Renowned professor Celia Dial Saxon is being honored with the renaming of a residence hall after her, following a unanimous vote by the board of trustees at the University of South Carolina to name the upperclassmen dormitory after the distinguished educator.
Saxon, who taught in Columbia, South Carolina, for over five decades, was described as “one of the university’s most remarkable alumni, a woman whose impact and reputation stretched across the nation” by interim president Harris Pastides in a recent statement on the school’s website announcing the news.
“Our university rightly honors her by naming this building for her. Not only was she a true education pioneer, but she embodied the spirit of equality and justice through her life’s work,” Pastides added. An official unveiling and presentation of the residence hall reserved for nearly 300 upperclassmen at the public research university is set to occur sometime in the near future.
The hall is located at 700 Lincoln Street in Columbia, adjacent to Columbia’s historic Ward One District, where the Celia Dial Saxon Elementary School, formerly Blossom Street School, was located until its closure in 1968.
This marks the first time an on-campus university building has been named after a Black person, WLTX reported.
Saxon, then Celia Emma Dial, was born in 1857 to a slave mother and a white man. She was one of the first Black students during Reconstruction to attend the former South Carolina College. The Wilkinson Orphanage of Negro Children co-founder began her teaching career at Columbia’s Howard School and continued to work in the field for the next 57 years.
She eventually married Thomas A. Saxon, dean of Allen University’s law school, in 1890 and welcomed two children. In 1926, Saxon received an honorary Master of Arts degree from the State Agricultural and Mechanical College at Orangeburg. Saxon was highly active in the National Women’s Club Movement and the founder of the Fairworld Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Lexington County.
“Celia Dial Saxon’s life stands as a testament to perseverance, compassion, hard work, and a commitment to excellence,” said Alex English, co-chair of the History Commission Implementation Group that considered candidates for whom to name the residence hall.
“Her legacy bestows honor and dignity to our campus. It’s only fitting that, as a distinguished alumna of our state’s largest university, her name be memorialized here,” English added.
On Jan. 29, 1935, Saxon died at 77 after suffering a heart attack while grading papers at her home in Columbia.
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