Updated August 3, 2020
A founder of the University at Buffalo, lawyer and congressman Millard Fillmore was chancellor from 1846 to 1874. Additionally, during this tenure, Fillmore served as comptroller of New York State from 1848 to 1849, and vice president of the United States, from 1849 to 1850. He served as president of the United States from 1850 to 1853. Fillmore died in March of 1874.
UB understands Fillmore’s complex role in the history of slavery in the United States, which includes the Fugitive Slave Act, which Fillmore signed as part of the Compromise of 1850.
The University at Buffalo’s recognition of Fillmore was based on his role as a founder of the university and serving as its first chancellor, and was not an endorsement of his policies or legacy as President of the United States. As students and citizens across the nation weigh the merits of the historical legacies that conflict with contemporary norms of equity and inclusion, an informed understanding of Millard Fillmore’s career is more important than ever.
For many months, students, faculty and staff at UB have been discussing the topic of institutional symbols, particularly those that contradict and undermine our university's mission of diversity, equity and inclusion. From these conversations, the decision was made in 2019 to end the university's co-sponsorship of the annual recognition ceremony at Millard Fillmore's gravesite at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
The university has activated a process to review named spaces, building and grounds on our campuses. This process included a review of the use of Fillmore's name on an academic center that houses offices, classrooms and research space on UB's North Campus.
On August 3, 2020, the decision was announced to remove the name of Millard Fillmore from the Millard Fillmore Academic Center, a decision that aligns with the university’s commitment to fight systemic racism and create a welcoming environment for all. Millard Fillmore Academic Center, which is part of the Ellicott Complex, will be known as Academic Center until a new name is determined.
UB’s examination of these issues is essential as we build on our commitment to explore, understand and respond to racism and systemic inequality, and dismantle barriers to equity and inclusion.