The Center for International and Public Affairs will be renamed the Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow Center for International and Public Affairs, President Carol Folt announced in a communitywide email Thursday.
Medicine Crow, who graduated from USC in 1939 with a graduate degree in anthropology and received an honorary doctoral degree in 2003, was the first member of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe to earn a master’s degree. He was named the tribe’s last war chief following his service in the U.S. Army’s 103rd Infantry Division in World War II, and worked as a tribal historian for the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation for over 50 years. In 2009, former President Barack Obama honored Medicine Crow with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian medal of honor, for his military service and contributions to Native American history.
“Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow was an ambassador and bridge builder who used education to create intercultural understanding and promote collaboration between peoples and communities,” Folt wrote in the email.
A scholarship allowed Medicine Crow to pursue his graduate studies at USC, which is why Folt will implement a scholarship program in his namesake. The program, which she aims to launch in the spring, will provide up to five scholarships to Native American students.
“I want to work a bit with our Native community too, to see what kind of scholarships would be most beneficial, … where we can have the biggest impact,” said Folt in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We want to tailor it to be very effective and something that will really attract people to USC that might not think about it.”
Medicine Crow was chosen as the new namesake by the Center for International and Public Affairs Naming Committee, composed of students, staff, faculty and alumni. Folt said that the committee looked at over 200 names, but felt Medicine Crow “hit every single dream that they had for the building.”
The University received Medicine Crow’s family’s blessing to rename the building in his honor, which Folt said was “really important.”
“We want to do all the work that we can, and we wanted to really do it in a way that was respectful and meaningful,” Folt said.
Formerly named the Von KleinSmid Center, the building previously honored former University President and known eugenicist Rufus von KleinSmid, which had been protested by students for years. Hours before Folt’s inauguration in September 2019, a bust of von KleinSmid was found vandalized at the building with a piece of cloth with red lettering reading “RENAME VKC” and a cardboard sign with the words “NAZI” covering the statue.
The building was temporarily renamed the Center for International and Public Affairs by the Board of Trustees in June 2020, following months of petitions and outcry for the University to act against systemic racism and anti-Blackness.
Folt said she moved to remove Von KleinSmid’s name from the building “a couple months” after she arrived at USC in June 2019, and worked with the Board of Trustees to create the renaming committee. However, she said the announcement was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we weren’t feeling the rush to rename it during the time that we were dealing with COVID, but we had the committee,” Folt said. “The committee was doing its work, it had their candidate and then, we came out of COVID, and we’re able to say, ‘OK, now let’s bring this forward and announce it to the community.”
Despite Von KleinSmid’s name’s removal from the building, Folt said there would be other ways to understand his legacy as a former president of the University.
“I think there’ll be many opportunities to understand more fully the history of VKC, but in renaming it and removing that name, … we’re able to really put in place a person who is such an exemplar of our mission, a person that just is a deeply principled person, representative in so many different areas for our students,” Folt said. “I think we’re really making a pretty strong statement about who we really want to see honored on the building.”
University leaders are planning a dedication ceremony for the building in Spring 2022.