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University to rename Ruffner Hall to honor Walter Ridley, first Black University student to earn doctoral degree

The Board has not yet decided whether to remove Curry as the namesake of the school of education

Ridley is a renowned Southern educator and Howard University graduate.
Ridley is a renowned Southern educator and Howard University graduate.

The Board of Visitors voted unanimously Thursday to rename Ruffner Hall in honor of Walter Ridley, the first Black student to earn a doctoral degree from the University. 

The decision comes just a month after a special subcommittee tasked with examining the lives of William H. Ruffner and J.L.M. Curry — the current namesakes of the Ruffner Hall and the Curry School of Education and Human Development — recommended the change. The group’s recommendation was the latest step in the process launched in the fall of 2018 by Curry School Dean Robert C. Pianta. 

Ridley, who completed his doctorate at the University in 1953, is a renowned Southern educator and Howard University graduate. He matriculated into the University after seeking admission for several years. A scholarship fund was founded in his name in 1987, after the University’s first Black Alumni Weekend, to fund the educations of incoming and current African American students. 

In a joint statement to the University, Ridley’s grandchildren — Alyssa, Carl and Mark Scheunemann — commended the University for its decision. 

“Dr. and Mrs. Ridley would have been delighted, as would their daughter, Yolanda Ridley Scheunemann, and their son, Don Ridley,” they said. “Although the thinking on this change predates the current moment of civil unrest around issues of discrimination against African Americans, the timing of this announcement could not be more appropriate.”

The Board has not yet voted on the other half of the committee’s recommendation — removing Curry as the namesake from the school of education — due to the compressed nature of the meeting. They will address the proposal at a later date.


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