Residence hall dedications mark Constitution Day
Click here to read Jonathan Russ’ complete remarks.
1:42 p.m., Sept. 18, 2006--Although the sky was cloudy, the mood was bright at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the University's two newest residence halls, Thomas McKean Hall and James Smith Hall, Saturday morning, Sept. 16, Constitution Day. UD President David P. Roselle began the ceremony by introducing assistant professor of history Jonathan Russ, who spoke about the historical importance of both McKean and Smith, both signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Both men studied under the Rev. Dr. Francis Alison, founder in 1743 of the academy to which the University traces its origins. Russ said Smith, who was born in Ireland, emigrated as a child with his family to Pennsylvania in 1730 and became a successful lawyer. Smith became the delegate for York County, Pa., and his courage and patriotism despite rising British tensions led him to the Pennsylvania Constitutional convention. In 1776, Smith was elected to the Continental Congress, which discussed and issued the Declaration of Independence.
“Although the Pennsylvania delegation was split on the issue of Independence from Great Britain, Smith never wavered in his desire for liberty and the rule of just law,” Russ said. “While it would be fitting to name any number of different buildings on this campus in honor of James Smith, it is particularly appropriate that this fine residence, located in the Independence Complex, bears his name.”
Russ said McKean also practiced law and represented New Castle in the Delaware Assembly. He participated in the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and was chosen to serve as speaker of the Delaware Assembly in 1772 and as one of three delegates to the Continental Congress in 1776. After signing the Declaration of Independence, McKean went on to serve as president of Delaware in 1777, chief justice of Pennsylvania from 1777-99 and governor of Pennsylvania from 1799-1808.
“Without question, the men in whose memory these buildings are being dedicated today set high standards for those who will come to call these structures home,” Russ said. “They applied the skills they learned from Dr. Francis Alison and dedicated their talents to the service of their fellow citizens. Just as the University of Delaware traces its roots to Francis Alison and his academy, may all of us who are part of the University community today look to James Smith and Thomas McKean as role models in public service and lives well led.”
Jheanelle Wilkins, AS '09, is a residence assistant for George Read North and helped cut the ribbon at the ceremony. She said learning the history behind the two new residence halls made the ribbon-cutting special. "It felt really empowering," Wilkins said. "It felt like you were a part of something."
Kelly Carder, graduate student and hall director for Smith, said her residents are proud to live in a new building with such historical meaning. "Our students are really excited to live here because it's new,” Carder said. “They have really nice amenities so they treat it with more respect. They take pride knowing that they have a great place to live."
Haley Baum, graduate student and hall director for McKean, said her residents have the same respect for their building. “Everyone loves it,” she said. “How can you not, it's gorgeous.”
Monsignor Michael Szupper, who said he almost always carries a copy of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in his pocket, said it is “phenomenal” the buildings were named after the two men. “Dedications are important to me because it expresses the philosophy of the University,” Szupper said. “It is not just a building but an opportunity to learn and grow.”
Szupper said he hopes the buildings instill a sense of community and pride in its residents. “It is a promise to the students that the University is a place of energy and happiness,” he said.
Article by Julia Parmley, AS '07