COLUMBUS – New research is planned on the name Welty University as a possible choice to replace Mississippi University for Women.
The name would honor famed Mississippi writer Eudora Welty, who attended the Columbus university from 1925 to 1927 when it was known as Mississippi College for Women.
She transferred to the University of Wisconsin after two years.
Welty U was not among the finalists for a new name from a committee appointed last fall by MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert, but recent statewide marketing showed strong interest for its consideration.
“The information gathered in the original opinion survey is invaluable and will be carefully considered,” Limbert said in a news release Wednesday. “As we look to the university’s future, we know that doing this right is more important than doing this quickly.”
The name change has been controversial. Some alumnae, who already were unhappy with Limbert for other changes, have voiced heated opposition to a new name.
Bridget Smith Ellis, a 2004 graduate from Memphis, is among them.
A name change “would be a devastating blow to the school’s legacy and history,” she said. “The name means so much to so many people. To change the name is to erase everything the school and the students who have graduated stood for.”
However, Limbert insists the name, which includes “Women,” is holding back the four-year university from serving all students and building its mission and enrollment. Men were admitted in 1982.
After months of meetings and calls for name suggestions, the Naming Committee agreed on three finalists: Waverley University, Reneau University and Welty-Reneau University.
Waverley is from a Sir Walter Scott novel about change, and Reneau honors Sally Reneau of Grenada, a 19th century advocate for women’s education.
However, committee member Dr. James Ward objected to those names because, he said in a letter to Limbert, Reneau’s family owned slaves and Waverley brings up connotations of Waverly Plantation near West Point, where slaves also were held.
Recent marketing research by The Cirlot Agency of Jackson, which compared the three finalists’ names, shows a 43 percent preference for Waverley, compared to 33 percent for Reneau and 24 percent for Welty-Reneau.
Cirlot also reported a significant number of participants’ preference for Welty over Welty-Reneau.
After the Cirlot presentation, several Naming Committee members suggested that Welty should be research as a standalone name.
Ultimately, Limbert and a campus leadership group will choose a name to recommend to the state Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees all the state’s public universities.
Then, IHL will seek the Legislature’s permission to change MUW’s name.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal