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University to rededicate Furman Hall, unveil new plaque

The Furman bell tower
Furman University

Furman University will rededicate Furman Hall and unveil a new plaque providing context for its name change during a campus ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 4 p.m. at the Furman Mall-side entrance to the building.

The plaque will acknowledge that while James C. Furman, the university’s first president and the son of its namesake, worked to build and save the university in difficult times following the Civil War, he was also a vocal proponent of slavery and secession.

The building’s new name, which removes “James C.,” was unanimously approved by the Furman University Board of Trustees this past May, based on one of the recommendations from the “Seeking Abraham” report. The name and plaque honor the entire Furman family, celebrating and noting “the diverse community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends who study, work and gather” on the campus.

Speakers at the event will include President Elizabeth Davis, Board Chair Alec Taylor ’75, Chief Diversity Officer Michael Jennings and Distinguished University Public Historian and Scholar Courtney Tollison ’99. Students, faculty, staff and members of the community are invited to attend.

“Changing the name of one of our signature buildings is an important step toward including and recognizing the entire Furman family and all who have contributed to the history and success of our great university,” President Davis said. “I hope everyone will join us as we mark this special day in Furman history.”

The name change was one of many recommendations of the Task Force on Slavery and Justice and the Board’s Special Committee. Trustees also approved changing the name of Lakeside Housing to the Clark Murphy Housing Complex. A plaque describing that name change, for a beloved long-time custodian at Greenville Woman’s College, which later merged with Furman, is being installed at the front entrance of Judson Hall.

At the Furman Hall rededication, Alex Sealey ’21, one of Tollison’s students, will describe a project she is leading that will further illustrate inside Judson Hall the contributions made by Murphy and others.

Last month, hundreds of people gathered in front of the James B. Duke Library and walked to Daniel Memorial Chapel to celebrate Joseph Vaughn Day, another Seeking Abraham recommendation, in honor of the university’s first African American student. The university is commissioning a sculpture of Vaughn and plans to break ground later this year on a place of reflection and celebration, where the statue will be placed.

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