Willow Residence Hall renamed Décou-Labat Residence Hall


Courtesy of Paula Burch-Celentano

Dr. Diedre Dumas Labat at ribbon cutting ceremony

Gabe Darley, Contributing Reporter

A small but spirited crowd gathered outside of the PJ’s Coffee shop on Willow Street this past Saturday, Nov. 16, to celebrate the dedication of the newly re-named “Décou-Labat Residences.” The name honors Dr. Diedre Dumas Labat and Reynold T. Décou, Sr., the first two African Americans to earn undergraduate degrees from Newcomb and Tulane, respectively.

Saturday morning began with a brunch honoring the two namesakes of the residences, including the unveiling of their official portraits commissioned by Tulane to be hung in Newcomb Hall and the School of Science and Engineering. At the conclusion of this segment, a parade of excited brunch-goers marched down Janet Yulman Way, complete with a jazz band and the two honorees themselves bringing up the rear.

Despite the fresh name, the structure itself is not new. It belongs to what was previously known as the “Willow Residences.” 

The building renaming is part of a larger campaign called the Tulane Trailblazers Initiative. Established last April, the objective of the initiative is to “name prominent campus locations and programs after pioneering alumni and other Tulanians who led the way in the university becoming a more inclusive, diverse and welcoming community,” according to the Office of the President’s mission statement.

“We are not really renaming any buildings in the traditional sense,” President Mike Fitts said. “The Willow Residences have been designated such simply because of the street on which they are located.” 

Fitts also expanded on the Trailblazers initiative itself. 

“[It] is not so much focused on naming buildings, but rather on recognizing the extraordinary impact individuals from diverse backgrounds have had on Tulane and how their sacrifice and efforts have moved us forward in building an institution reflective of the world in which we live in,” Fitts said.

The ceremony began with a performance by Tulane’s own POCapella, followed by some words by the president focused on both honorees’ accomplishments and time spent at their respective universities. Then came the oversized scissors, their matching ribbon and enthusiastic applause from the audience. 

“I want to underscore what an important moment this is for Tulane University,” Fitts said. “These two incredible individuals –– these two heroes –– allowing us to name these central residences on the campus [after them].”

Dr. Diedre Dumas Labat graduated from Newcomb College in 1966. Reynold T. Décou, Sr., graduated from Tulane University in 1967.

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