Stanford renames buildings for Sally Ride and Carolyn Lewis Attneave

Based on a process that relied on suggestions and research from the university community, the former Serra undergraduate dormitory and Serra House academic building will now honor two graduates who became world leaders in their fields.

Stanford is honoring two distinguished alumnae – Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, an internationally renowned scholar and psychologist who was instrumental in creating the field of Native American mental health – by renaming two campus buildings currently named for Father Junipero Serra.

Effective immediately, Serra House, home to the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, is being renamed Carolyn Lewis Attneave House, and the Serra House in the Stern Hall undergraduate residence complex is becoming Sally Ride House.

The new names honor two scholars who studied at Stanford and went on to make profound contributions as world leaders in their fields.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell approved recommendations for the new names from two campus groups, which were appointed by the vice provost for student affairs and the dean of humanities and sciences, who are the campus leaders responsible for the respective buildings.

The renamings follow a decision last year by the Board of Trustees to accept a recommendation to rename some, but not all, campus features previously named for Serra. In addition to Sally Ride House and Carolyn Lewis Attneave House, the university is seeking to rename Serra Mall, which runs along the front of the Main Quad, as Jane Stanford Way in honor of the university’s co-founder. However, Serra Street, which begins at the eastern end of Serra Mall and runs from there to El Camino Real, will retain its current name.

“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. They serve as powerful examples for all of us at Stanford today. We are grateful to the students and committee members for the rigorous, deliberate discussions that led to these outstanding recommendations.”

Sally Ride

Sally Ride portrait

Sally Ride (Image credit: Courtesy NASA)

In recommending Ride’s name for the dorm, students emphasized her four Stanford degrees and career as a “professor, researcher, investigator, advisor, entrepreneur [and] author.” Ride, who died in 2012, was a physicist, athlete, science writer and leader in science education, and was best known for her historic flight aboard the space shuttle Challenger. She earned two undergraduate degrees, in English and physics, and two graduate degrees in physics from Stanford between 1970 and 1978. In 1983, she became the first American woman and, to this day, the youngest American ever to fly in space. She flew a second Challenger mission in 1984 and served on the panels that investigated the Challenger and Columbia shuttle tragedies.

After retiring from NASA in 1987, Ride spent two years as a science fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Arms Control. She then became a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and with her life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, an award-winning writer of science books for young people.

She subsequently joined with O’Shaughnessy and three friends to found Sally Ride Science, to inspire young people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and to promote STEM literacy. Their goal is to motivate more students – especially girls and minorities – to stick with STEM as they go through school. Today Sally Ride Science carries on her legacy as part of UC San Diego. In 2013, Ride was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Carolyn Lewis Attneave

Carolyn Lewis Attneave portrait

Carolyn Lewis Attneave (Image credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW39802)

The committee that recommended Attneave’s name for the academic building known as Serra House called her “an inspiring role model who, in her pursuit of scholarly knowledge for the public good, embodies the ideals of Stanford University to the highest degree” and noted that “she largely created the field of Native American mental health, which was virtually nonexistent when she began her professional career in the 1950s.” In recognition of her work, the American Psychological Association created an award in her name that honors the “the promotion of diversity in family psychology or special contributions to the lives of diverse families.”

Attneave was born of mixed Lenni-Lenape and Scandinavian heritage and dedicated her professional life to cross-cultural understanding. After becoming interested in psychology while in the Coast Guard, she enrolled at Stanford and earned two degrees in education: her MA in 1947 and PhD in 1952. She taught at two Texas colleges before joining the Oklahoma State Department of Health, where she provided mental health services to American Indian tribes.

Attneave’s focus on Native Americans took her to Philadelphia and Boston, where she founded the organizations now known as the Society of Indian Psychologists and North American Indian Center of Boston. She also explored, as a Stanford doctoral student, the educational needs of Japanese-Americans interned during World War II and, later, the counseling needs of African-American communities in Philadelphia. She taught 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.

Celebrating achievements and examining relevant history

“Stanford will proudly celebrate the achievements of Sally Ride and Carolyn Attneave, and not solely by placing their names on these structures. We will pursue other visible, meaningful ways, such as plaques and informational displays, to help our community to connect with their legacies,” said Matthew Tiews, associate vice president for campus engagement. “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.”

Celebratory events will be organized to commemorate the new names. Updated signs and informational resources will reflect not just the new names, but also descriptions of their professional lives as well as the harmful impacts of the mission system on Native Americans that inspired the university’s decision to rename the structures.

In addition to signage planned for the structures now named for Attneave and Ride, the university will develop other materials to tell a fuller story of Stanford’s history. These will include highlights of Jane Stanford’s leadership, vision and decisions – some controversial – in establishing the university and guiding it through many early struggles, and, in consultation with scholarly experts and members of the university community, a discussion of Serra’s multifaceted legacy as the founder of the California mission system.

The names of two buildings on campus, Muwekma-Ta-Ruk and Puichon, recognize the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, and the university will collaborate with the Muwekma tribal leadership on additional programs to bring their story forward.

Influential role of community members

Both groups charged with identifying new names for the two facilities solicited suggestions from across the campus community. The criteria reflected a desire for inspiring individuals who have direct ties to California but not necessarily Stanford, reflect diversity and inclusion, have been overlooked to date, are deceased and, for the dormitory, have names that are “practical for a dorm name.”

Current Serra residents led the process for renaming the dormitory. They researched nominations, sought feedback around campus and then forwarded three names, with Ride as their top choice, to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole.

Because the Clayman Institute is affiliated with the School of Humanities and Sciences, Dean Debra Satz appointed a faculty, staff and alumni panel that solicited and reviewed recommendations for Serra House and selected Attneave as their first choice.

Brubaker-Cole and Satz then forwarded the respective recommendations to the president and provost for a final decision.

Origins of the renaming process

The decision last year to rename certain campus features resulted from work by two university committees, one that outlined principles for renaming campus features and one that applied those principles to features named for Junipero Serra.

The renaming process began 2016. The Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council of the Associated Students of Stanford University, motivated by concerns raised by Native American students, passed resolutions asking the university to rename streets and buildings bearing Serra’s name. Their objections were based on the harmful impacts of the California mission system on Native Americans.

A committee chaired by Paul Brest, professor emeritus and former dean of Stanford Law School, acknowledged Serra’s role in California history but recommended last year that the university rename certain spaces.

“Junipero Serra was a zealous proponent of the mission system and its leader in California. Historical references indicate that he combined piety, self-sacrifice, a love for Native Americans, and a religious passion for their salvation with strict and punitive paternalism, sometimes moderated by significant acts of leniency,” the committee wrote.

But it weighed Serra’s “founding and leadership” against his “piety and good intentions” and reasoned: “Because the mission system’s violence against California Native Americans is part of the history and memory of current members of the community, we believe that features named for Junipero Serra, who was the architect and leader of the mission system, are in tension with [Stanford’s] goal of full inclusion.”

These considerations led the committee to recommend renaming of campus features named for Serra that have particularly high salience. But the committee also recommended that not all campus features should be considered the same. It said some features have less salience and should not be renamed, in order to retain some physical reference to a significant part of California history that influenced the Stanfords and the architectural design they chose for their university.

The committee also recommended against renaming campus features named for other Spanish missionaries, “absent the discovery of major new evidence about a particular individual’s misconduct.” It reasoned that, without specific cause to the contrary, retaining historical reference to a period of California history that influenced the Stanfords and the architecture of their campus is appropriate.

Junipero Serra Boulevard, a Santa Clara County road that runs along the southwest side of the Stanford campus, is not under the university’s control and was not part of the renaming deliberations. The Junipero dormitory within Wilbur Hall is named for the Spanish word for the juniper tree, not for Junipero Serra, and will not be renamed, though the university will look for opportunities to clarify the meaning of its name.

The university is preparing an application to Santa Clara County to change the name of Serra Mall, which is currently part of the university’s official address.

Media Contacts

E.J. Miranda, University Communications: ejmirand@stanford.edu, (650) 724-9161