August 11, 2009 10:23:00 AM
Two people received standing ovations at MUW''s convocation Monday morning, both of them well deserved: Sallie Reneau and Claudia Limbert.
Most know by now that Reneau is the 19th century activist, who was instrumental in the creation of the school that became Mississippi University for Women. Reneau''s life was one of public service, both in her advocacy of education for women and her efforts as a nurse. She died in 1878 while tending victims of a yellow fever epidemic.
Reneau University is the name Limbert put forth Monday for consideration by the board of the state Institutions of Higher Learning and then the Legislature. We think it''s the perfect choice and hope it sails through to acceptance.
The MUW president deserves praise for her leadership during the 22-month-long name change process that has involved literally thousands of people and hundreds of meetings. Throughout that undertaking -- maybe ordeal is a more accurate word -- Limbert has endured all manner of criticism for all manner of transgressions, real and imagined: She was going to ram Welty U. through; committee members were hand-picked according to their ideology; the new name was solely her choice.
Hogwash. Through a protracted and exacting process, the names Waverley, Welty and Reneau bubbled to the surface. Though she attended The W for two years in the 1920s, Welty''s connections to the school were tenuous. When her family vetoed the idea of using the Welty name, Waverley and Reneau remained. Other than beginning with the letter "W," Waverley has no relevance for the school. The choice seemed obvious.
Support for change has snowballed as more have come to realize name change is a matter of survival for MUW. That message was repeated like a mantra by Monday''s convocation speakers.
4-County CEO and MUW alumna Allegra Brigham noted that 97 percent of college age women would not consider attending a women''s school. By keeping "for Women" The W is limiting itself to a pool of 3 percent of college-bound female high school students; no doubt the percentage of males who would consider a women''s college is even less.
Times change and times have changed for MUW. In a conversation after Monday''s event IHL Board President Scott Ross offered a dire forecast: "It''s a fight now, but If we don''t do something, 10 years from now there''ll be nothing to fight over."
Limbert has recognized this and to her credit, she has undertaken what her predecessors were unwilling to do. As IHL Commissioner Hank Bounds said Monday, "Dr. Limbert, I appreciate your courage, your campus'' courage."
So do we. And let us hope the Legislature when asked to vote on name change for MUW will find the same courage Limbert has shown.