BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two residence halls on the Towson University campus will be renamed for the school’s first Black graduates, Marvis Barnes and Myra Harris, both members of the class of 1959.

In the fall, West Village 1 will become Harris Hall, while West Village 2 will be known Barnes Hall following a formal dedication ceremony.

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“Ms. Barnes and Ms. Harris paved the way for the thousands of students that follow in their footsteps still today,” said Towson University president Kim Schatzel. “They continued to transform their communities through decades of service as teachers and administrators in Maryland’s public schools, further establishing their legacies as inspirational civic leaders in our region and state.”

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents on Friday approved the name change, which was suggested at Schatzel’s request with support from a committee made up of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Founded in 1866 as an institution to train public school educators, Towson University, originally known as the Maryland Normal School, was segregated until the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka outlawed the racist practice.

The school, then called the State Teachers College at Towson, had already admitted four Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) graduates into its one-year teaching-certificate program.

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Barnes and Harris, both graduates of local high schools, would become the first Black enrollees to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Informed of Towson’s plans, Harris told the university: “It really came as a surprise and really made my day. I never dreamed something like this would happen.”

Barnes and Harris’ names are also on an endowment, run by the Towson Black Alumni Alliance, for incoming freshmen from metropolitan high schools with financial needs.

“I’m elated that we can continue to celebrate their remarkable achievements through the naming of these two buildings that future TU alums will call home,” said Kenny Abrams, the alumni group’s president.

Schatzel, in a message to the campus community, noted Friday’s announcement comes as the university marks Juneteenth as an official holiday.

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“As the nation pauses to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend, I can think of no better time to honor Ms. Barnes and Ms. Harris, and reflect on our collective role in combating racial inequality and inequity,” she said.

Brandon Weigel