Caltech: Caltech Approves New Names for Campus Assets and Honors

The Caltech Board of Trustees, in accord with recommendations from President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Committee on Naming and Recognition (CNR), and the Ruddock House Renaming Committee, has approved the following names to replace those on campus assets and honors that previously memorialized individuals affiliated with the eugenics movement:

Caltech Hall (formerly the Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library)
The Lee F. Browne Dining Hall (formerly the Harry Chandler Dining Hall)
The Judge Shirley Hufstedler Professorship (formerly the Robert A. Millikan Professorship)
The Edward B. Lewis Professorships of Biology (formerly the Albert Billings Ruddock Professorships of Biology)
Grant D. Venerable House (formerly Ruddock House)
In a message to the community on Monday, November 8, Rosenbaum, holder of the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics, said that the changes “underscore our continuing commitment to cultivate a thriving, supportive, and inclusive community of scholars.”

This move follows the previously authorized renaming of what was the Linde + Robinson Laboratory as the Ronald and Maxine Linde Laboratory for Global Environmental Science. It also comes after the completion of a series of legal and procedural steps. This included efforts by Institute leadership to connect with at least one descendant, sometimes multiple descendants, of the donors who were previously memorialized through established gift agreements and actions taken in the courts of California to remove any such naming requirements. On April 9, 2021, Caltech filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court petitions seeking to remove naming restrictions and, on August 27, 2021, the court granted Caltech’s petitions, allowing the Institute to proceed with renaming.

The new names reflect the recommendations put forth by the Committee on Naming and Recognition in its December 2020 report as well as with the more recently convened Ruddock House Renaming Committee, which was established to advise on renaming the undergraduate residence. All assets that will carry the name of a new individual honor someone who both reflects the Institute’s values and aspirations and had a direct connection to and impact on the Caltech community.

Information on the new names and the individuals they honor follows:

The name Caltech Hall, given to the most prominent building on campus, recognizes “generations (past, present, and future) of faculty, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, alumni, students, and staff who contribute to the Institute and to society,” the president explained in his message. This designation was recommended by the CNR in its report and described as “a manner of signaling Caltech’s aspiration to be an inclusive community.”
The Lee F. Browne Dining Hall is named for Lee Franke Browne, a longtime educator who worked to address disparities within the country’s educational systems. Browne was Caltech’s director of secondary school relations for two decades beginning in the 1970s. During that time, he developed successful outreach programs that “encouraged students from underrepresented backgrounds to consider careers in science,” Rosenbaum wrote. “He also cultivated relationships with high school counselors at hundreds of schools throughout the region, an effort that has been credited with helping to improve graduation rates among underrepresented students at Caltech.”

After his graduation from West Virginia State College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology, Browne spent most of his career in education.

In a 1999 Caltech Oral History interview, Browne said, “That was one of the reasons I took the job at Caltech. I believed that anybody who wanted to do science and mathematics and engineering … should be able to go wherever they wanted to go to school.”
The Judge Shirley Hufstedler Professorship is named in honor of Shirley Mount Hufstedler, the country’s first cabinet-level secretary of education (as appointed by President Jimmy Carter), first female federal appellate judge, and a member of the Caltech Board of Trustees for 39 years. Through her role with the board, Judge Hufstedler supported Caltech’s environmental science program, served on an ad hoc board committee that examined the Institute’s future, and was chair of the Board’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Committee, effectively advocating for JPL’s missions and programs.

“In her broader service to Caltech,” Rosenbaum said, “she encouraged the Institute to vigorously pursue its efforts to diversify the Caltech community by welcoming talented women and helped to advise the Institute on childcare, women’s issues, student life, and ethics and public policy.”

Judge Hufstedler’s contributions to improve Caltech’s student life are recognized in perpetuity through the endowed Moore-Hufstedler Fund for Enhanced Quality of Student Life.
The Edward B. Lewis Professorships of Biology are named in honor of Caltech alumnus and longtime faculty member Edward B. Lewis (PhD ’42), who was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking studies of how genes regulate the development of specific regions of the body. Lewis dedicated his academic career to Caltech, joining the faculty in 1946; he was appointed the Thomas Hunt Morgan Professor of Biology in 1966. Over decades, he collected and crossbred fruit fly mutants to identify the genes that control the development of each fly segment. His studies demonstrated that control genes were lined up on the chromosome in the exact order that the segments appear in the fly’s body, a principle that subsequently has been proven in other animals.

In the 1950s, Lewis studied the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation in cancer induction and found that the health effects of radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons explosions, such as the ones carried out in Japan and on testing sites within the United States, had been underestimated by federal regulatory agencies.
The Grant D. Venerable House is named in honor of Grant Delbert Venerable (BS ’32), the first Black student to graduate from Caltech. Venerable received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering and went on to work as a mining engineer and to own and operate a hotel and an eraser manufacturing company. Venerable’s name was advanced for consideration by the Ruddock House Renaming Committee, which noted in its recommendation that he “led a life that embodies the values and character of the house.” While studying at Caltech, Venerable was a member of the YMCA (now the Caltech Y), the American Society of Engineers, the track team, and the Exhibit Day committee. He also wrote for The California Tech, Caltech’s student newspaper, from 1929 to 1932, and served as president of Caltech’s Cosmopolitan Club, which was formed to promote fellowship among students of different nationalities.

The Venerable family established a book fund in 1989 in memory of Grant Venerable—who was of African, Cherokee, and Scottish descent—and his wife, Naomi, that is intended for books that “bear upon the human condition, especially of African American and Native American cultures, and which bear upon the impact of modern technology on the human condition.”
The Institute is updating the names of all relevant assets online, and, as Rosenbaum noted to the community, will commence the process to replace all physical building signage while at the same time “continuing to record Caltech’s history in all its dimensions and tell its story fully.”

“I am grateful to the many members of the Caltech community who have come together to exchange ideas, deliberate about Caltech’s past, and seek a future that reflects our highest ideals,” Rosenbaum said.

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