Two Stanford University buildings that have for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra will be renamed to honor two alumnae: Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, a psychologist credited with creating the field of Native American mental health.
Stanford announced the new names on Wednesday, joining school districts and universities across the country who have decided to rename buildings who honored men with controversial legacies. Serra, the 18th-century founder of the California mission system, played a critical role in the development of modern California but his name is also associated with violence against Native Americans, including forced labor, forced living arrangements and corporal punishment.
The university board of trustees voted in September to rename the street that carries the university's official address and these two buildings, but to retain Serra Street. The university is preparing an application to Santa Clara County to rename Serra Mall as Jane Stanford Way in honor of Stanford's co-founder. (Junipero Serra Boulevard, a county road that runs along the southwest side of campus, is not under the university's purview so was not part of the renaming deliberations.)
Effective immediately, Serra House, which houses the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, is being renamed Carolyn Lewis Attneave House, and the Serra House in the Stern Hall undergraduate residence complex will become the Sally Ride House.
In an announcement, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said the two women serve as "powerful examples" for the campus community.
"With this step we recognize, in a lasting, visible fashion, two exceptional members of the Stanford family," Tessier-Lavigne said. "Carolyn Attneave and Sally Ride took their talents and commitments far beyond Stanford and, in Sally's case, literally around and beyond the globe, and explored new ways of learning about our society and making it better."
The names were recommended by two campus groups appointed by the vice provost for student affairs and the dean of humanities and sciences, the administrators responsible for the two buildings. The groups sought name recommendations and feedback from the broader campus community, Stanford said.
Ride, who died in 2012, was a physicist, athlete, writer and educator. In 1983, she became the first American woman in space, flying aboard the space shuttle Challenger. She also was a member of the committee that investigated the Challenger's explosion in 1986.
Tessier-Lavigne opened his first commencement address in 2017 with her story. Ride held two undergraduate degrees, in English and physics, and two graduate degrees in physics from Stanford.
After retiring from NASA in 1987, Ride was for two years a science fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control. She went on to teach physics at the University of California, San Diego, and wrote science books for young people with her life partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, according to Stanford. With O'Shaughnessy and three friends, she founded Sally Ride Science, a UC San Diego nonprofit that aims to inspire young people, particularly girls and minorities, in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and to promote STEM literacy.
Ride was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
Attneave was born in El Paso, Texas, to mixed Lenni-Lenape and Scandinavian heritage. When she started her psychology career in the 1950s, Native American mental health was "virtually nonexistent," wrote the committee that recommended her name. She provided mental health services to American Indian tribes as the coordinator of community guidance services for the Oklahoma State Department of Health and founded the organizations now known as the Society of Indian Psychologists and North American Indian Center of Boston.
She earned two Stanford education degrees, a master's in 1947 and doctorate in 1952. As a doctoral student, she studied the educational needs of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II and the counseling needs of African-American communities in Philadelphia, Stanford said in its announcement.
Attneave went on to teach at the Boston University School of Medicine and the University of Washington, worked with the Harvard School of Public Health and conducted research at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She died in 1992.
Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement, said Stanford plans to create plaques and displays to further educate the campus about the two women's legacies. The displays will include not only information about their careers but also "the harmful impacts of the mission system on Native Americans that inspired the university's decision to rename the structures," the university's announcement states.
"Beyond that, we also want to use this as an opportunity to have ongoing conversations about the contributions that Native Americans have made to Stanford and to honor the history of Native Americans on Stanford lands, which are the homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone people," Tiews said.
Stanford also plans to "develop other materials to tell a fuller story of Stanford's history," including highlighting Jane Stanford's contributions to the university and "a discussion of Serra's multifaceted legacy as the founder of the California mission system."
Last year, the Palo Alto school board voted to rename two middle schools after Frank S. Greene, Jr., an African-American technologist, and Ellen Fletcher, a Holocaust survivor known for her decades of civic leadership in Palo Alto. The schools had previously honored David Starr Jordan and Lewis Terman, each with strong connections to Stanford, who were criticized for their advocacy of eugenics.