Courtesy of CHRON.

 

The University of Maryland in College Park will name two new residence halls for former students who helped diversify the campus in the 19th and 20th centuries, officials announced Monday.

Whittle-Johnson Hall will honor Hiram Whittle, the first African American man to be admitted to the university, in 1951, and Elaine Johnson Coates, who in 1959 became the first African American woman to graduate with an undergraduate degree.

Another building, Pyon-Chen Hall, will pay tribute to Pyon Su and Chunjen Constant Chen. Pyon served as a diplomat in Korea before moving to the United States, where he became the first Korean student to receive a degree from the Maryland Agricultural College - now the University of Maryland - or any American institution, in 1891, the university said. In 1915, Chen became the first Chinese student to enroll at the college.

Both residence halls are scheduled to open during the 2021-2022 school year and will house 900 first- and second-year students, officials said.

Whittle, Johnson Coates, Pyon and Chen exemplify the "determination to succeed against all odds," said Darryll Pines, the university's president. When Whittle enrolled as an engineering major, the campus was still racially segregated.

Now Whittle will have a building emblazoned with his name. On Monday, he called the distinction an honor.

"My hope is that my story will continue to inspire the campus community to move forward and follow their dreams," Whittle said in a statement.

Johnson Coates attended the university on a full scholarship to earn an education degree and, along with Whittle, received an honorary degree from U-Md. this spring.

"I'm thankful to the university for honoring me, for letting me know that my journey mattered, and now letting my journey become my legacy," she said in a statement.

Pyon died after being struck by a train in 1891, and Chen died in 1978, according to university archives.

Pines first unveiled plans to name residence halls for Whittle, Johnson Coates, Pyon and Chen when he took office in July. The announcement was one of several initiatives designed to make the campus more inclusive.

"All four of these pioneers contributed to the rich diversity and culture that defines our campus today," Pines said in a statement.

The new residence halls will be the first dorms to be named for individuals since 1914, officials said. Dorms on the College Park campus are named for Maryland counties, except for Calvert Hall, named for the school's founder, Charles Benedict Calvert.

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