Students have signed a letter calling for the new MedStar Georgetown University Hospital surgical pavilion to be named after Eileen Niedfield (MED ’51), valedictorian of the first class of women accepted to the Georgetown University Medical Center.
The Nov. 14 letter, signed by six student organizations and 18 students at the time of publication, argues that the surgical pavilion, which is currently under construction between Darnall Hall and the main MedStar buildings, should be named after Niedfield. A member of the Medical Mission Sisters religious order, she served as a surgeon in India for over 40 years.
The letter comes after a corresponding resolution passed by the Georgetown University Student Association senate at its Nov. 3 meeting. The resolution was sponsored by senators Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22) and Joshua Marin-Mora (SFS ’21) and passed the senate with 24 votes in support and two abstentions.
Marin-Mora, who also serves as the transportation and accessibility policy chair for the senate, decided to draft the resolution after reading an op-ed published in The Hoya by C.C. Borzilleri (COL ’19) in January 2019 calling for the new building to be named after Niedfield.
“I thought it was a profoundly written article and that is when I turned to Daniella to talk to her to see if she’d be interested in the idea that C.C. had initially proposed,” Marin-Mora said in an interview with The Hoya.
Borzilleri’s wrote the op-ed after she completed a project with the Georgetown Women’s Alliance to hang panels in the Hoya Court highlighting the stories of women graduates of Georgetown University.
While researching for the program, Borzilleri discovered Niedfield’s story, which she said was a particularly notable example of women’s contributions to Georgetown.
“During the exhibit research process one of the hardest parts was selecting which of Georgetown’s women to highlight: there are just so many worthy of recognition,” Borzilleri wrote in an email to The Hoya. “One story which particularly struck me was Niedfield’s, and the construction of the Pavilion was in its earliest stages at this point, so I thought there might be a chance to get this idea out there early before the building could be named after someone else.”
Sanchez, who serves as the vice chair of the senate policy and advocacy committee and the gender equity policy chair, believes naming this new building after Niedfield would be a positive step toward better memorializing women on campus.
“Georgetown can improve on highlighting women of the church, they can improve on highlighting women’s narratives through events,” Sanchez said. “They can just provide a lot more attention to us presently and that would help institutionalized gender equality for the future.”
Georgetown traditionally names university buildings after historical figures, major donors or individuals who served within the university administration, according to Sanchez. Few campus buildings are named after individual women.
In 2013, there was a similar campus-wide initiative focused on naming a building. A GUSA senator advocated for the newest residence hall to be named after Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus. This initiative inspired her January 2019 op-ed, according to Borzelleri.
Student organizations that have signed the letter at the time of publication include Hermanas de Georgetown, the Latin American Student Association, Georgetown Latinx Leadership Forum, the Patrick Healy Fellowship, the Central American United Student Association and Georgetown Disability Alliance.
The Georgetown Disability Alliance cited the positive implications of the bill as reasoning for the group’s decision to sign the petition, according to GDS founder and board member Anna Landre (SFS ’21).
“GDA believes that the work of women has been marginalized in the history of Georgetown and, of course, in the world beyond,” Landre wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We need to work to correct this bias and that’s why we’re excited about the prospect of highlighting the work of a fantastic alumna through the name of the new Medstar building.”
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of C.C. Borzilleri’s name and include her school and graduation year at Georgetown. The headline was also updated to clarify the nature of the petition.