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The Eastern Echo Thursday, June 20, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

Buildings on campus honor Black historical figures at EMU

John W. Porter and Judy Sturgis Hill are two historical figures at EMU and are both namesakes for different buildings on campus.

It’s Black History Month, and we want to continue to celebrate the historical Black figures of Eastern Michigan University. But this time, through learning the history of two buildings here on campus. 

John W. Porter and Judy Sturgis Hill are a part of EMU’s history. Being recognized as Black figures who have dedicated much of their time to EMU, they are both namesakes for different buildings on campus. 

John W. Porter

John W. Porter is the namesake of the Porter College of Education. He was the first black professional hired by the state education department, beginning his career as a researcher and later becoming the nation's first African American superintendent of schools. He also served as EMU President from 1979 to 1988.

The building was built in 1967 and was designed to serve as the new library building. Containing 133,500 square feet of space, it could carry various collections, provide study spots, and offer services. 

“The 133,500 square foot building was designed to provide a variety of teaching/learning environments, including extensive technology capability, for the preparation of school personnel and professionals in related areas,” University Archives said in a statement. “The College of Education's move to the renovated building has created a new environment for students in the disciplines of Teacher Education, Special Education and Leadership and Counseling.”

One of Dr. Porter’s greatest accomplishments includes his work towards setting up the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) and the creation of the Guaranteed Student Loan Program for college students. Throughout his career, he has been an outspoken advocate for matters regarding urban schools and was active in the school reform movement.

Judy Sturgis Hill 

The Judy Sturgis Hill Building is named in honor of the late Emeritus Professor of Communication, Media, and Theatre Arts, who has a distinguished history as an Eastern Michigan University student and faculty member.

The building was constructed in 1958 with the original intention to house the English and Speech department and included a theatre with enough seating for 400 people. Journalists praised the exterior design of the building. 

“Architecture of this period sought beauty through simplicity and minimal ornamentation. The most dominant feature of the building is the multi-story, windowless rectangle of the backstage area,” University Archives said in a statement. 

Before passing away in 2019, Professor Sturgis Hill wore many hats at EMU. She was a student, a nationally ranked Forensics team member, a resident hall advisor, a graduate assistant, a part-time lecturer, and the Director of Diversity programs, amongst many others. She dedicated much of her career to supporting students through their transition to college life. 

John W. Porter and Judy Sturgis Hill have spent their careers at EMU, creating lifelong impacts on the community. So, it's important to celebrate these two Black figures, especially during Black History Month, so that we can all learn about our history as a university.