UW-Madison Renames Residence Hall to Honor Vel Phillips '51

Vel Phillips in front of Phillips Hall

UW Madison recently renamed one of its residence halls after Vel Phillips, a civil rights pioneer and the UW Law School's first African American female graduate.

After receiving her law degree in 1951, Phillips went on to a distinguished career that includes becoming the first woman judge in Milwaukee County and the first African American judge in Wisconsin. In 1978, Phillips made history as the first woman and first African American elected to a state office, the Secretary of State of Wisconsin. She remains the highest-elected person of color to any state-wide office in Wisconsin to this day.

The newly named Phillips Hall, formerly Friedrick Hall, is one of only a relatively small number of buildings named in honor of women on campus, and only the second building on campus named after a person of color. Phillips, who remains a committed activist and community worker in the area of civil rights, attended the Dedication Ceremony Honoring Women of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in August.

From l to r: Jane Collins - Department Chair - Department of Gender and Women’s Studies; Barbara La Follette - wife of Bronson La Follette; Bronson La Follette - grandson of Belle Case La Follette; Mark Eisenberg - son of Ruth Bleier; Margaret Raymond - UW Law School Dean; Kristin Guyot - wife of Mark Eisenberg; Michael Phillips - son of Vel Phillips; David Clarenbach - son of Kathryn F.

UW Law School Dean Margaret Raymond also attended the ceremony and said, "I'm delighted that the University of Wisconsin has recognized Vel for her many contributions to civil rights and to the legal community in Wisconsin. As our first female African-American law graduate, she is a true trailblazer. What a pleasure to have a residence hall named for her, so that students going forward can learn about her contributions--and the contributions of the other women honored there--to improving the lives of people living in Wisconsin and throughout the country."

To learn more about Vel Phillips and her exceptional career, read her biography here. Read recent coverage of Phillips Hall from University of Wisconsin-Madison News and The Journal Sentinel.

To view a slideshow of the dedication, click here.

Submitted by UW Law News on September 27, 2011

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