The two new residential colleges will be named for Anna Pauline Murray ’65 J.S.D., ’79 Hon. D.Div and Benjamin Franklin 1753 Hon. M.A., University President Peter Salovey announced Wednesday evening.
Murray, a woman of color, received degrees from Yale Law School in 1965 and the Divinity School in 1979. Salovey noted her achievements in law, civil rights and the advancement of women. Murray also co-founded the National Organization for Women.
“Pauli Murray represents the best of Yale: a preeminent intellectual inspired to lead and prepared to serve her community and her country,” Salovey wrote.
Franklin — a white male — never graduated from Yale, though he did receive an honorary degree in 1753. He founded the University of Pennsylvania and is perhaps best known for being a member of the Committee of Five, which drafted the Declaration of Independence.
A University press release referred to them both as “exemplary American leaders.”
The announcement comes after years of activism, with students calling for the two new colleges to be named after women and people of color. In a survey recently conducted by the News, 82 percent of roughly 1,700 respondents said a concerted effort should be made to name one or both of the new colleges after a woman or person of color.
Roughly 60 percent of students said neither of the two new colleges should be named for a white male, as Franklin College has been.
“All 12 existing colleges are named after white men — to name either of the new ones after a white man would be unthinkably absurd given the modern makeup of the student body and Yale’s supposed existence as a progressive institution,” one respondent wrote.
Salovey said that Charles Johnson ‘54 — who donated $250 million toward the construction of the two new residential colleges —  considers Franklin a “personal role model.” Johnson previously served as chairman of the mutual fund Franklin Resources, named after Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin was a slaveowner, Salovey said, though he grew opposed to the practice as time progressed.
“History also sheds light on Franklin’s past as both a slaveholder and an abolitionist. He owned slaves throughout much of his life, yet toward the end of his life became a leader in the emerging abolitionist movement,” Salovey explained.
Head of Silliman College Nicholas Christakis said he expects students to find the naming of Franklin College perplexing, as Franklin did not graduate from Yale. He added that if the University wanted to name a college after a revolutionary figure, avoiding slave owners would be nearly impossible.
Christakis added that he had hoped one of the colleges would be named after Grace Hopper, a navy rear admiral and scientist who earned a PHD from Yale in 1934.
“I was rooting for Hopper and was already debating whether a bunny or grasshopper would have been the totemic animal,” Christakis said.
The two new colleges will open in the fall of 2017.