Students arrived at the Mason Fairfax campus this semester to find that “University Hall” no longer existed. Instead, the building had been renamed Alan and Sally Merten Hall in honor of the university’s former president and first lady.
“I think Alan and Sally Merten do deserve to have [the building named after them],” said Israel Echeverria, a senior who works at the information desk of Merten Hall. “Especially Alan Merten [has] done so much for the school.”
Merten served as president of Mason from 1996 to 2012. During his tenure, the institution developed into the largest research university in Virginia, with more than 30,000 students currently enrolled, and gained national recognition. He and Sally Merten also gave considerable donations to the university, establishing four scholarships. Known for supporting liberal arts programs at Mason and in the surrounding community, the Mertens continue to serve as “ambassadors” to the university.
Current President Ángel Cabrera proposed the name change which the Board of Visitors approved during a May 7 meeting. Alan and Sally Merten Hall was officially unveiled on Jun. 23 during a ceremony attended by several prominent members of the Mason community, including Congressman Frank Wolf, former U.S. attorney general Edwin Meese III and the Mertens themselves.
However, the transition did not proceed without some minor hitches. Some students found the new name confusing.
“My classes came under Merten, and last semester it was University Hall, so I was just sitting there like, ‘What is Merten Hall?’” junior, Amreen Dhinzsa said. “I figured it out because when you drive out, it says something and Sally Merten Hall.”
At the time of publication, the building’s webpage still reads “University Hall” and some of the maps on campus have yet to be updated. Further complicating the situation are the ongoing renovations to Mason Hall, which prompted the relocation of many senior administrative offices, including President Cabrera’s, to Merten Hall.
“If they just keep [building names] as they are, I think it would be better, easier,” Dhinzsa said.