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Women’s History at VSU- Part 1

15 March, 2013

March is Women’s History month, and VSU celebrates year round. Not only does VSU host talks, performances, and events centered on women and women’s issues, but many of the buildings on campus are named for influential women of the VSU community. Here’s a quick look at those buildings.

Anderson-Turner Auditorium,  named for English professors Felicia Anderson and Zatella Turner. Ms. Anderson was a graduate of the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (now VSU) in 1912, before going on to receive her AB from Fisk University and MA from Columbia University. She returned to Ettrick to join the faculty at VSU in 1916. She established the Drama Deparment at the university, founded the Players Guild in 1926, and assisted students in producing many plays on campus.  Ms. Anderson is also notable for writing the words to VSU’s Alma Mater. She retired in 1965.

Ms. Turner held two degrees from the University of Kansas, and published a book, My Wonderful Year, recounting her time during which she studied abroad in England while in school there. Ms. Turner taught at two other universities before joining the VSU faculty in 1940.  Ms. Turner started the Shakespeare Hour in one of her classes, and became a well-respected Shakespeare scholar before retiring in 1973. Ms. Turner passed away in 1996.

Branch Hall, named for alumna Mary Branch. Ms. Branch was the first graduate of VSU to become a president of a college when she was named president of Tillotson Teacher’s College in Texas in 1930. Ms. Branch graduated from the Normal Department in 1897, and taught school  until she joined the faculty of VSU in 1905. She was an instructor in the Normal Preparatory department. She continued to supplement her education, eventually earning a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Chicago during the early 1920’s. Ms. Branch was deeply involved in many organizations; she served as President of the Austin chapter of the NAACP, and helped to establish the United Negro College Fund. Ms. Branch passed away in 1944.

Howard Hall (demolished 2012), named for English professor and Virginia Statesman founder Otelia S. Howard, a native of Petersburg and a graduate of VNCII. She received her AB from Fisk University, and her MA from Columbia University. She began teaching at VSU in 1921, and in addition to being an invaluable part of the English department and founder of the school newspaper, she was also a member and supporter of the Treble Clef Club, and a founding member of Iota Sigma Lambda, an honor society. Ms. Howard passed away in 1946.

Jones Dining Hall, named for Cora Z. Jones, the “Mother of the University.” Ms. Jones joined the staff in 1888 and held myriad positions, such as nurse, housekeeper, Matron of the dining room, and she served as the Matron of Girls. She retired in 1940 after 52 years of service. Jones Hall was the first building named for a woman at VSU.

Information comes from:

Zatella R. Turner Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 645, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Olive D. Brown and Michael R. Heintze, “BRANCH, MARY ELIZABETH,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed March 14, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Loyal Sons and Daughters , by Edgar Toppin 

VSU Archives Record Group-Printed, Building Dedication Programs and Testimonial Dinner programs.

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