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Transitioning From Calhoun to Hopper College, One Stained Glass Window At A Time

May 1, 2017

Yale University is making the transition from Calhoun College to Grace Murray Hopper College. Although the name change won't be official until July 1, changes are underway at the residential college, including a plan to replace a number of stained glass windows to better reflect the legacy of Grace Hopper.

John C. Calhoun was an 1804 graduate of Yale, and later a U.S. Senator and Vice President. He was also an unapologetic proponent of slavery.

After more than a year of complaints and protests, Yale University President Peter Salovey decided in February to rename Calhoun College. Even though it isn't official until the summer, the Yale community already uses the name Hopper College.

The original glass depicted a black slave in shackles kneeling before the pro-slavery statesman, John C. Calhoun.
Credit Jane Long / Yale Daily News

But throughout the facility, reminders of the former name live on -- most notably in the many stained glass windows adorning the building. Two of them bear the image of Calhoun. They were quickly replaced by a temporary amber window, but that was the easy part.

"The college has a ton of windows. I'm not sure if you've ever been in Calhoun -- now Hopper College -- but think Hogwart's," said Julia Adams, a professor of sociology at Yale, and Head of Hopper College, "In the dining hall itself there are quite a few windows that represent idealized version of antebellum Southern scenes, others are of flora and fauna and so on, so it's an open question what would happen to those."

One of those dining room windows depicted slaves working in a cotton field. That window was deliberately destroyed by Calhoun dining hall worker Corey Menafee last summer as a form of protest. Menafee was fired soon after the incident, but was reinstated last November.

For the rest of the windows, a 13-member committee has been established to find and commission an artist to replace the glass. Adams said it will be up to the artist to tell the history of the college through stained glass.

Grace Murray Hopper at the console of the UNIVAC I in 1960.
Credit Smithsonian Insitution

"It's bound to be somewhat unique because there's existing architectural features that artists probably would pay attention to," she said, "and there's also the distinctive history of the college now, which includes kind of the whole story of the transformation of the name, and of course, Grace Hopper's wonderful legacy."

Grace Murray Hopper earned her Ph.D. in mathematics at Yale in 1934. She was a pioneer in the field of computer science and a rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Hopper died in 1992.