A new era for College Ten begins as it transitions to John R. Lewis College

Campus commits to beginning the hard work to live up to the 'extraordinary honor and responsibility' of being named for the late congressman and civil rights icon

johnlewis3.jpg
The crowd at the Namaste Lounge celebrated the naming news with a standing ovation on Wednesday morning. Photos by Carolyn Lagattuta.
johnlewis2.jpg
For John Lewis College students Chloe Magidoff and Matthew Moran, the naming news is cause for celebration. 
johnlewis1.jpg
John Lewis College provost Flora Yu, College 9 and John Lewis College diretor of student life Sarah Woodside Bury, emeritus professor of sociology John Brown Childs, and Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer savored the moment at the Namaste Lounge ceremony.
johnlewis4.jpg
Those who attended the naming ceremony received souvenir T-shirts that included one of John Lewis's most famous sayings.

 

In 2002, a UC Santa Cruz college with the theme of social justice and community opened with distinguished professors, politically engaged students, and a number for a name: College Ten.

That changed for good, and for better, this week when College Ten was named for John R. Lewis, the late American civil rights leader and politician who stood up to Jim Crow–era segregation in the 1960s. He was one of the key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Lewis went on to become a longstanding congressman. He was elected in 1986 to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Georgia’s fifth congressional district. He held his post until his death last year. 

The naming gift was made by donors who prefer to remain anonymous. This is the first college that UCSC has named since 2016, when the former College Eight was named for the pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson, a marine biologist best known for her groundbreaking nonfiction book Silent Spring. 

The joint announcement, held on campus at UCSC’s Namaste Lounge, and the University of California Washington Center in Washington, D.C., met with loud whoops and a standing ovation. 

“Now we begin the hard work to live up to this extraordinary honor and responsibility," said UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive, speaking from the Washington Center.

“This is a joyous moment for our campus, attesting to our deep commitment to educate students to become agents for justice, equity, inclusivity, and social change, and marking our ambition to be an educational institution that, through our mission and the work of the students who choose to learn here, continues to honor the legacy of Representative Lewis,” Larive continued.

Larive noted that the college is the youngest on campus, and one of its most diverse. 

“Of its 1,500 undergraduates, more than 60 percent grew up speaking another language either in addition to or instead of English, and more than 30 percent are first-generation students, the first in their family to attend college,” she said.

 Those who attended the Namaste event were given blue souvenir T-shirts with one of Lewis’s famous sayings on one side: “Go out there. Speak up. Speak out. Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

The news was cause for celebration for Chloe Magidoff (John R. Lewis '22, legal studies), who said that her college community finally has a name to match its mission. 

“As a student, I chose College Ten because of its social justice and community values," she said. “The name connects very deeply to what we have been learning here.

“I have been aware of John Lewis and his work for a long time,” said Magidoff, who serves in the student government, representing her college.

The name change brings a whole new level of engagement with the issues that College Ten holds dear, she continued. “When you connect those values to a person, it’s much more tangible.” 

Matthew Moran (John R. Lewis '22, politics, critical race and ethnic studies), who also serves in the student government, savored the moment. 

“It means a lot," he said. “John Lewis was a great fighter in congress, and it is amazing that we get to have a college—my college—dedicated to him.” 

Environmental Studies Professor and John R. Lewis College Provost Flora Lu spoke about the immersive learning that all the college’s students receive, giving them a living sense of Lewis’s legacy.

“All entering students take courses examining the roots of prejudice and violence," she told the crowd at the Namaste Lounge. “Our students learn to think critically about privilege and inequality and forms of resistance. We teach our students that they are complex, with intersectional identities. We have a shared humanity and are all worthy of dignity and respect.” 

Emeritus professor of sociology John Brown Childs moved the crowd when he spoke about the newly named college “standing strong, inspired by John Lewis’s life, animated by the creative energy of our students, faculty, alumni, and staff, and supported by our generous donors and hardworking administrators.”

He spoke of the critical importance of social justice workshops and training at John R. Lewis College. 

“Today our democracy is in danger,” Childs said. “We are confronted by voices and actions inflaming our nation with fear and hatred. The voting rights that so many struggled and died for now face an alarming avalanche of restrictive voting bills.” 

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), who attended the ceremony in Washington, shared a moving anecdote about traveling to Selma, Alabama, in March of 2020. Panetta and his family walked arm in arm with Lewis over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the 55th anniversary of historic voting rights protests. Lewis was seriously injured in the March 5, 1965, protests, often referred to as “Bloody Sunday.”

“This enshrines his legacy on the Central Coast of California,” Panetta said. “He was and still is the conscience of congress. Now John Lewis is the conscience of this college, and the students at John Lewis College will be the conscience of who we are as a country.” 

Linda Early Chastang, who served as John Lewis’s chief of staff when he was in congress, and is now president and CEO of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation, was a special guest at the ceremony.

“I can only begin to tell you how excited John Lewis would be to celebrate with you," she said. “Young people were very important to him, and there was nothing more important to him than a good education.”

The naming endowment will allow the college to advance its mission of justice and social equity with a number of potential projects including: 

Good Trouble Academy: Named for John R. Lewis’s famous credo about the need to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble" in the face of profound injustice, this on-campus academy will train students in the art of collective action with the help of a diverse group of community organizers and activists. 

Social justice internships and support: UCSC already takes part in social justice internships, but this program would have a special focus on John R. Lewis college students while providing stipends for underresourced students 

Expansion of programs geared toward the graduates of historically black colleges, enabling them to attend Ph.D. programs at UCSC. Though UCSC already participates in such a program, it could be expanded, according to community supporters of the naming gift. 

These are just some of the ideas being discussed for the college’s future. 

Larive thanked the organizations and people that made this week’s renaming possible. Among them: Michael Collins and The John R. Lewis Trust, represented at the ceremony by Linda Early Chastang, former chief of staff to Congressman Lewis and president and CEO of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young; U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta; University of California President Michael V. Drake; the Reverend Dwight Andrews; and the generous donors.