By Eve Morin
Joe, Arthur, Bob, Sally, Jess, Molly. Our names define us. What would people call you if you didn’t have a name? And what would you do if someone walked up to you with a large sum of money and told you that it could be all yours, as long as you change your name? Most people would never consider it, but does the same principle hold true for buildings?
Over the summer, a man named Lawrence Herbert donated millions of dollars to the Hofstra community. As a token of the university’s appreciation, the school of communication was stripped of its original title, Dempster Hall, and renamed to honor the Pantone Matching System inventor and Hofstra alumnus. Newly titled the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, the building stands where it always has, only, now with an identity crisis. A name serves as a title and an identification, even if just for a building. Students should still be able to walk by Dempster and see it titled as such.
According to a news item on the university website, President Stuart Rabinowitz draws parallels between the leaps and bounds that Herbert achieved in the world of communication and the name change to Hofstra’s school of communication: “It is only fitting that the school bears the name of a man who literally created a new language and in doing so, profoundly changed the way we communicate.”
Herbert’s accomplishments do serve as goals for which communication should strive, and there is no doubt that Herbert should have a legacy on this campus. But the school of communication already had a name.
The cleverly titled New Academic Building, also known as NAB, is decidedly no longer new. Had Herbert’s name replaced that building, two birds would have been killed with only one stone. Herbert’s legacy would have been forever inscribed on campus, and NAB would have an arguably less arbitrary title. In addition, the New Academic Building does play host to some communications classes, so acknowledging Herbert’s accomplishments on that building would not have been entirely in vain.
If the university had a nostalgic attachment to the name of the New Academic Building, there could have been alternative ways to acknowledge Herbert. They could have had an artist build a statue in his honor. A life-sized Lawrence Hebert could have fit in wonderfully next to the statue of Socrates in front of Hauser Hall, or in an open location near where Dempster used to be. An annual day on campus to honor Herbert could have been a possibility as well. Free ice cream could have been served, and the students could take the time to recognize the many wonderful things Hebert has done for the world of communications, and the university. An addition for Herbert, whether physical or annual, could have been a wonderful way to acknowledge him, and would not have been invasive to the life already present on campus.
Clearly, Lawrence Herbert came along with more money than Dempster, but should that decide the name of the building? Would Hebert have even been honored on campus had he not donated a large sum of money? His achievements in communication went unnoticed to the university until he walked in with the money. Regardless, the changes were made, but they went a step too far. Dempster was already titled Dempster, and the New Academic Building, for all intents and purposes, remains unnamed. Regardless of any sentimental value that resided in the name Dempster, all the signs have already been switched, and Mr. Herbert received his legacy at the place where he began his successes. But in place of Dempster Hall the unfortunate reality still stands: The Lawrence Herbert School of Communication Building.