A committee of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees will consider renaming a lecture hall on the Orono campus that for more than half a century has borne the name of a former university president who also was a proponent of eugenics.

Clarence Cook Little was president of the University of Maine from April 1922 until August 1925. Little Hall, dedicated in 1965, was named for him. Contributed photo

The Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee of the system’s board of trustees will consider on May 5 a proposal to rename Clarence C. Little Hall for Beryl Warner Williams, a Bangor native who held two degrees from the University of Maine and was affiliated with the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women and the American Red Cross.

Little was UMaine’s president from 1922 to 1925 and later founded The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, which became a renowned genetics research facility. While at UMaine, he was credited with increasing the size and prestige of the university, securing funding for a large lecture hall and Memorial Gym and Field House, and for instituting a week of freshman orientation at a time when that practice was rare.

But Little’s legacy has become controversial because of his support for eugenics, which called for controlled human breeding and separation of the races. Little also supported restrictions on immigration and was a spokesman for the tobacco industry.

That controversy over his past led the University of Michigan to remove his name from a science building at that university three years ago. Little was president of the University of Michigan for four years after his tenure in Maine.

Last year, Jackson Lab removed Little’s name from a conference center in Bar Harbor because of his past.


At the time Michigan made its decision, UMaine said it had no plans to review the naming of the lecture hall in Orono. But that was just a couple of weeks after Joan Ferrini-Mundy was named University of Maine president and now she is proposing the name change for the hall.

At the May 5 meeting, the committee also will be asked to approve a temporary move for the University of Maine School of Law and the staff of the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center to 300 Fore St. in Portland.

The building housing the law school and the staff at 246 Deering Ave. is nearly 50 years old and considered functionally obsolete. A recent $240 million grant to the university system from the Harold Alfond Foundation authorized a challenge grant of up to $40 million for a new building that would house the graduate and professional center and law school on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

A bond proposal before the Legislature includes $20 million to help support the building project along with the removal of the current law school building.

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