What’s in a name? Universities debate cost of christening halls

Jacqui Becker

A common practice on university campuses is the naming of buildings after donors. The question being raised at the University of Iowa is how much that name should cost.

U of I administrators are working to set guidelines on how much it would cost donors to have a building, professorship or a whole school carry their names.

Alan Swanson, senior vice president for development services at the University of Iowa Foundation, said in an Associated Press article that administrators are considering whether donors wanting to endow a professorship will have to donate a minimum of $500,000. An endowed chair could require a $1.5 million donation, and a dean endowment could need a $2 million contribution.

ISU officials said it would be difficult for Iowa State to determine a consistent level. For example, last fall, Howe Hall was dedicated in memory of Stanley and Helen Howe, who presented $30 million to the development of the building.

“They were very supportive and active alumni, very successful in the field, and both him and his wife attended school here,” said John McCarroll, director of University Relations.

Murray Blackwelder, vice president for External Affairs, said sometimes engineers might be able to raise $1.5 to $2 million more easily than others.

“It really might hurt fund raising for chairs that don’t have as wealthy of alumni,” he said.

Currently, the Advisory Committee on Naming Buildings and Streets has the responsibility of recommending name possibilities to the president. The Advisory Committee is made up of a representative from each college, said Thomas Hill, vice president for Student Affairs, and Rabindra Mukerjea, chairman of the committee and assistant to the president.

Iowa State’s present criteria are to name buildings after distinguished individuals who have made extraordinary contributions of a scholarly, professional or public service nature related to the university’s mission. The guidelines also state buildings “may be named for a major donor to the construction of the building.”

Swanson said the U of I guidelines are often discussed and altered.

“Guidelines are always under discussion and thus are never completely or exactly set,” he said. “Flexibility will always be necessary in the gift-naming process.”

Swanson has been working with other U of I officials to acknowledge donors who contribute at high levels.

“The goal of overall consistency in this recognition process is to strive for fairness to those recognized,” he said.

ISU officials said flexibility is important in setting any guidelines.

“My opinion is we can’t have an iron-clad rule based on the fund-raising market for each individual college,” Blackwelder said.

He said Iowa State would be open to any suggestions on the naming process.

“We have some pretty good guidelines right now,” he said. “On the other hand, if someone thinks we need to review [the criteria], we would be happy to.”