As our Niner Nation grows, so does our campus. Over the past few years, we have added or extensively refurbished a number of different buildings. One of these new buildings is the University Recreation Center, currently under construction next to the Student Union. Its name is clearly a placeholder. At this university, naming rights can be given to donors after the building has been built. This can be seen in the cases of Wallis Hall, Miltimore Hall and the Popp Martin Student Union. However, the name of this building should be given to true heroes of UNC Charlotte: Riley Howell and Ellis “Reed” Parlier.
This would not be the first time our institution named a building after people it wished to honor.
The Kennedy Building, for instance, is named after Woodford A. Kennedy, a key player in UNC Charlotte’s history. According to an October 1, 2012 article by Phillip Brown on Inside UNC Charlotte, Kennedy fought to achieve funding from the state in order to keep this school open. He was also part of the committee that selected the site where UNC Charlotte currently resides.
It goes without saying that Bonnie Cone saved this university from closing in 1949, allowing our school to grow to the heights that it has today. In addition, she personally mentored generations of students that attended the institution over the years. The former student union is now called the Cone Center in her honor.
Wallace Colvard is another person we honor with a building name. According to a December 12, 2012 article by Phillip Brown on Inside UNC Charlotte, Colvard was the first permanent Chancellor at UNC Charlotte. He secured the accreditation for the school, both regionally and nationally. He also helped create the University Research Park, saw the student body increase from 1,700 to 8,705 students and added graduate programs. He is honored by name with the Colvard Building.
Riley Howell and Ellis “Reed” Parlier deserve to have their names among the most esteemed figures in our community. They embody what it means to be a part of Niner Nation: courage, honor, dignity and compassion. This new building should forever bear their names, both in remembrance of them and with respect to their legacies.
And they have our community’s support. There appears to be a general consensus among UNC Charlotte’s community about this issue, as there is a Change.org petition to name this building the Howell-Parlier Recreation Center. This would be to honor those who lost their lives during the April 30 tragedy, and as the petition creator Noah Crosswhite writes, “so that they can be remembered for generations of students to come.” As of writing, it has 39,879 signers — thousands more than the actual student population of UNC Charlotte.
Because this building is still under construction, it provides another opportunity to pay respects to our fallen peers. A memorial to Reed, Riley and the other victims of the attack can be built into the site. We can create its own dedicated space and honor the victims in a more accessible, visible way. In this way, we have more freedom in regards to what the memorial will look like and its scale compared to the rest of campus. The area around the Kennedy Building does not have enough area for a meaningful memorial. In addition, the building itself is still a source of pain and grief for some students. The University should accommodate those students’ needs and honor the victims at a separate location. There are currently construction crews around the new Recreation Center, and the plans around the building can be changed to suit a new space to honor our peers.
This new Recreation Center will be a great addition to our great University and it should be named after those who we will remember forever, with their names etched in bronze for all to see: Riley Howell and Ellis “Reed” Parlier.