A new 600-bed residence hall currently under construction on Western Carolina University’s upper campus will bear the name of Levern Hamlin Allen, the first African-American student to enroll at WCU and among the first to be admitted to any of North Carolina’s all-white state institutions of higher education.
The WCU Board of Trustees unanimously decided earlier this fall to name the residential facility Levern Hamlin Allen Hall in recognition of her decision to attend WCU to seek a post-secondary certification in 1957, just three years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
A native of Roanoke, Virginia, Allen had earned a bachelor’s degree in speech correction from the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and was working as a speech therapist in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system when she found she needed certification in special education in order to gain permanent employment. After conducting research and learning that WCU was one of the few colleges or universities in the state at the time offering the courses she needed and one of the few that did not require a photo as part of the admissions process, she sought enrollment at what was then called Western Carolina College, said Patricia Kaemmerling, chair of the WCU Board of Trustees.
Originally published Nov. 29, 2018.