Nellie Craig is Miami's first Black graduate at Miami in 1905.
Nellie Craig is Miami's first Black graduate at Miami in 1905.

Miami University names building after first Black graduate

Nellie Craig Walker Hall honors university, community pioneer


Nellie Craig at Miami.

Nellie Craig was a trailblazer who broke new ground both at Miami University and in her community. Now, Miami’s first Black graduate has a building named in her honor on the university’s Oxford campus.

Miami’s Board of Trustees approved renaming the Campus Avenue Building after Craig, who graduated from Miami in 1905. (It is now named Nellie Craig Walker Hall.)

Naming a building in Craig’s honor was among the recommendations released earlier this month from the university’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force and one of the first from the list implemented.

“Nellie Craig had a tremendous impact, not only at Miami but in the larger Oxford community as she overcame racial barriers,” Miami President Greg Crawford said. “It’s important that her story continues to inspire future generations of Miamians for years to come. It is very fitting that honoring her legacy be one of the task force’s first recommendations put into action.”

Craig was born in Oxford and raised with three siblings. She was one of 20 women enrolled in Miami’s Ohio State Normal College (now the College of Education, Health and Society), where she earned her two-year teaching certificate and was the first Black educator to student teach in the Oxford Public School system to a mixed race classroom. Upon graduation, Craig was an elementary teacher in Indiana. She later married James Walker in 1911 and moved to Cleveland.

“We are ecstatic at the approval to name the Campus Avenue Building after Ms. Nellie Craig, the first African American graduate at Miami University and one of the first African American educators in the Oxford school district,” said Anthony James, director of Miami’s family science program and interim vice president for institutional diversity.

“Further, this great honor also represents the first time a woman of color has received such an honor on our campus. We have a deep belief that this action helps promote a campus that is inclusive and welcoming to a broader constituency.”

Added Vicka Bell-Robinson, director of the Office of Residence Life and co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force: "We are thankful to all of those who have worked tirelessly to see this to fruition."

Constructed in 1969, the Campus Avenue Building formerly housed elementary students for the McGuffey Laboratory School until its closing in 1983. Located at the corner of Campus and East Spring streets, the building currently is home to the Campus Services Center, Enrollment Management and Student Success, the Student Success Center, and University Communications and Marketing.

Opened in 1910, the McGuffey Laboratory School was originally part of the Ohio State Normal College at Miami located in McGuffey Hall. McGuffey High School consolidated into the Oxford City School system in 1954.

“Nellie Craig is a significant name in the history of Miami University,” said Tom Herbert, senior vice president for University Advancement and a member of Miami’s Naming Committee. “It is our great honor to recognize her in this way. It is very appropriate that the building bearing her name has such a strong connection to Miami’s Ohio State Normal College from which she graduated.”