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The People Behind the Names of Mansfield University's Buildings

“Who 50 years from now will be the Straughns and Steadmans? Who will add something to the university that will be talked about 50 years from now?” - Mansfield University President Rodney C. Kelchner to the freshman class Sept. 5, 1985

One of the highest honors that a school can bestow upon an individual, or in two cases at Mansfield a family, is to name a building, room, or field in their honor. Such an action by the council of trustees signifies an appreciation of that person’s contributions to the campus and wider community. It also serves as a permanent and public tribute that person.

Prior to the 1960s, only one building bore the name of a person. Straughn Hall was constructed in 1931 while Professor William R. Straughn was president of Mansfield State Teachers College.

In 1964, the trustees of Mansfield State College took suggestions from a committee on naming buildings. Initially, the plan was to name all of the buildings at the same time. The exceptions were North Hall and South Hall as those two names have become traditions at Mansfield.

According to the minutes of the May 9 meeting of the trustees, the Committee for Naming College Buildings previously sent out questionnaires and members of the committee personally spoke to a number of students, faculty, and alumni. They discovered that their project would take much longer than expected and they should not move too swiftly.

However, a list of 17 names was submitted for the consideration of the trustees. Of those original names, 10 have since been attached to buildings on campus. The first four dedications were the Karl VanNorman Field, Belknap Hall, Allen Hall, and Retan Center. In addition, botanical names were suggested for the dormitories.

As of 2009, there are 14 buildings, three rooms, six fields and a track bearing the names of individuals and families who made significant contributions to the institution throughout Mansfield University's history. In addition, there is one building that used to carry a person’s name. Every one of those people directly or indirectly contributed to the shaping of this fine institution.

These families and individuals came from a variety of backgrounds. Simon B. Elliott was one of the founders of the institution. John Doane came from a family of doctors. Herbert Grant escaped from a life in the local coal mines by attending Mansfield Normal School. Helen Lutes served as a faculty member for several decades and later donated many thousands of dollars to youth and university athletics.

The one common theme, though, is a sincere dedication to the prosperity of the institution. In fact, this campus has held five different names: Mansfield Classical Seminary (1857-1862), Mansfield State Normal School (1962-1927), Mansfield State Teachers College (1927-1960); Mansfield State College (1960-1983); and Mansfield University (1983-to present). No matter the era, though, there have always been and hopefully always will be people like Rod Kelchner, Grace Steadman, and Will George Butler working toward the betterment of this institution.

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