Parkland trustees looking at naming policies

Parkland trustees looking at naming policies

CHAMPAIGN – When Parkland College built a new planetarium in the 1980s, officials had little problem deciding what to name the building.

They named it Staerkel Planetarium in September 1987, to honor Parkland's first president, William Staerkel, who oversaw construction of the $4 million project. Staerkel, who attended the dedication, died just weeks later.

But naming buildings after people can be a tricky business, so trustees at the Champaign community college are looking at a policy to govern when and how a building can be named for either a major donor or for someone the college wants to honor.

Jon Surma, Parkland's vice president for administrative services, said a policy governing building names must be flexible, and trustees have the final say.

"We haven't really had specific written guidelines in the past," Surma said. "People would nominate someone and we looked at it on an individual basis. Our board wanted guidelines, benchmarks."

Surma's policy, which is expected to be approved at the board's February meeting, addressed naming for major donors and for honorees.

"We need financial and non-financial guidelines," he said. "It can be either way or a combination. I tried to leave flexibility so they're benchmarks, but not hard and fast rules, like 'You give X dollars and you get a wing named after you.'"

Surma said he looked at policies at 15 community colleges and at the University of Illinois. He also considered policies the Parkland Foundation has been following for years.

"Some were very generic so we tried to identify things that are applicable to us," he said. "We tried to follow the things the foundation has been telling people so there's consistency with what we've been doing in the past. "

Surma said foundation fundraising activities have created the need for some uniform rules.

"The foundation has geared up and that's part of the need for the policy," he said. "We need to be thinking about this."

The policy also addresses renaming.

"If people make a pledge and you name something based on it and they don't follow through, you need guidelines," Surma said. "Or, and this happens in sports, a corporation names your gym, then another company buys the first company. Or a company funds it for a period of time then someone else comes in. Or someone does something later in life, something criminal ... You need flexibility."

Carl Meyer, head of the Parkland Foundation, said the policy under consideration varies only slightly from those he's been practicing for 10 years.

"We'd put some things together under (former president) Zelema Harris, but this needs to be institutionalized," Meyer said. "There are going to be things named down the road that are the result of time and commitment to the institution and you can't put a price on that."

He said there aren't a lot of buildings on campus now named after people. The most significant, aside from the Planetarium, is the Tony Noel Center. Mr. Noel was a Parkland graduate who died in 1997, and his parents, Dick and Rosann Noel, made a major contribution to the center, which has become a focus of agricultural and other activities.

"They gave more than 25 percent of the construction costs, and that's a national naming formula," Meyer said.

The college recently named its perimeter road for William Froom, a college founder who died in 2006. And this spring, officials will name the new greenhouse on the west side of the Noel Center for Prairie Gardens, a Champaign business that made a major contribution to its construction.

Meyer said there are also at least two rooms in campus buildings named for people who made financial contributions.

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