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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Demystifing the names of campus’ buildings

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Did you see the new Big Bang Theory episode where Raj and Howard sing about “Thor and Dr. Jones”? It was pretty good. Unlike Dr. Jones, I delve into history without running from boulders or evading Nazis. This week, I’m sharing three more place-name stories about the locations where we eat, sleep, watch ducks, and swim—at least two of those should not be done in the same place.

Dr. Marion LeRoy Burton was born in 1874 and graduated from Carleton in 1900. He was a champion debater and a first-baseman—his teammates affectionately called him “Mary Ann.” After Carleton, Burton attended Yale Divinity School and briefly preached at a Brooklyn, New York church. In 1909, he spoke at Carleton President Donald J. Cowling’s inauguration. Trustees had considered Burton himself for the position, but he had already accepted the position of President at Smith College in Massachusetts.

Dr. Burton became President of the University of Minnesota in 1917 and transferred to the University of Michigan in 1920. While in Michigan, he earned the nickname “Burton the Builder,” earned because of the construction projects he supervised. Perhaps his most notable achievement was giving Calvin Coolidge’s nomination speech at the 1924 Republican National Convention. Burton died of heart failure in February 1925. That year, Carleton renamed West Hall, the men’s dormitory and dining hall, to honor Dr. Burton. All three schools for which Burton served as President have buildings named for him, and Huntington Woods, Michigan, has a Marion L. Burton Elementary School.

Although not a building, Lyman Lakes are still an integral part of Carleton’s campus. In 1916, George R. (a Carleton Trustee) and Marietta Lyman of Minneapolis gave Carleton $10,000 to dredge the creek that flowed northeast of campus. The resulting lakes were named the George Huntington Lyman Memorial Lakes in honor of the Lymans’ son, who died in December 1902 at the age of twenty. A brief notice of death in the Minneapolis Journal simply said the Lyman boy died at home and that the family wished not to receive flowers.

The Elizabeth Stehman Cowling Recreation Center for Women (the building’s original name) honored the wife of former Carleton President Donald J. Cowling. The Cowlings met in 1901 but didn’t marry until 1907. Dr. Cowling’s pet name for his wife was “Crete” (Elizabeth’s middle name was Lucretia.) During their time at Carleton, Mrs. Cowling hosted teas and receptions for students, civic groups, and faculty clubs in the Cowlings’ home and in the dining halls.

Elizabeth “Crete” Cowling died of an undiagnosed illness in 1951. President Cowling, who seldom returned to Carleton after his retirement in 1945, developed an interest in medicine and philanthropy following his wife’s death. He traveled to Northfield for the March 1965 dedication of the women’s recreation center named for his late wife, whom Dr. Cowling said “deserved the credit for most of what [he] was able to accomplish for the College.” The event was his symbolic final farewell to Elizabeth—Donald Cowling died in November 1965.

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