MUW’s new name rests with Limbert

COLUMBUS – After months of talking and market research, Mississippi University for Women’s new name lies squarely at the feet of its president, Dr. Claudia Limbert.

And Welty University, suggested to honor famed MUW former student and author Eudora Welty, is no longer among the choices being considered.

Thursday, the last public session by a group named the Leadership Committee discussed and compiled the pros and cons of names culled by a Naming Committee with input from professional marketing research.

Limbert will now choose from among the suggested names and take her selection to the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning and the Legislature, which will have the final authority.

“The name Welty University will not be among the names to consider,” Limbert said to the five-member group representing faculty, staff, students and alumni.

She explained that when marketing research was done on Welty U, prospective students apparently weren’t impressed enough to put it into the mix.

The name was not chosen by the Name Committee several months ago, chiefly because some members said they discovered an underlying resentment because Welty left the W for the University of Wisconsin after two years in Columbus.

Possible names

On the table for discussion Thursday were:

- Reneau University – for Sally Reneau, an early advocate for women’s higher education in Mississippi.

- Waverley University – from a Walter Scott novel about change.

- Callaway University – referencing the campus’ landmark belltower.

- Hastings-Peyton University – names of two of the three university founders.

- Magnolia State University or Magnolia University.

- Mississippi University of Columbus or University of Columbus – referencing the school’s home city.

- University of North Mississippi and other directional names.

Committee members are Dr. Eddie Betcher, a Columbus physician and chairman of the MUW Foundation; Dr. Pat Ainsworth of Brandon, Alumni Association president; Cathy Young, Faculty Senate president; Robin Holliman, Staff Council president; and Christian Ewing of Columbus, student government representative.

For more than 21⁄2 hours, they considered names that could easily get the Legislature’s approval, names with cache’ like an Ivy League school and names that look good on T-shirts.

“We’ll pay a small price with whatever name we choose,” said Holliman about Limbert’s ultimate decision.

The committee saw advantages and disadvantages to each choice.

Important to the decision, Betcher noted, is what kind of name is going to appeal to the kind of student the new-named university wants to recruit.

Considering Limbert’s choice to take to the Legislature, Betcher added, “We don’t want to make it something that’s going to be difficult.”

Reneau and Waverley have gained public criticism about connotations to the Old South and slave-holding plantations.

Back in March, Waverley University was the top choice in a three-tiered marketing study for the new name.

Last fall, Limbert said the school needed a new name to reflect its new mission and future for women and men. That decision immediately drew fire from unhappy alums.

Limbert appointed three dozen faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members to a Naming Committee. It gathered more than 1,000 suggested names and whittled the nominations down to three in January: Waverly U, Reneau U and Welty-Reneau U.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Pasty R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal