Princeton University dedicates Morrison Hall in honor of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison

A portrait of Toni Morrison by Paul Wyse was hung in Morrison Hall last week.
Photo by Nick Donnoli, Princeton University Office of Communications

Princeton University dedicated Morrison Hall  in honor of author and professor Toni Morrison on Friday.

Morrison, the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993, came to Princeton in 1989 to teach literature and creative writing and became a professor emeritus in  2006.

The dedication of Morrison Hall was held in Chancellor Green following Morrison’s keynote address at the Princeton and Slavery Project Symposium.

Morrison Hall formerly was called West College. The building houses the office of the dean of the college and faces Cannon Green behind Nassau Hall.  Last year, the trustees at the university approved a recommendation to name one of the school’s most prominent buildings for Morrison after the Council of the Princeton University Committee on Naming sought suggestions from the university community on the naming of buildings or other spaces not already named for historical figures or donors to recognize individuals who would bring a more diverse presence to the campus.

“How fitting that the first building named through this process will now honor a teacher, an artist and a scholar who not only has graced our campus with the highest imaginable levels of achievement and distinction, but who has herself spoken eloquently about the significance of names on the Princeton campus,” Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said at the dedication. “Today Princeton revises itself — revises its plaques of stone and its maps both paper and electronic — so that Toni Morrison’s name becomes part of the lexicon through which students, faculty, staff and alumni navigate this campus, and thereby part of the evolving tapestry through which our community defines itself.”

Eisgruber said the dedication recognizes the impact Morrison has had on the university.

“Through these myriad contributions, and now through the name of Morrison Hall, Professor Morrison’s legacy will have enduring significance for all who walk our campus,” Eisgruber said. “Her name will matter here because names matter to how we understand history, and how we understand history matters to how we understand ourselves and our community.”

Speakers at the dedication included Morrison’s former student MacKenzie Bezos from the class of 1992, and former vice provost Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University. Simmons helped recruit Morrison to Princeton.

“This is a very, very special, beautiful occasion for me,” Morrison said at the dedication.