Published June 14, 2021
The UB Council today unanimously approved a resolution renaming Porter Quad in the Ellicott Complex the Willie R. Evans Quadrangle in recognition of the late UB student-athlete and longtime educator in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Evans was a star running back and one of only two Black players on UB’s historic 1958 football team that unanimously agreed to decline an invitation to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando because Evans and teammate Mike Wilson would have been barred from playing.
In introducing the renaming resolution to council members, President Satish K. Tripathi noted that the university had defined several criteria that candidates would have to meet in order for the building to be named for them, including having made “exceptional contributions” to UB and Western New York, “setting an inspiring example” for UB’s diverse student body, being highly regarded for distinguished achievements in their field or endeavor, and embodying UB’s mission of public service.
UB faculty, staff and students submitted more than 100 emails nominating 65 unique individuals, Tripathi said. Of those, 40 met at least one of the criteria. A committee advanced five names to Tripathi for his consideration. And while all five “have set a tremendous example for our community, Willie Evans emerged as my clear choice for this distinction,” Tripathi told council members.
“Renaming the former Porter Quadrangle the Willie R. Evans Quadrangle aligns with our values as a diverse, inclusive, scholarly community,” he said.
Evans graduated from UB in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and earned a master’s degree from SUNY Buffalo State in 1988. He worked in the Buffalo Public Schools for more than 30 years. He also served as president of the UB Alumni Association and was the recipient of the Community Leadership Medal, the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Russell J. Gugino Award and, along with his football teammates, the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB’s highest honor.
The council had removed the name of Peter B. Porter from the North Campus residence hall in August 2020 as one of several actions taken by the UB to align with the university’s commitment to fight systemic racism and create a welcoming environment for all.
Porter was a Buffalo resident who served as the U.S. secretary of war, a member of Congress, secretary of the State of New York, and a regent of the University of the State of New York. He owned five enslaved African Americans.
At that time, the council also renamed Putnam Way Mary Talbert Way in honor of Buffalo civil rights pioneer Mary Talbert, and the university removed the names of Millard Fillmore and James O. Putnam from the Millard Fillmore Academic Center in Ellicott and Putnam’s Marketplace Eatery in the Student Union. Putnam’s is now Union Marketplace & Eatery; MFAC is known as the Academic Center until a new name is determined.
Putnam, a lawyer, New York State senator, and UB council member for 32 years, served as the university’s fourth chancellor from 1895-1902. During his career as a politician, he held and openly expressed racist views.
Fillmore, UB’s first chancellor, was the 13th president of the United States. His presidency, from 1850-53, has been widely criticized for his support of The Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
I applaud UB's decision to rename Porter Quad in honor of Willie R. Evans! Mr. Evans and his wife, Bobbie, supported UB in a number of ways, including attending home games and traveling to away games with UB teams. UB chose an excellent exemplar for our students.
R. Lorraine Collins