August 27, 2019
It is a privilege to have the opportunity to name a building on the University of Oregon campus. The honor of naming the UO’s new Black Cultural Center (BCC) becomes even more significant knowing that it will be a place dedicated to student success and transformation, cultural understanding and historical education, and a source of inspiration for many generations to come.
It is with this in mind that it is my great honor to recommend that the new UO Black Cultural Center bear the name of Lyllye Reynolds-Parker—a Eugene native, member of one of Eugene’s first Black families, civil rights activist, and UO alumna who worked as an academic advisor at the UO for 17 years. Reynolds-Parker has been an inspiration to countless students who sought her support and counsel while at the university. She overcame oppression, achieved her own success, and went on to champion Black student empowerment, community, and justice at the University of Oregon. She embodies our aspirations for what the BCC will be for our campus and community.
I make this recommendation following a robust process of input and research conducted by a university committee of students, faculty members, and staff. The Black Cultural Center Naming Committee sought and received 21 nominations made by campus and community members. The criteria sought an individual who has:
- made significant contributions in service, support, or honor to the University of Oregon or to the State of Oregon;
- an extraordinary record of leadership and commitment to advancing justice and equity for Black people in Oregon;
- demonstrated evidence of overcoming oppression and discrimination;
- strongly advocated for the pursuit of knowledge and advancement of higher education;
- worked in support of an inclusive and equitable University of Oregon campus;
- created work that has led to achievements of extraordinary and lasting distinction; and
- helped Black students and/or community members achieve success in higher education and the pursuit of careers.
After research and review of the nominations the committee recommended two finalists for consideration: Derrick Bell and Lyllye Reynolds-Parker. Frankly, it would be an honor for the BCC to bear the name of either of these outstanding people. I am incredibly thankful to the committee for selecting two exemplary individuals who both personify the kind of academic exploration, community building, and personal transformation that will take place in the BCC.
However, after seeking public input, reviewing the recommendation, and receiving nearly 500 comments from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, Reynolds-Parker emerged as the clear choice. While this was not a vote, one cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority—84 percent of the people who provided comment—favored naming the BCC for Reynolds-Parker. This was consistent across all types of respondents. This consensus, along with my own independent judgment, makes me confident that I am recommending to you the right person for this important honor.
The theme that emerged from the committee and the comments was how inspirational it would be to see the BCC named for a woman who had provided such direct and concrete guidance, support, and service to students, her community, and state. They asserted that naming this center for a woman with deep roots in Eugene and at the UO, who had such an immediate and direct impact on student success and the Black student experience, would be very fitting. I agree.
The university’s normal practice is to name buildings as part of an extraordinary gift to the university or for people who are no longer living. However, given Reynolds-Parker’s exceptional service and tangible connection to student success and racial justice, I recommend the UO Board of Trustees depart from this practice.
I am inspired by Lyllye Reynolds-Parker and her legacy. It would be a great honor to recognize her contributions by naming the Black Cultural Center for her.