April 11, 2009
As the debate continues to over what Mississippi University for Women eventually will call itself, one person, whose opinion might matter greatly down the road, has weighed in.
Mary Alice White, the niece of Pulitzer-prize winning writer Eudora Welty, said she would be happy to see MUW become Welty University.
White and her sister, Liz Thompson -- also Welty''s niece -- were willed control of Welty''s estate and copyrights after the author died in 2001. White is an employee of Mississippi Archives and History and is the director the Welty house in Jackson.
"We''ve always said it would be an honor and it is the university''s decision," she said. "Eudora did enjoy her days there."
Welty attended The W for two years in the 1920s. She left after her sophomore year and went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Columbia University.
Some opponents of the name Welty University have implied the writer detested her time at the school. White said this simply isn''t true.
"I don''t know where that opinion came from, but she absolutely enjoyed her time at The W," she said. "She left really to see more of the world, but she always had a good relationship with The W."
White''s assessment of her aunt''s time at the school is corroborated in the book "Early Escapades," by Patti Carr Black. In the book, Black recounts Welty''s life up until she became a well-known author. During her two years at MUW, Welty worked for the school paper, acted in several school plays and served as the fire drill captain of Hastings Hall.
During the presidency of Clyda Rent, Welty visited the campus a number of times.
In the end, however, White isn''t necessarily lobbying for any one name in particular.
"I want to do whatever is best for the school," she said. "I want the school to be successful, and would want the name -- whatever is chosen -- to be in the best interests of that goal."
Welty University is one of three names the school is test marketing. The other two are Reneau University and Waverley University.
The school previously had The Cirlot Agency marketing firm test the names Reneau University, Waverley University and Welty-Reneau University, with online polls and focus groups of high school seniors.
The MUW naming committee selected those three names out of more than 1,000 submitted proposals.
But after a March 24 presentation to the naming committee, MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert opted to have Welty University added to the roster of potential names. A significant number of study participants said that they did not like the hyphenated name Welty-Reneau. They preferred Welty University as a stand-alone name, representatives from The Cirlot Agency noted, suggesting the group consider the name Welty University.
Of the initial three finalist in the name search, Waverley University (43 percent) came out as a slight overall favorite over Reneau University (33 percent) and Welty-Reneau University (24 percent).
Recently, the local chapter of the NAACP has come out against two of the new names the Mississippi University for Women is considering.
In a letter written to Limbert, Lowndes County NAACP President Lavonne Harris came down hard against the names Reneau University and Waverley University.
"The names Reneau and Waverley are both derived from slave holding plantations in the Old South," the letter reads.
Whatever name is selected, it will be the fourth name for the historic university. MUW was founded as the Industrial Institute and College in 1884 and was the first state-supported college for women. In 1920, II&C became Mississippi State College for Women. And in 1974, MUW adopted its current name.
Ann commented at 4/11/2009 10:54:00 PM:
You might as well change the name of the school to "Limbert U" since this is all about HER, and what SHE wants for the W.
Some of the people on the panel for the name change does not like the name they want so does this not tell you anything? Does SHE not listen to the voice of the people?
No, it is about Limbert and what SHE wants!
Patricia commented at 4/11/2009 11:19:00 PM:
Just read in the Starkville Daily News (April 11) that the "Welty Collection" was donated to the library at MSU! For over 40 years, Hunter Cole who knew her well, collected Welty memorabilia that measures more than 35 linear feet, one of the largest in private hands.
Giveme Abreak commented at 4/12/2009 1:27:00 AM:
Nice to know Welty's nieces would be happy for MUW to be renamed for her - apparently it would be just fine if every state institution would bear a "Welty" label. Even as MUW's leadership and JACKSON (Welty's home town) ad agency are advocating Welty University as the anointed re-name, a major Welty collection is going to MSU! Give it up, Limbert! And give me a break!!
Coast Trash commented at 4/12/2009 9:27:00 AM:
Ann, you're an example of the bitter alums that want control. You must let people do their jobs. I won't come to your workplace to question yours in return. (if you do work at all)
I was not for Welty U at first. But, when you think about it from the perspective of honoring one of Mississippi's finest writers, it makes sense.
-from a family of three W alums
Mytwocents commented at 4/12/2009 9:56:00 AM:
The Cirlot Agency was contracted as a supposedly neutral group to test market names which did not include Welty, yet they came back and said whatever the school is named, it should include the name Welty. If they are indeed neutral, why should it matter to them what the name is. I think this clearly shows this agency is receiving directions from someone. We are told a significant number of voters wanted the name Welty. I have seen posts from a significant number of people who preferred Magnolia University or University of Northern Mississippi, but I don't see these added to the list. It seems that a number of people only want a new name that starts with W. If you're going to be that restricted, just leave the name as is, which is what over 60% of voters in the latest poll indicated they prefer. Also, I read that almost all high school seniors said the name should include the word Mississippi. That seemed to have no bearing, as well as anything that doesn't include the name Welty, a person who attended school here for 2 years over over 80 years ago.
wgrad68 commented at 4/12/2009 10:25:00 AM:
Coast Trash - I too think Limbert is making this all about her. It always has been. She is on a personal vendetta against the Alumnae Association because they called her out on her complete incompetence. Mind you that none of us knew this was happening until SHE chose to take the fight public by ousting the Alumnae Association and making her own hand-picked association who will do her bidding. I don't want to run her business. However, when the leader is so completely incompetent, they must be let go. The handwriting is on the wall - Limbert is a complete and total failure. She's cut the dem school, the print newspaper and athletics, among other things. Not only that, she's raped the Foudnation of all its money - hard-earned money given in good faith over a lot of years. The money is flowing out of there like a tsunami and she won't tell PEER why. If she has nothing to hide, she should have welcomed their inquiries. They can come look at my records any time - I don't have anything to fear. I don't want to do her job, but, apparently, she doesn't either. It's time for her to go before she succeeds in murdering the W.
Keep the name, fire the president.
Margaret Gardner commented at 4/12/2009 10:43:00 AM:
I live in Boston but husband's family from Columbus area so I have been follow this name change thing online. Our son ironically got a scholarship to Texas Women's University. The most tragic thing that compelled me to comment is the man's Welty Collection going to Miss State while this very public name change effort is ongoing for MUW to Welty U. I don't care about change. The world goes on. But this seems to be yet another public embarrassment for MUW's administration.
Coast Gem commented at 4/12/2009 1:23:00 PM:
The Gulf Coast W girls used to have a "reputation" as being from the "wild" part of the state, but I don't recall them embracing the moniker "trash" as Coast Trash apparently does. Not sure why it is relevant as to whether Ann works or not; she is entitled to her opinion and many "non-working" women I know make significant contributions to their communities, schools, the arts, charities, etc., in a very "business-like" way!
Why should we look at MUW's name as making sense by honoring one of Mississippi's finest writers? There are many W alums who have made important contributions - perhaps we should honor them. And of course, many women have helped advance this institution and the role of women in society.
The point Ann was making, as I understand it, is that Limbert formed a committee of busy WORKING people (for the most part!) and when the committee work output did not match Limbert's desired outcome, she cast the entire "participatory" farce aside and now insists on pursuing HER chose name. And that has been her "leadership" style from day one: my way or the highway! And that is NOT the preferred management style in higher education or any other entity.
Fred commented at 4/13/2009 11:13:00 AM:
Welty did not graduate from The W. Limbert just wants the recognition of the name being changed on her watch. Welty was certainly not the worst choice but it is a horrible choice.
@Coast Trash. Your post made no sense. You just wanted to bash someone. Perhaps you are the unemployed slacker.
W grad commented at 4/13/2009 1:20:00 PM:
Coast Trash's post made excellent sense to those of us who agree that it is the university president's job to run the university. The folks who are disgruntled are those that did not get their way. Some of them worked behind the scenes and tried to find ways to get rid of Dr. Limbert, including talking to the IHL president - and then they were so confused that Dr. Limbert didn't feel as though she could work with them...
Hmmmm commented at 4/13/2009 2:24:00 PM:
Sounds like W Grad is part of the group of alums who were handpicked by Limbert to be her own little alumni association - same group that, since the recent MS Supreme Court ruling, hasn't done jack! They are a little group of alums who had nothing to do with the school for years, got involved with the brouhaha when it began, and have blindly followed as Limbert's Lemmings for the last several years. A large group of W alums actually used their brains to determine that what Limbert was doing was way off course - these just wanted to lick the prez's feet!
Michael Rush commented at 4/13/2009 3:01:00 PM:
Can't make everyone happy, years from now no one will care if Welty was a man or a women, armed with a quality education, the name will look good on a diploma for the business world looking to hire quality graduates and not controversy and bitterness.
saywhat? commented at 4/13/2009 3:50:00 PM:
@ Michael Rush:
Who care NOW if Welty was a man or a woman? Graduates of MUW NOW are armed with a quality education. The business world only looks at a NAME on a diploma to determine if you are a quality graduate??!! Your reasoning does not hold water.
Mytwocents commented at 4/13/2009 11:00:00 PM:
A few last (I hope) comments on this silly Welty debate. How could anyone be so frivolous as to name one of our fine universities this name when there are so many reasons against it. A post above says "Hunter Cole who knew her well, collected Welty memorabilia for over 40 years". This gentleman who KNEW HER WELL had no idea she had such a close connection to MUW as to have the whole cotton pickin' school named for her. Not knowing, he simply gave the collection to MSU!! Of course, her niece said OK to the name change. How many people wouldn't want a school named after their aunt? Finally, as posted before, all other state universities include the word State or Mississippi. This one should, too.
c/o 90 commented at 4/14/2009 1:12:00 PM:
For what it matters, Liza Cirlot-Looser, CEO of The Cirlot Agency is a grad of The W (BFA 1976-80), and, as such, definitely has a stake in its success. In that regard, though, she was hired by Dr. Limbert and is subject to her boss's wishes and direction. Cirlot can only give recommendations, and then will do whatever her client dictates.
IF "W" must be in the name, and a notable writer, why not "Mississippi Williams University" at least Tennessee Williams chose to live in Columbus! MWU - with, of course, Ody Owl being replaced by a cow and a new battle cry to match!(MWUoooooooooooooooooo!)
The "buzz" when we were at The "W" (20 years ago)was that Welty was a real rebel who definitely detested the school and its strict rules that were in force when she was there. We thought it SO ironic that Rent brought her back for the writer symposiums and the named a hall for her - now the whole university?
IF it must be named after a person, find someone who actually completed their education at the university (whatever its name at the time!) and/or made great contributions to it and the world as well! There were/are great professors who gave their lives to the pursuit of higher education and love for this school and its students such as Dr. Mary Evelyn Stringer, Dr. Harvey Craft, Dr. Dave Evans . . . and I know there are more out there!
I do agree that the "Woman" should come out as the demographics of the students has changed, but, I believe "Mississippi" and "University" should remain as a part of its prestige.
Mark S commented at 4/14/2009 3:00:00 PM:
I believe that the entire point of changing the university's name is to attract more students. As a male '92 graduate of the university, I could have cared less what the name was as long as I got a good education and it was affordable. The easiest way to increase the number of students is to actually offer degrees that people want and they will be beating a path to the admissions office.
Why not expand and offer a degree in pharmacy, physical and occupational therapy, offer more 2 year degrees in respiratory therapy, radiology tech, etc.
Stop offering useless degrees in philosophy and literature. Lets offer something that Mississippi State doesn't and that you can only get at Ole Miss. Stop the duplication with educatio, history, geography degress, Expand the culinary program. Look at Johnson Wales University in Providence, RI as and example of what a culinary program can do for a university!
Just stop worrying about a name change!
Wgirl2007 commented at 4/14/2009 4:39:00 PM:
Mark S.: As a W grad with a BA in English, let me assure you that my degree is not "useless." It certainly helps me write a fully-punctuated, correctly-spelled response to your rather snotty comment. The W has an excellent English faculty -- one of the best in the state, in fact -- and the degree is far from worthless.
Also: the W does not offer a degree in philosophy (it barely offers enough classes for a minor), nor does it offer a degree in geography. Get your facts straight.
That being said, I fully agree with you that there are more important priorities for the university than wasting time and money searching for a name that will likely (hopefully) not be approved by the legislature.
Megan Morgan commented at 4/14/2009 6:07:00 PM:
Mark S, degrees in philosophy and literature are not "useless." As someone who graduated with an honors degree in English from MUW and is currently a) running her own freelance writing business and b) in a top-tier graduate program, I can assure you that the linguisti, critical thinking, and reasoning skills I learned throughout my degree program were far from useless - in fact, they are the lynchpin of my successes.
These humanities degrees are *precisely* what MSU does not offer - the W is well-known for its liberal arts education, and to strip the university of such programs would only weaken its marketability further. Rather than declaring that "nobody wants" them - and with the current teacher shortage in our country, I can assure you, people want and need those degrees - why not emphasize the fact that we've got them and nobody else has? I can guarantee you a B.A. in English from Ole Miss or MSU will NOT be the same experience, nor will it be as valuable in teaching core reasoning and thinking skills. It's time we got over the patriarchal, sexist assumption that the humanities, because they are commonly associated with women, are somehow valueless or "useless."
Har-Har commented at 4/15/2009 11:03:00 AM:
Freelance Writing Business = Unemployed and Broke
I am sure it took you a few minutes to find a way to squeeze the word "lynchpin" in your response. Although "linchpin" is the correct english spelling of that word, "Lynchpin" is known as a variant of "linchpin"
I am glad to see that your English degree has put you in a different class than the other 1 1/2 million new college grads with a degree in English. (If you can't detect my sarcasm, it means there isn't a high demand for your field.)
As for Humanities degrees at MSU, you can get a B.A. Philosophy.
MarkS commented at 4/15/2009 11:09:00 AM:
I should clarify that when I say a degree in Philosphy, I mean a major, while it may be a "degree" in fine arts, its still a major in philosphy, the same as a Bachelors in Business Administration from MSU with a major in marketing, or management.
There are few jobs out there for people with a "major" in philosphy.
D.Matt commented at 4/17/2009 11:00:00 AM:
Leave the name alone!
Let the W go out of business. 7 so-called Major Colleges & universities are better for Mississippi anyways. Welty's collection is going to state, she didn't graduate from MUW, and her name didn't make the final cut? Only two things smell like fish & one of them is fish.
Mandy commented at 7/26/2009 6:46:00 PM:
since i'm not certain if there is even an advanced culinary program anywhere in mississippi, i think the idea of working toward making that program a top priority in a college around here seems pretty good. just look at how many chef/cooking shows are on television these days and how many restaurants there are out there. i know msu's wine lab is top notch, and there catering department nothing to sneeze at, but i don't know of any actual major involved in becoming a culinary expert.
Tara F12 commented at 8/5/2009 2:36:00 PM:
MarkS, thanks for the heads up that as a woman only two classes away from graduating with a B.A. in English from the W, I won't be able to find a job. Has your friend tried looking or is he willing to settle for flipping burgers?
Megan Morgan, I thank you for being an example for all of us future graduates with a B.A. in English. I'd like to think that whatever I decide to do with mine, it's not set in stone that I would *have* to teach in order to be considered a "success".
Megan Morgan commented at 8/9/2009 3:43:00 PM:
TaraF12, you're welcome. I think one of the reasons that the W and its liberal arts degrees are undervalued is because people equate income with success. No, I'm not making as much money as, say, a pharmacist, but I am happy, able to support myself financially, and make what I believe to be a small difference in the world - and that is successful, in my book. The people who would like to get rid of degrees in "unprofitable" fields like literature, philosophy, etc., are typically people who can only estimate their worth in terms of dollars. To me, that is the ultimate sadness, and one I am glad my degree in English from the W helped me avoid.
And for the record, yes, you may not always be able to find a job *teaching* philosophy, but there are plenty of fields that are interested in people with the critical thinking skills obtained in such a degree: PR, publishing, government work, etc. You'd be surprised.
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