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Update on Caltech's Renaming Process

November 08, 2021

To: The Caltech Community
From:  Thomas F. Rosenbaum
Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: November 8, 2021
Re: Update on Caltech's Renaming Process

The Caltech Board of Trustees, in accord with recommendations from the Committee on Naming and Recognition and the Ruddock House Renaming Committee, has approved new names for 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)

The Board previously authorized the renaming of the Linde + Robinson Laboratory as the Ronald and Maxine Linde Laboratory for Global Environmental Science.

These steps follow efforts to connect with at least one descendant, sometimes multiple descendants, of the donors impacted by the actions and to meet all legal obligations and requirements of the associated gift agreements. As I reported to the Caltech community earlier this year, on April 9, 2021, Caltech filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court petitions seeking to remove naming restrictions that were contained in gift agreements used to establish the assets or awards. On August 27, 2021, the court granted Caltech's petitions, allowing the Institute to proceed with renaming.

The name Caltech Hall, given to the most prominent building on campus, recognizes the generations (past, present, and future) of faculty, postdoctoral scholars, researchers, alumni, students, and staff who contribute to the Institute and to society.

Brief biographical sketches of Browne, Hufstedler, Lewis, and Venerable follow:

Lee Franke Browne was Caltech's director of secondary school relations for two decades beginning in the 1970s. He developed successful outreach programs that encouraged students from underrepresented backgrounds to consider careers in science. 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.

Shirley Mount Hufstedler was this country's first secretary of education, first female federal appellate judge, and a member of the Caltech Board of Trustees for 39 years. Through her role with the board, she 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, 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. Her contributions to improve Caltech's student life are recognized in perpetuity through the endowed Moore-Hufstedler Fund for Enhanced Quality of Student Life.

Edward B. Lewis (PhD '42), was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking studies of how genes regulate the development of specific regions of the body, work he conducted while still a graduate student. Lewis dedicated his academic career to Caltech, joining the faculty in 1946 and continuing to advance research on the genetics of Drosophila. Lewis collected and crossbred fruit fly mutants for decades 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 established for other animals.

Grant Delbert Venerable (BS '32) was the first Black student to graduate from Caltech, receiving his undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Over his lifetime, he worked as a mining engineer, and he owned and operated a hotel and 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, he 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, from 1929 to 1932, and served as president of Caltech's Cosmopolitan Club, which was formed to promote fellowship among students of different nationalities.

Together, these changes underscore our continuing commitment to cultivate a thriving, supportive, and inclusive community of scholars. The names of all assets will be updated online immediately, and the Institute 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.