In recognition of a substantial gift from Mellody Hobson and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, Princeton University announced Thursday that it will build Hobson College, a new residential college at the school — and the first named for a Black woman.
The college will be built on the site of First College, formerly known as Wilson College, school officials said. Princeton will begin work on Hobson College in 2023, following the opening of two new, currently under-construction colleges: Perelman College and a second undergraduate residential college.
Hobson College will be the third new residential college and is tentatively scheduled to open in the fall of 2026, in time to welcome the Class of 2030.
Hobson, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1991, is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments and serves on the boards of Starbucks and JPMorgan Chase. Previously, she served as a director of Estée Lauder and board chair of DreamWorks Animation SKG. She served as a Princeton trustee from 2002 to 2006.
Hobson, who speaks passionately about the need for more diversity in boardrooms, was named one of the “100 Most Influential People” in the world by Time magazine in 2015.
Her commitment to service includes her role as chairman of After School Matters, a Chicago-based nonprofit providing thousands of inner-city teens with after school enrichment programs and summer jobs. She is married to famed movie producer and director, George Lucas.
Hobson said she is humbled by the honor bestowed on by Princeton and recognizes the significance.
“My hope is that my name will remind future generations of students — especially those who are Black and Brown and the ‘firsts’ in their families — that they too belong,” she said. “Renaming Wilson College is my very personal way of letting them know that our past does not have to be our future.”
Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said the gift will be transformative for the school.
“It will enable us to improve the student experience at Princeton and to reimagine a central part of our campus, while also recognizing a remarkable woman who is a positive, powerful force for change in the world,” he said. “Mellody Hobson is a wonderful role model for our students, and we are thrilled that her name will now grace our newest residential college. I am grateful to Mellody and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation for their generosity and their forward-thinking commitment to Princeton.”
In June, the board of trustees voted to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College. While recognizing Wilson’s achievements and contributions to the university, the board determined that Wilson’s racist views and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or a college whose scholars, students and alumni stand against racism.
The residential colleges have helped define campus life since the early 1980s, and they remain essential to Princeton’s mission and distinctive educational model. The colleges — which currently include Butler, First, Forbes, Mathey, Rockefeller and Whitman — play a formative role in developing student identity, campus community and a collegial and collaborative learning environment, school officials said.
Jill Dolan, dean of the college, explained the significance.
“Along with class year, their residential college affiliation is one of the most significant identifiers for Princeton students,” she said. “That future students will be able to say, ‘Meet you at Hobson,’ and that Hobson will be a proud part of our annual ‘Clash of the Colleges’ competition during first-year orientation will transform our future students’ experiences.”
Princeton’s strategic framework, adopted by the board in 2016, called for the expansion of the undergraduate student body by 500 students — an increase of approximately 10%. This enrollment increase, paired with Princeton’s nationally recognized, need-blind financial-aid program, will ensure that more talented students from all backgrounds and sectors of society have access to a Princeton education.
Hobson said expanding access to Princeton is a great thing.
“Everyone deserves access to the best education, and Princeton is leading the way to make sure higher education better reflects our society as a whole,” she said. “I was so proud to serve on the board when the university developed its generous ‘no-loan’ financial aid program.
“By inviting more students from a variety of backgrounds to attend and contribute, we are not only building a better university community, we’re helping create a better world.”
Hobson and Lucas were awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019.
“Our shared passion is education and its power to transform lives — as it did ours,” she said.
Additionally, Hobson is vice chair of World Business Chicago, a board member of the Economic Club of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Bloomberg Philanthropies. She is also a trustee at The Rockefeller Foundation.
A nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education, Hobson has appeared as a contributor and analyst for CBS and ABC news programs.
Her success, she said, all started at Princeton.
“No one from my family had graduated from college when I arrived at Princeton from Chicago,” she said. “And yet, even as I looked up at buildings named after the likes of Rockefeller and Forbes, I felt at home.”