Her Name Is Being Etched In History!
Mellody Hobson is a powerhouse. She was born in Chicago, the youngest child of a hardworking single mother, Dorothy Ashley, who instilled confidence, independence, and pragmatism in her daughter.
Throughout grade and high school, Hobson worked diligently to get good grades, which attracted top schools across the country, including Harvard, but she decided on Princeton. Today, her alma mater announced they are naming a new residential college after her following a gift from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation.
“No one from my family had graduated from college when I arrived at Princeton from Chicago, and yet even as I looked up at buildings named after the likes of Rockefeller and Forbes, I felt at home,” Hobson, who graduated in 1991, said in a statement provided to Because Of Them We Can. “My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and Brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families — that they too belong. Renaming Wilson College is my very personal way of letting them know that our past does not have to be our future.”
In June, the Board of Trustees decided to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College due to his racist views and policies, saying they were “firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms.” The university president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, said in a statement he’d been discussing how transformative the gift would be for Princeton with Hobson for the last year.
“It will enable us to improve the student experience at Princeton and to reimagine a central part of our campus, while also recognizing a remarkable woman who is a positive, powerful force for change in the world,” Eisgruber said in a statement provided to BOTWC. “Mellody Hobson is a wonderful role model for our students, and we are thrilled that her name will now grace our newest residential college. I am grateful to Mellody and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation for their generosity and their forward-thinking commitment to Princeton.”
Princeton has been taking steps to fight racial injustice and ensure that students across all backgrounds have access to a Princeton education. They expanded their undergraduate enrollment by 10%, 500 students, and now offer need-blind financial aid programs, while giving students support through initiatives that help them thrive while at the university.
“We strive for inclusion at the university and hope the significance of this gift and the naming of Hobson College will have a profound impact on current and future generations of students. And as Mellody said, “especially those who are Black and brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families,” Ayana Gibbs, a Princeton University spokesman, told BOTWC. “Our goal is to improve the student experience at Princeton and reimagine a central part of our campus where students not only feel like they belong but feel seen too.”
Hobson is co-CEO of Ariel Investments; where she began her career as a summer intern in 1989. She also serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ariel Investment Trust, the company’s publicly traded mutual funds, and serves on Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase boards. Previously, she served as a director of Estée Lauder and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG. She is committed to service and is the chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago nonprofit providing jobs and enrichment programs for inner-city teens.
“Everyone deserves access to the best education, and Princeton is leading the way to make sure higher education better reflects our society as a whole,” Hobson, a Princeton trustee from 2002 to 2006, said. “I was so proud to serve on the board when the University developed its generous ‘no-loan’ financial aid program. By inviting more students from a variety of backgrounds to attend and contribute, we are not only building a better University community; we’re helping create a better world.”
Currently there are six residential colleges where undergraduates live, eat, study, and socialize. Hobson College will be the third new residential college, and the first named after a Black woman. It has a tentative opening of 2026, in time to welcome the Class of 2030. In recent years, Princeton has renamed spaces on campus to include Black people connected to the university, including former Princeton faculty member Toni Morrison.
You’re creating a new Princeton legacy, congratulations Mellody!
Photo Credit: Princeton University