The University of Maine administration will rename Little Hall after Beryl Warner Williams. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees voted Monday to name a lecture hall after the school’s first Black mathematics graduate.

The building will be known as Beryl Warner Williams Hall, and replaces the name of a eugenics advocate and spokesperson for the tobacco industry that had previously been the hall’s title.

Beryl Warner Williams Credit: Courtesy of University of Maine

The decision comes after University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy recommended that Williams’ name be adopted, after forming a task force last summer to decide on how to rename the building.

Williams, a Bangor native who dedicated her life to education, attended UMaine in the 1930s. She was the first Black person to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the university in 1935. She went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics from UMaine in 1940.

Williams went on to pursue a number of civic engagements, and was involved in the NAACP, the American Red Cross and the American Association of University Women.

She became known for her time at Baltimore’s historically Black Morgan State University, where she became the first woman to be appointed Dean for the Center of Continuing Education in 1970.

She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Pedagogy from UMaine in 1972.

The hall that will bear Willliams’ name was previously known as Clarence C. Little Hall, named after Clarence Cook Little.

Little was president of UMaine from 1922 to 1925. He once served as president of the American Eugenics Society, and held a stance that denied the link between cancer and cigarettes while he was the scientific director of a tobacco industry trade group.

The UMS Board voted to remove Little’s name from the building in September after facing pressure from students, but did not agree on a name at that time.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.