Naming rights (part 4 – coda)

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The poor fellow with a toothache (right) is in a good place, affixed as he is to the Evans building, the flagship building of the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The building went up in 1915, and I’d like to think that since then, his toothache has been attended to and he is simply howling in sympathy with students, faculty and alumni who are upset about the renaming of Logan Hall, previously the home of Penn’s medical school, business school (Wharton) and currently several departments of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Logan Hall was named in memory of James Logan, William Penn’s colonial secretary and a founding trustee of the College of Philadelphia, the University’s predecessor. According to Penn’s Website, Logan Hall is an “integral component” of the National Register’s University of Pennsylvania’s Historic District.

But it’s about to be renamed in memory of Claudia Cohen, a recently deceased alumna who earned a bachelor’s degree in communications there in 1972 — and went on to become a gossip columnist for the New York Daily News. She was also an entertainment correspondent for the TV show “Live With Regis Lee and Kelly Lee,” and garnered some boldface mentions for herself for her lucrative divorce (rumoured to be $80 million) from husband Ronald Perelman, the billionaire chairman of Revlon and a Penn alumnus.

It’s Perelman — or rather, his $20 million donation to Penn — that effected the change.

In 1995, the year after Perelman and Cohen divorced, he donated the unprecedented sum for the renovation of the Perelman Quadrangle which includes Logan Hall. The university, in turn, gave him the option to rename Logan Hall. He’s taken up the offer, and according to a Penn news release, “the name change (to Cohen Hall) will take place over the summer in order to be ready for the fall 2008 semester.”

Cohen died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the age of 56.

But the renaming is not something Penn faculty, students and alumni are happy about. For example, history professor Richard Beeman, who was Dean of the College from 1998-2005, said he had not been informed of any potential name changes.

He also told <a href=http://media.www.dailypennsylvanian.com/media/storage/paper882/news/2008/03/27/News/Whats.In.A.Name.A.Lot.Say.Profs.Alums-3286524.shtml
>the Daily Pennsylvanian that although naming buildings after donors has become a common practice, it’s unusual to completely rename a building when they can carry hyphenated names of both the original name and the most recent donor.

Ronald Shur, a 1977 Wharton graduate, commented that the Logan Hall designation should stand because the building is an “icon … not a whiteboard that you can constantly erase.”

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