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Princeton building once named for Woodrow Wilson to be named after Black alum Mellody Hobson

Princeton University is naming a residential college for alumna and major donor Mellody Hobson, the first Black woman to have that honor in the school's history. Hobson College will be built on a site once named for former President Woodrow Wilson, the school announced Thursday.

Princeton announced in June that it would remove Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs and one of its residential colleges, citing his "racist thinking and policies." 

Hobson, a successful businesswoman and former CBS News contributor, was honored after making a generous donation to her alma mater. She said she's proud to help erase Wilson's racist legacy.

"I was most compelled by the symbolism of a Black woman replacing the name of someone who would not have supported my admission three decades ago, and what that would represent for future generations," she said.

Mellody Hobson CBS News

Hobson, who graduated from Princeton in 1991, said she wants all students who enter the new building to feel like they belong there.

"My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and Brown and the 'firsts' in their families — that they too belong," she said.

Hobson, the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, serves as chair of the board of trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust. She also serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. She was previously the director of Estée Lauder and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG.

She and her husband, George Lucas, were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019.

The university said it plans to begin work on Hobson College in 2023. The building is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2026.

"Mellody Hobson is a wonderful role model for our students, and we are thrilled that her name will now grace our newest residential college,"  said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

Princeton's Board of Trustees had considered removing Wilson's name after student activists protested in 2015, but the Wilson Legacy Review Committee had determined not to remove the name in 2016. Eisgruber said the board reconsidered that decision in June "as the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America."

Wilson attended Princeton and served as the school's 13th president.

Princeton drops Woodrow Wilson's name 11:18
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