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Photo: Idil Demirdag

More than a year after its grand opening, New College House has not received its own unique name despite earlier indications that it would be renamed. 

Months before the then-newly established dorm opened its doors to Penn freshmen students in fall 2016, Executive Director of Business Services Doug Berger told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the dorm would be “renamed at some point.” 

“For now it will be called the New College House,” Berger said. “It will probably be renamed at some point, but for now we’re just focused on getting it open.” 

A year later, the name change has yet to occur, and an upcoming residential dorm on the opposite end of campus is taking on an adapted version of its moniker. The record-breaking $163 million project has been dubbed New College House West, though Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations John Zeller has said again that this name may be temporary. 

New College House West rendering from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson Architects

Zeller said New College House has kept its “descriptor” name because no donors currently have an interest in granting their naming right. 

Multiple donors raised approximately $60 million for the creation of New College House during Penn President Amy Gutmann’s historic Making History Campaign, where Penn raised a record of $4.3 billion — $800 million more than its target of $3.5 billion — to enhance various aspects of the University. 

The lead contributions for New College House came from Stephen and Barbara Heyman, as well as members of the Lauder family, who are the founders of The Estee Lauder Companies Inc. The two families share a history of giving gifts to the University. Stephen Heyman, a 1959 Wharton graduate and trustee emeritus, previously donated to several endowed professorships at Penn, while 1954 and 1965 Wharton graduates Leonard and Ronald Lauder founded Penn’s Lauder Institute, a joint-degree program that integrates management education with international studies. 

However, among the group of donors that have made significant contributions to the building, there is currently no one who wants to put their name on the building.

“A donor has an option to put their name on [NCH] should they wish to do it, but at the present date, they have no desire to do that,” Zeller said. “For now, it will stay as NCH.” 

Zeller added that there are various reasons donors may not want to associate their name with the building they helped establish, despite contributing a significant amount of money. 

“Recognition might not be important for them, or the timing isn’t right,” he said. “They may at some point in the future be willing to have their name associated with [the building].” 

The naming right of a building does not always belong to the donor who makes the most significant contribution, Zeller also said. In order to avoid a “bidding type of scenario,” the naming right is usually agreed upon before the gift is made.

“There are people who make significant gifts who say, ‘Look, if somebody else wants to put a name on it and makes a significant gift, then I’d be happy to have that happen,’" he said. 

As for New College House West, the new residential building to be built on 40th and Walnut streets, Penn will be seeking support for a naming gift over the next three to four years, Zeller said. 

College freshman Varsha Shankar who currently lives in New College House said she found out that the dorm’s name was only temporary during her first house meeting in September. 

“I thought [New College House] was going to be a permanent name and was going to be kind of a joke in 50 years,” Shankar said. “But apparently they are going to change it. … The [residential advisor] and house deans said during the house meeting, ‘Oh we’re thinking of having a new name.’” 

While the RAs and house deans did not mention the Lauder family, Shankar said she has heard through upperclassmen that the dorm would be named after them. 

College sophomore Jason Pak lived in NCH during his freshman year and said he did not mind if the dorm retained this temporary name. 

“Honestly, New College House isn’t a bad name," Pak said. "NCH is like a nice abbreviation and is convenient, and I think that’s what matters most for the naming of a dorm."

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