Julia Ray of Ray Hall UNCA

Julia Ray, center, with her family, is pictured in front of the University of North Carolina Asheville Ray Hall. The new Ray, Bird, Dykeman and Delany Halls were celebrated in a reception attended by Julia Ray, who turned 107 years old on Oct. 28.

In honor of their visionary leadership and advocacy, four women will forever be honored on the University of North Carolina Asheville campus as longstanding buildings carry their names into the future.

Julia Ray, a 2016 honorary degree recipient, led the Nov. 3 naming ceremony as her name replaced Hoey Hall to now be referred to as Ray Hall.

Ray was the first African American on the Board of Trustees of Mission Hospital, and she served as a trustee for UNC Asheville and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. She served on the Friends of the YMI and helped to establish the Goombay Festival in Asheville. Among other honors, Ray is the recipient of the Mission/MAHEC Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for her pioneering service to the Asheville medical community. She was named a “Living Treasure” by Asheville’s Living Treasure Committee in 2013. And this year, on the day she turned 107 years old, on Oct. 28, the city of Asheville proclaimed the day “Julia G. Ray Day” in her honor.

The former Ashe Hall will honor Miss Ella Bird, tribal elder and Beloved Woman, a designation bestowed upon Cherokee women who are highly respected for their service to the community, their integrity and their good character. A fluent Cherokee speaker, Bird has shared her knowledge of Cherokee traditions, including medicines, quilting and food with her 10 children and community. Bird was honored as a matriarch at the 100th anniversary of the Cherokee Indian Fair. She also was recognized as a Distinguished Citizen on Ned Long Day in November 2006, and as a UNC Asheville honorary degree recipient in 2017.

Noted author, advocate for women’s rights and environmental stewardship, Wilma Dykeman’s name will replace Civil War-era governor Zebulon Vance’s name on the newly dedicated Dykeman Hall.

Dykeman is lauded for her advocacy of economic development and social justice in Western North Carolina. She graduated in 1938 from Asheville-Biltmore College and later graduated from Northwestern University. With family roots in Western North Carolina and Tennessee, Dykeman taught creative writing and Appalachian literature at the University of Tennessee and served as Tennessee’s state historian for more than 20 years. She also served on the Board of Trustees for Berea College and UNC Asheville. She was the author of 15 nonfiction books, beginning with “The French Broad” in 1955, which used economic arguments to make a case against water pollution.

Carmichael Hall now honors Francine Delany as Delaney Hall. The widely respected Asheville educator and state leader was a member of the class of 1966, Asheville-Biltmore College’s first baccalaureate class, and the University’s first African American graduate. Delany contributed a lifetime of service to Asheville and the surrounding community in support of childhood education. She remained a key part of UNC Asheville throughout her lifetime, serving on the Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1981 and again from 1991 until her death in June 1992, and on the Foundation Board from 1981 through 1987. In 1992, the UNC Asheville Foundation established a special fund in honor of Delany, and in 1993 she was posthumously awarded the Chancellor’s Medallion.

“This is a red letter day for the University and for our academic community,” said Chancellor Nancy Cable. “The faculty, staff, student and alumni task force was charged by our Board of Trustees to review campus buildings and to suggest leaders to honor by renaming buildings. These changes represent the values of UNC Asheville and allow us to honor leaders who are unsung heroes of this great University.”

“Names are important symbols that reflect the values and belief systems of a community,” added Agya Boakye-Boaten, interim dean of social sciences and member of the Building Renaming Task Force. “As a community that strives for inclusivity, how we name ourselves should embody that. This is what renaming these buildings does. It allows all members of the community to feel a strong sense of belonging.”

“I am proud of the work performed by our task force,” said Cable. “They brought on objective, historical expertise to honor leaders as the right move forward for this institution. Today is the first of several opportunities to celebrate Julia Ray, Ella Bird, Wilma Dykeman and Francine Delany, and those whose shoulders we are standing on each and every day.”

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