After a meeting held by the Board of Trustees on Jan. 27, 2017, approval to rename the small cottage situated at 47491 Trinity Church Road famously termed as the “White House” due to its physical appearance was successfully approved to be renamed as the “Lucille Clifton House.”
The reasoning behind the renaming of the “White House” as stated by the Board of Trustee’s report summary was due to Lucille Clifton’s “commitment to [St. Mary’s College that] was strong and unwavering.”
According to Dr. Michael Glaser, Professor Emeritus of English and a close personal friend of Lucille Clifton, the renaming of the “White House” to the “Lucille Clifton House”, serves as “an important symbol for the campus and our collective community that there is now a building on campus that reminds us of the spirit of compassion and equality that Ms. Clifton was so deeply committed to.”
For those that may be unaware, Lucille Clifton was a distinguished Professor of the Humanities at St. Mary’s College from 1989 to 2005. She had passed away in 2010 after a long fight with cancer.
Even though Lucille Clifton may be gone, she left behind a legacy that is very much alive as she continues to be remembered as a critically acclaimed author and poet.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Clifton was a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for her book “Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980”, the second woman and first African American to be poet laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985, and the first African American to be awarded the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize Award in 2001. She also was a recipient of the National Book Award for her book “Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000.”
This is only a short summary of the achievements Lucille Clifton made in her long and extensive career, as she received many awards and an endless amount of recognition.
In one instance, she gained recognition from the former Poet of Laureate of the United States Rita Dove.
Thinking of Clifton, Dove stated, “In contrast to much of the poetry being written today—intellectualized lyricism characterized by an application of inductive thought to unusual images—Lucille Clifton’s poems are compact and self-sufficient…Her revelations then resemble the epiphanies of childhood and early adolescence, when one’s lack of preconceptions about the self-allowed for brilliant slippage into the metaphysical, a glimpse into an egoless, utterly thingful and serene world.”
In addition to the cottage being renamed, it will also serve as the new location of offices belonging to the Title IX Coordinator Michael Dunn and the Associate Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Dr. Kortet Mensah.
In reaction to the news of the renaming of the cottage, Dunn stated, “I’m very excited to be working in the newly-named ‘Lucille Clifton House.’ She is one of the shining lights of the College and she represents a lot of the values we want to uphold: civic-mindedness, our common humanity, and a dedication to the St. Mary’s community.”
In many ways, the new location belonging to the Title IX coordinator and the AVP of Inclusion and Diversity connects back to Lucille Clifton’s legacy.
In agreement, Michael Dunn stated, “I think that Title IX, and IDEs [Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Initiative] in general, are very grounded in a concern for the dignity and humanity of every individual person, and how we as a community can treat one another with respect and care. My sense is that Lucille Clifton’s life and work reflected these ideals, and I think that hers is a great spirit to inspire our work.”
Uniquely, in the 1970s, as stated by Glaser, the “White House” served as a place for members of the St. Mary’s community to come together for poetry readings, as well as “great and often intense conversations.”
However, one has to wonder what Lucille Clifton’s thoughts would be towards the renaming of the “White House” to the “Lucille Clifton House.”
Glaser believes Clifton would be “tickled by it, and would feel very proud. She really valued St. Mary’s. And she valued the liberal arts because they encourage people to think – to explore various points of view, and to ask good questions. Ms. Clifton believed there was a deep connection between poetry – all art actually – and a good liberal arts education because both are significantly focused on exploring the Socratic question, ‘what is the life worth living.’”