How did my dorm get its name?

Many buildings at University of Michigan are named after figures from the university’s past. These former professors, administrators, and students played important roles on campus and represented U-M throughout the world. Recent controversies over the names of campus buildings demonstrate how important naming can be to our sense of community. By placing someone’s name on a building,  we honor them and offer them as an example of who we’d like to be.

What do we know about the names of U-M’s residence halls? Many students recognize names like Alice Lloyd or Mary Markley but don’t know who these people were. The “houses,” or floors, of each residence hall have their own names, as familiar (and often as mysterious) as the names of the halls. This research project explores names associated with four residence halls: Alice Lloyd, Mary Markley, Bursley, and Baits. Who were these people? Why did the university choose to honor them in the naming of dorms?

Living in U-M residence communities means Living in History:

being surrounded by reminders of figures from the university’s past, and of the people who first committed their names to memory.

Read more about the names.

Read more about the buildings.


Women’s names for women’s dorms

Residence halls are some of the only buildings on campus that are named for women. For that reason, this project focuses specifically on women’s names, even though some of the halls examined here also contain houses named for men. Focusing on women brings deserved recognition to remarkable people who might otherwise go unrecognized: doctors, teachers, and social leaders, many of whom worked to expand women’s access to the university. It also sheds light on the values of administrators in the mid-twentieth century, when a growing number of women students made it necessary to build and name these dorms. While the 17 women studied here only represent a portion of the identities and experiences of students on the U-M campus today, their names offer a valuable first step in meeting administrators’ goal: to welcome and inspire the residents of these halls.

Collegiate Sorosis 1894-1895

Katharine Coman

Students at Henderson House

Sarah Spencer Brown Smith

Alice Freeman Palmer

Alice Hamilton

Amanda Sanford Hickey

Bertha Van Hoosen

Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck

Mary Hinsdale

Mary Butler Markley

Orma Fitch Butler

Image Credit:

“Couzens Hall, Nurses Home,” Postcard Collection.