Proposed name for BCC honors UO alumna, advisor and activist

After a robust process of comment and research, UO President Michael H. Schill has proposed that the new UO Black Cultural Center bear the name of Lyllye Reynolds-Parker.

Pending approval by the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon at its summer meeting, the center will be named after Reynolds-Parker, a Eugene native, member of one of Eugene’s first black families, civil rights activist and UO alumna who worked as an academic advisor at the UO for 17 years.

Lyllye Parker The center’s grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 12.

“Reynolds-Parker has been an inspiration to countless students who sought her support and counsel while at the university,” Schill noted in his letter to the board with his recommendation. “She overcame oppression, achieved her own success, and went on to champion Black student empowerment, community, and justice at the University of Oregon. She embodies our aspirations for what the BCC will be for our campus and community.”

The 3,200-square-foot facility, at East 15th Avenue and Villard Street, will be open to the entire campus community. The $3 million project is funded entirely by donors, including Nancy and Dave Petrone, who gave $1 million.

It was designed to provide flexible space that can accommodate an array of activities, including studying, student meetings, academic support and even small classes. The center also will showcase cultural pieces and artwork that celebrate black heritage.

Programming for the center will be funded through the Presidential Fund for Excellence.

The center was first proposed in 2017 in a direct response to a demand by the Black Student Task Force following a 2016 demonstration. Fundraising got underway shortly after, following the lead gift from the Petrones. The design was officially proposed in 2018.

A groundbreaking was held last fall with alumni who were influential in advancing the center, students and members of the broader campus community. It was part of a historic weekend that included the inaugural Black Student Convocation and first Black Alumni Reunion.

Another gathering was held as part of spring commencement festivities, when alumni and others signed a beam that was incorporated into the highest point of the building. 

At the same time, the Black Cultural Center Naming Committee, comprised of students, faculty members and staff, began soliciting suggestions for who the center should honor and received 21 nominations from campus and community members.

In addition to Reynolds-Parker, the committee forwarded the name of Derrick Bell, a former UO law school dean and celebrated law professor who established a field of study known as critical race theory, as the other recommendation.

The board of trustees meets Sept. 5-6 in Portland. The Facilities and Finance Committee will consider Schill’s proposal at its meeting Sept. 6, with the full board voting on it later that day.

By Jim Murez, University Communications