV) approved the new names for three buildings located on the campus’ Quad, which were previously named for Confederate military leaders.

Last summer, the BOV unanimously voted to remove the names, but temporary names were assigned to give university leaders and the Campus History Committee ample time to gather input from the university and extended communities.

The three buildings will soon be renamed after Drs. Joanne V. and Alexander Gabbin, Dr. Sheary Darcus Johnson, Doris Harper Allen, and Robert Walker Lee.

Mountain Hall will be renamed Gabbin Hall in honor of Drs. Joanne V. and Alexander Gabbin, professors at JMU for more than 35 years.

Justice Studies Hall will be renamed Darcus Johnson Hall in honor of Dr. Sheary Darcus Johnson, the university’s first Black student and graduate.

Valley Hall will be renamed Harper Allen–Lee Hall, in honor of Doris Harper Allen and Robert Walker Lee, both dedicated staff members in dining services and maintenance respectively, as well as active members of the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County communities.

“Our community really came together and shared ideas and suggestions and educated one another, and brought out hidden figures from our own past and our own history that we wanted to shed light on going forward,” President Jonathan Alger said.

While Dr. “Joanne Gabbin heard her and her husband’s names were being considered, she said she was surprised, honored, and blessed to hear the official news earlier this week.

“With my name up there and my husband’s name up there, it’s a part of our legacy, so we will now, for a long, long time, be connected with the progress of James Madison University,” J. Gabbin said. “This makes me very happy.”

These buildings are now the first to be named after Black women on campus.

Once the ground unfreezes, President Alger said they plan to get those new signs up, and hopefully in the fall hold an event with the honorees and their families to celebrate this defining moment for the university.

For more information on the lives and work of the honorees, click here.

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