Trustees honor ‘trailblazers’ Matthews and Holloway with residence hall naming

Published: February 05, 2021
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Two residence halls in the Village will bear the names of two Black women considered “trailblazers” at Auburn University.

Eagle Hall will be renamed in honor of Josetta Brittain Matthews, and Tiger Hall will be renamed in honor of Bessie Mae Holloway. Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt, co-chairs of the Board of Trustees Task Force, made the announcement during the Auburn Board of Trustees’ Feb. 5 meeting.

Matthews was the first Black student to graduate from Auburn, earning a master’s degree in 1966 and a doctorate in 1975, both in education. She was also the first Black faculty member at the university, joining the College of Liberal Arts as a French and history instructor around 1972.

Holloway was the first Black person to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees and only the second woman, serving from 1985-2000. Huntley, who said she knew Holloway when she was a student at Auburn, called Holloway “truly a students’ trustee” as her focus was on all students.

Huntley said Holloway’s commitment likely derived from her profession as an educator. Holloway spent more than 25 years as a teacher and instructional specialist in the Mobile County Public School System.

Huntley, the second Black woman to serve as an Auburn trustee, said she is proud to continue Holloway’s legacy.

Pratt asked Trustee Sarah Newton, a former educator, to talk about Matthews, who had a distinguished career as an educator at various institutions, including Auburn. Newton said it was fitting to rename Eagle Hall for Matthews as the residence hall houses Auburn’s Honors College students.

Auburn awarded Matthews an honorary doctoral degree in education in 2005. She passed away in 2019. Her daughter, Heidi B. Wright, is following in her footsteps. She became an Auburn alumna in 2020 and currently teaches special education on the Plains.

Last fall, when the Auburn Alumni Association Board of Directors created the Dr. Josetta Brittain Matthews Memorial Endowed Scholarship, Wright said her mother not only made history, she also loved it. The scholarship is intended to support Auburn’s goal of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion among its student body.

In her report of the Alumni Committee, Huntley said the Alumni Association will be seeking support for the scholarship on Tiger Giving Day, scheduled for Feb. 24.

The Trustee Task Force recommended last year that the Student Center be renamed in honor of Harold D. Melton, Auburn’s first Black Student Government president and chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. The official name change in November made the Melton Student Center the first building at Auburn named for an African American.

Also at its February meeting, trustees awarded final approval for a planned project to create a 233,400-square-foot Football Performance Center. Slated to enhance the performance and well-being of Auburn football players, the new center could be open as early as July 2022.

Auburn Athletics sought the development of a complex that would provide the football team with the essential capabilities and resources needed to successfully compete within the Southeastern Conference and with national peer programs.

Plans call for the facility to feature a 138,100-square-foot football operations building, a 95,300-square-foot indoor practice facility and two full-sized, natural turf practice fields, as well as a weight room, players’ locker room, sports medicine and nutrition areas, team meeting rooms, football administration space, equipment and laundry. The estimated project cost of $91.9 million is to be financed by university bonds with the debt service to be paid by Auburn Athletics.

The center will be built on the site of the old Hutsell Track, which is approximately 12.5 acres and is surrounded by West Samford Avenue, Biggio Drive and Wire Road. Goodwyn Mills Cawood of Atlanta was previously selected as project architect.

Once building construction is completed, football-related staff would relocate from the Athletics Complex. The vacated space in the complex might be used to relocate Athletics Department functions currently in the Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum.

In other matters, the board:

  • Granted final approval to a project renovating space in Goodwin Hall to create a multipurpose recording studio. C. Paul Butler III Architects LLC of Montgomery was previously selected as project architect. The estimated project cost is $1.3 million.

  • Selected Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham to serve as architect for a project to renovate the Hood McPherson Building in Birmingham. The project will provide academic and administrative space in Birmingham for university functions, as well as a base for the Urban Studio within the College of Architecture, Design and Construction.

  • Selected INOX Design Inc., of Marietta, Georgia, to serve as architect for a project to renovate parts of Lowder Hall to create two new finance laboratories.

  • Initiated a project to renovate a building, previously leased to the Alabama Department of Public Health, on the Auburn University at Montgomery campus to create a new science lab facility. The project will be financed with Public School and College Authority funds and AUM general funds.

  • Authorized the use of a duly licensed real estate broker to market and solicit offers for three separate parcels of land in Montgomery. Two parcels are located adjacent to the Hyundai plant with a 1.15-acre site on Hyundai Boulevard and a 5.59-acre site on U.S. Highway 331. The third parcel is a 22-acre commercial development site on U.S. Highway 80.

  • Closed the Master of Science in agricultural leadership degree program, offered jointly between the Colleges of Education and Agriculture.

  • Set the schedule for 2021-22 board meetings: Sept. 10 and Nov. 12, 2021, and Feb. 4 at AUM, April 22 and June 17, 2022, for the annual meeting.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.