UofSC names residence hall for renowned African American state educator

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD)- The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Friday to name an upperclassmen campus residence hall for state educator, Celia Dial Saxon.

Saxon becomes the first African American to be honored with a building name on campus.

“Celia Dial Saxon is one of the university’s most remarkable alumni, a woman whose impact and reputation stretched across the nation. Our university rightly honors her by naming this building for her. Not only was she a true education pioneer, but she embodied the spirit of equality and justice through her life’s work. The Celia Dial Saxon Building will stand as a reminder to current and future generations of students of the high ideals she championed.”

Interim President Harris Pastides

A UofSC graduate, Saxon was born in 1857, the daughter of a slave woman and white man. She was one of the first African American students to attend South Carolina College, later the University of South Carolina.

Upon graduation, she began a 57-year teaching career at Howard School in Columbia. Known as a fearless advocate for the rights of women and girls, Saxon was active in the National Women’s Club Movement, the Palmetto State Teachers’ Association, the Culture Club, the Lend-a-Hand Club, the South Carolina Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

Saxon also founded the Fairwold Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Lexington County, S.C., and the Wilkinson Orphanage of Negro Children.

“Celia Dial Saxon’s life stands as a testament to perseverance, compassion, hard work, and a commitment to excellence,” Alex English, co-chair of the History Commission Implementation Group that considered candidates for whom to name the residence hall said. “Her legacy bestows honor and dignity to our campus. It’s only fitting that, as a distinguished alumna of our state’s largest university, her name be memorialized here.”

In 1926, Saxon was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts degree from the State Agricultural and Mechanical College at Orangeburg, and in 1929, Columbia’s Blossom Street public school was renamed for her in honor of her dedicated service to public education.

“As a great woman, peerless educator, and one of the most admired and respected citizens of South Carolina, Celia Dial Saxon is more than worthy of this honor,” Board Chair Dr. Dorn Smith said. “I’m very proud that the board recognized the importance of commemorating her contribution to our culture and our heritage.”

The Celia Dial Saxon Building, which houses nearly 300 of the university’s upperclassmen, is located near the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. Committee members said this specific building was chosen because of its proximity to the historic Ward One District where the Celia Saxon Elementary School was located until its closure in 1968.

The residence hall is expected to be formally dedicated in a public ceremony soon.

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