Princeton Renames Center to Honor Former African American Dean
The name of Princeton University’s Third World Center is being changed to more accurately reflect its mission. Last month, the university’s trustees approved a recommendation to change the name to the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding, effective July 1. The name honors Fields, a former Princeton dean who was the first African American to hold such a high-ranking post at an Ivy League school.
Kathleen Deignan, dean of undergraduate students, noted that the center’s name change was initiated by students who serve on its governance board, and that she supported the recommendation along with Heddye Ducree, director of the center.
Over the past year and a half, the board has explored the name change and solicited feedback from students and alumni. Members have discussed the action in various forums, sent e-mail to interested parties and published an opinion piece in the Daily Princetonian.
“Essentially, the board believes that the new name will help encourage a more inclusive membership and, consequently, a more robust, diverse program,” Deignan says.
The new name is intended to focus on the mission of the center, which was established in 1971 to provide a social, cultural and political environment that reflects the needs and concerns of students of color at the university.
“In light of Dr. Fields’ commitment and sustained support of the efforts of the Third World Center and other campus programs, this is a most fitting tribute,” Ducree says. “Dr. Fields’ name provides a significant link to the past and the struggles of Princeton’s minority students. It is with great pride and respect that we remember the courage and sacrifices of alumni who gave unselfishly of themselves to ensure a place and space for students of color.”
Fields came to Princeton in 1964 as assistant director of student aid and, in 1968, was promoted to assistant dean of the college. He pioneered policies and practices aimed at increasing the enrollment and retention of African American and other minority students. He left the university in 1971 to serve as the planning officer at the University of Zambia under a Ford Foundation Fellowship. He later was the principal partner and founder of the African Technical Educational Consultant Service, the administrative officer of Riverside Church in New York City and the associate director of the Bishop Tutu Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund. He died in 1998.
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