New halls have extraordinary namesakes

Hannah Baker

Hannah BakerNews Editor

After an exhaustive search and much consideration, the Jackrabbit Village halls have been named after three exemplary alumni.

When it comes to the Jackrabbit Village, students no longer have to guess what’s behind doors A, B or C. Finally, names for the new halls have been chosen and will no longer be referred to as a letter name.

In a letter to President David Chicoine on July 19, Provost Laurie Nichols asked that the halls be called Velva Lu Spencer Hall, Josef Thorne Hall and Cleveland Abbott Hall. Each name honors a significant person from SDSU’s history. Chicoine accepted the request on July 20 for the matter to be discussed at the Board of Regents meeting on Oct. 14, where all names were recently approved.

According to the letter, Velva Lu Spencer attended SDSU where she received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Sociology. From 1988 to 2003, Spencer served as SDSU’s first American Indian adviser. Her success with retention and graduation of American Indian students was outstanding not only at SDSU, but in the region as well.

Josef Thorne attended SDSU and was a fullback on SDSU’s NCC champion football teams under Coach Ralph Ginn. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1962 but decided to join the army instead as a second lieutenant where he became a helicopter pilot. While in Vietnam, his helicopter crashed when enemy soldiers from the ground fired at it. He was the first South Dakotan to die in Vietnam. For his efforts and accomplishments, Thorne has been hailed as one of South Dakota’s heroes.

Cleveland Abbott was SDSU’s first black varsity athlete. While enrolled, he earned 14 letters. He was a World War II veteran and his most noted accomplishment was serving on the 1946 U.S. Olympic Committee. He coached the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. The football stadium at Tuskegee is also named in his honor where he coached football and served as athletic director until his death in 1955.

Doug Wermedal, assistant vice president of student affairs, said that choosing the names was taken into careful consideration. E-mails were sent to students, faculty, alumni and others to gather ideas for nominees. The suggestions went through a series of considerations and were eventually sent to the Board of Regents for final approval.

Wermedal said each residence hall is now named after “really remarkable people”.

“When Cleveland Abbott attended SDSU, integration hadn’t even started yet, so for the fact that SDSU integrated in 1916 shows a really unique piece of history,” he said. “Velva Lu was quiet but incredibly deep with her advocacy for student success … Josef Thorne did an incredible service to his country when he went and served in Vietnam after declining to play for the Green Bay Packers.”

Students on campus are responding well to the new residence hall names.

“Having a residence hall at SDSU named after Velva Lu Spencer would be a huge honor seeing her work was so prominent for American Indian students,” said Hope Johnson, junior sociology major.

Kyle Harris, a business major and the kicker on the SDSU football team, said it’s great Josef Thorne was selected as a person to name a residence hall after.

“To quit a sport you love … to go oversees and fight for your country is huge and takes a lot of guts and courage,” Harris said. “He’s a hero for what he did, and I think it’s a huge honor to his family and also to SDSU that one of our buildings is named after him.”

When it was announced to the families that their loved ones were going to be honored, Wermedal said “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house”.

“Josef Thorne’s father said knowing that his son would be honored was the best day of his life,” he said.

#1.1717756:3251342487.png:New-Dorms-2-Color-Ryan-Robinson.png:The official names of the Jackrabbit Village Complex residence halls will be Velva Lu Spencer Hall, Josef Thorne Hall and Cleveland Abbott Hall.:Collegian Photo by Ryan Robinson