Students and Faculty Consider Legacy of Henry L. Stimson, Class of 1883

Stimson House’s common room used to have a portrait of Henry L. Stimson, but the painting was removed two years ago.

Stimson House, where 39 girls in the Pine Knoll Cluster reside, is named after a Henry L. Stimson, Class of 1883. In addition to being a prominent donor and former President of the Board of Trustees, Stimson also authorized the implementation of Japanese internment camps in the United States as Secretary of War during World War II.

In response to concerns about Stimson’s connection to the internment camps, Tracy Sweet, Director of Academy Communications, said that discussions within the Board of Trustees will commence soon.

“We appreciate these important discussions around philanthropy and the history of naming buildings on campus. In the case of Stimson [House], we will review the naming to better understand the historical context,” said Sweet.

According to the Atomic Heritage Foundation, Stimson was responsible for authorizing Executive Order 9066 in 1942, incarcerating 11,200 Japanese Americans in internment camps. Additionally, Stimson oversaw the Manhattan Project, a secret program that developed America’s first nuclear weapons, and supported the use of those weapons on Japan in 1945. Stimson also served as Governor General of the Philippine Islands.

Piper Drew ’20, a three-year resident of Stimson House, noted that discussions of Stimson’s legacy have been taking place within her dorm community for several years. According to Drew, her peers’ concerns led to the removal of Stimson’s portrait and other commemorative objects from the dorm two years ago.

Drew said, “I had lived in Stimson for three years, starting Lower year up until now. Actually, we used to have a portrait of Henry L. Stimson in our common room. That was my Lower year, mainly trying to respect his legacy, essentially commemorating him. But there’s been a little bit of talk about his history, which led to the removal of the painting.”

Drew finds that despite discussions among dorm residents, Stimson’s legacy is largely unknown to the majority of Andover students. Drew believes that all students, especially Stimson residents, deserve to know about Stimson’s legacy.

“My biggest comment on it is though [Stimson] has his history, I think it’s not talked about enough. Everyone lives in this dorm named after this man who has this history of having a position in making internment camps. And nobody really knows about it, this gnarly situation. I think that if this dorm will continue to house students, the name should definitely be addressed,” said Drew.

Drew continued, “The name is going to continue on, as it is up to the administration and Board of Trustees’ decisions. So I would say that unless the students are willing to make an open protest to the administration, continuing with naming the dorm Stimson [House] at least should require demonstrations of his legacy accurately.”

Claire Gallou, Instructor in French and Stimson House Counselor, noted that controversies regarding building names and statues are sparking nationwide issues across college campuses. Gallou believes that regardless of future decisions, there must be an extensive assessment and discussion of Stimson’s legacy.

“After thorough research and discussions, a special committee [at Yale University] issued a report on what is fit or unfit to have as a building name on campus, and that led to the renaming of the [John C.] Calhoun building, for example. It’s a serious enterprise, and it needs to be done very carefully and thoroughly, with discussions around school values, symbolism, the importance of history for the institution, and what is or is not acceptable, before any decision is made. We are in a time of transition here at Andover, but perhaps this could become part of our new Head of School’s agenda,” said Gallou.

While Leila Hardy ’22, another resident of Stimson House, does not find that Stimson’s past affects her daily experience in the dorm, she believes that it is up to the administration to inform students about the histories behind dorm names.

“I think in my daily life, it doesn’t affect me too much, just because I am not too attached to the name there. I think that my feelings about the fact that it’s named after him are kind of mixed because on the one hand, I understand the way that the school tries to honor all alumni that have made an impact. But on the other hand, it’s definitely problematic that students have to do the research ourselves to realize that the issue is around a lot of these figures, and the fact that there’s not really an effort made to explain to us what figures that are controversial did,” said Hardy.

Mareesa Miles, Teaching Fellow in English and Stimson House Counselor, noted that the administration should carefully weigh the Stimson’s decisions before removing his name from the building.

Miles said, “We need to recognize that Stimson was a multifaceted human. Even current students at Andover make both good and bad decisions throughout their time here, but that doesn’t mean that a single decision gets to define who they are. I think this is a conversation that’s happening across the country where we are wondering how we balance out the good and bad decisions of prominent figures. Obviously, that is a long discussion that all of us collectively need to work on.”

Zari Cordova-Potter ’20 believes that the most ideal solution is to rename the dorm in the near future. As an alternative way of spreading awareness of Stimson’s legacy, Cordova-Potter suggested the engravement of his full history in visible locations.

“I think that if the students are very upset, removing his name off the dorm and replacing it with new names for new donors and buildings can be a good cycle change. If we are to keep the name, I think it’s important to understand the history of this place and not erase that sort of thing. But I think going forward into the future, when they’re naming new buildings, we should try to make a conscious effort to really honor people who completely deserve it, such as describing his past decisions in visible statues or such,” said Cordova-Potter.