On Friday, Feb. 17, the Office of Residence Life released the “Housing Lottery Resource Guide” for the 2023-2024 academic year. Within the section entitled “Class of 2026 Sophomores Give Back Six-Person Suites in Bowman Hall,” the Office revealed an exciting announcement: “New to Fall 2023: Fairfield University is excited to open Sister Thea Bowman Hall.”
The announcement marks a historic moment for Fairfield University. Bowman Hall, formerly referred to as Regis West, will be the first Residence Hall named after a Black female religious leader.
Bowman Hall is being erected behind Regis Hall, joining a collection of dormitories in an area known as “the Quad”. Meredith Smith, the Assistant Vice President and Director of Residential Life, noted the inspiration and congruence between the buildings’ names.
“In keeping with the naming consistency of Quad residence halls, Sister Thea Bowman was nominated by our Jesuit colleagues and chosen for her efforts to make the Church a place of inclusion and belonging for Black Catholics,” Smith communicated.
On Sept. 21, The Mirror published an article that cited Fairfield University’s Vice President of Facilities David Frassinelli, reporting that the construction of Bowman Hall will be completed in August 2023.
Upon completion, Bowman Hall will welcome students from the Class of 2026 who applied and were accepted to the Sophomores Give Back program.
Sophomores Give Back, which started as a pilot community this past year, enables students to create a positive impact on Fairfield’s campus and the surrounding community.
Smith elaborated on the structure of the program by asserting that “students have the opportunity to give back in one of three tracks: through service with Campus Ministry, peer mentorship in the First-Year Living and Learning Communities or involvement in their direct residential community with the Inter-Residential Housing Association.”
The program emphasizes a commitment to service and unity, two ideals that align with the mission of the building’s namesake.
At the age of 15, Sister Thea Bowman left her Mississippi home to pursue religious vocation in LaCrosse, Wis. Bowman, a granddaughter of slaves, became the only African American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, a community of women committed to “building Christ’s Kingdom of justice and peace,” as stated on the congregation’s website.
Her spiritual awakening commenced in the 1960s, a period in United States history plagued by racial conflict and division.
The legacy of Sister Thea Bowman is shaped by her deep cultural awareness, as she became a “highly acclaimed evangelizer, teacher, writer and singer sharing the joy of the Gospel and her rich heritage throughout the nation,” according to sistertheabowman.com.
Bowman spent 16 years as an educator, which led her to earn an honorary Doctorate in Religion from Boston College and the title of Consultant for Intercultural Awareness for the Diocese of Jackson, Miss.
In these roles, Bowman utilized her platform to promote racial equality and spread the message of God’s love. Sr. Thea’s passion was unwavering, even as she was confronted by a breast cancer diagnosis in 1984.
Despite the disease resulting in the metastasis of her bones, “Sister Thea would arrive [to presentations] in a wheelchair with no hair (due to the chemotherapy treatments), but always with her joyful disposition and pleasant smile.”
Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J, the Executive Director of Fairfield Bellarmine, expanded on the deeper implications of the building’s name. “As a Black woman, religious sister, educator and musician, Thea Bowman expressed the dynamism and vibrancy of the African-American tradition in the Catholic Church,” O’Brien reflected.
“By honoring her in our newest residence hall, we emphasize how central diversity and inclusion is to our mission as a Jesuit university. While the name is important, even more vital is that we live out what Sr. Bowman stood for: a faith that does justice, inclusion that embraces belonging and a religious and intellectual tradition that is living because more voices are heard.”
Additional Updates From Residential Life!
In addition to the unveiling of Bowman Hall, Regis and Faber Hall will be updated for August 2023.
“For this coming summer, the University will continue summer renovations on the Quad,” Smith disclosed. “Regis Hall will be renovated this summer and will have new common areas/lounges and air-conditioning.”
Furthermore, “Faber Hall will be renovated to provide more housing options for students and updates to the Dining Commons including a new space for Campus Ministry Programming,” Smith declared.
Peter Newman, the current Area Coordinator for Faber and Claver Hall, expressed his love for Faber. “It has a lot of unique qualities, a great set of common area amenities and an incredible history behind it being the former Jesuit residence on campus prior to the Jesuit Community Center’s construction,” Newman exclaimed. “It has been a great experience supporting this building and those in it!”
For more information about the Office of Residential Life and the 2023-2024 Housing Lottery, visit their office located in the Lower Level of the Barone Campus Center 096 or their website at fairfield.edu/undergraduate/student-life-and-services/student-services/residence-life/.