Building Naming Etches Turner’s Place in UB History
It isn’t easy to pull off an on-campus surprise for someone who knows virtually everyone in town and is intimately familiar with just about every inch of UB’s footprint. But on June 10, H. Mebane Turner, UB president emeritus, seemed to be rendered speechless as he learned, at a surprise ceremony in front of a crowd of family and friends, that the University’s Learning Commons building had been named the H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons in his honor.
In fact, his first response upon hearing the announcement from current UB President Kurt L. Schmoke was a simple “oh, goodness.”
The honor resulted from a collaboration between Schmoke and the University of Baltimore Foundation Board of Directors, explains Stuart Silberg, B.S. ʼ71, then-chairman of the board. “On behalf of the UB Foundation and our alumni, we very much wanted to recognize Meb as an inspirational and respected president of UB for 30-plus years,” he says. “We felt the Learning Commons was the perfect venue.”
The renaming is, as Schmoke noted, a fitting tribute for Turner, who retired from UB in 2002 (though he remains an active volunteer).
“Why we’re here is really no surprise or a secret to anyone who’s been around the University or … this community,” Schmoke told the audience before recognizing Turner’s numerous accomplishments, including transitioning the University from private to public, expanding the campus from 2.5 to 14 acres and achieving regional accreditation.
“And I think the things you’ve done for the University are well beyond just the things that you can measure in terms of the people that were hired here,” he continued. “The number of alumni, the graduates [who] have gone and done wonderful things in the city and the state—we really do appreciate it,” he said.
“This is wonderful,” a misty-eyed Turner said in his brief, impromptu remarks. “It’s a great privilege to have been associated with this institution for so long. … I think this place is just getting started, and you’re the crowd to get it there.”
Renaming notwithstanding, the highlight of the event for many who are familiar with Turner’s signature accessory may have been the fact that he wasted no time in donning a new bow tie featuring Eubie, the University’s bee mascot, that Silberg presented to him. In return, the former president removed his trademark bow tie with a previous UB logo and gifted it to Silberg, quipping, “I’ve got two or three of these.”