Down With the Donor Wall


Over spring break, the names on the donor wall of the fourth floor Learning Commons (LC) were removed. What was once a board filled with the names of people who donated to the construction of the Upper School library and cafeteria space now stands as a magnetized wall with orange and blue planks, waiting to be decorated. 

Associate Director of Development and Donor Relations Melissa Glassman helped oversee the process. She said, “The overarching factor driving the change was to improve the Learning Commons as a ‘student’ focused space.”

In the LC, students study, eat, hang out with friends, and pass time between classes. Students were both surprised and confused to see that the donor wall had been altered. Others didn’t even notice the change.

Sophomore Maddox Hussar said, “They took the names down? I noticed that the names were there in the first place, but I was unaware that they are now gone.”

Similarly, sophomore Katya Alexandrov said, “I walk through the LC almost everyday, and, to be honest, I think the donor names go unnoticed for many.”

Ms. Glassman also provided insight on where the donors are represented now. “The names were not removed from the Commons, they were relocated to a newly designed plaque on the ramp between the upper and lower levels of the Commons.” 

She added, “This was done with the full knowledge and support of the donors whose support made the renovations to the library and cafeteria possible—not to mention the addition of a bridge on the fourth floor.”

Upper School Librarian Gretchen Metzler said, “From my perspective, as someone who works in the Learning Commons, the change does make the environment a bit more inclusive of all folks who use the space.”

Junior Anaitzel Franco agreed. She said, “I think that I understand Latin wanting to show the families and names of donors who are providing for the school, just because it’s out of respect and recognition; however, I know for myself, I feel uncomfortable when I can recognize the names of the people on the wall.”

Anaitzel mentioned how community members who volunteer and contribute to the school in non-monetary forms get less recognition. She added, “It does make me feel uncomfortable seeing that advertised knowing that not all families can donate. I think it puts a lot of students in uncomfortable situations.”

With a large empty space still needing to be filled, what would the new purpose of the board be?

Ms. Metzler highlighted the creativity and functionality the board will provide for community members who use the LC. She said, “The magnetic display will allow the librarians and students to easily build displays of library resources and or student work.”

In addition to the one in the LC, there is another donor wall on the first floor, opposite the Wrigley Theater. Although its location might make it less visible, students and faculty still pass by the wall on the way to the basement coming down from the second floor, or when they are standing outside the theater. 

Junior Katie Cahill said, “I think location matters. The names going down to the basement, they are not as in your face or flashy.” 

Katie agreed with the idea of a donor wall. “I wouldn’t say I’m bothered by it, because they are donating money to make the school better for us,” she said. “It gives incentive to donate, so as long as it’s not in spaces where they are so in your face, it’s okay.”

Junior Spencer Stein said, “The Learning Commons is most definitely a community space. My friends and I eat lunch there almost every day, and I sit at the tables often during frees.”

The removal of the names from the LC donor wall has left questions up in the air as to whether the first floor donor wall will stay standing. While it is not being publicly disclosed to the students whether the names will stay up in the future, Latin students have predictions about what decision will ultimately be made.

Junior Jackson Ballard said, “I don’t think the first floor names will stay up. If they take the other one down for whatever reason that may be, if it’s donor privacy or other, I just can’t think of a reason that they would take down the names in the Learning Commons and not the names downstairs.”

However, according to Ms. Glassman, “There are no plans to make changes to other donor recognition.”

There are plans in place to transform the newly blank wall of the Learning Commons into an interactive display and resource. Senior Margot Bettman said. ”Hopefully it will bring something cool and meaningful.”