Oregon State University will name its new residence hall after William “Bill” Tebeau, a pioneering student who persevered through numerous challenges to become the first African American male to earn a degree from the university.
William Tebeau Hall, located just east of the Kerr Administration Building on Washington Way, will open in fall of 2014. A dedication ceremony will be held at the site in October.
Tebeau was admitted to what was then Oregon State College in 1943 and, according to stories, was not offered a housing assignment because of the color of his skin. Undaunted, he took a job in a fraternity tending the furnace in exchange for a room in the basement and set out in pursuit of an engineering degree, which he received in 1948.
“Bill Tebeau did not let this act of bias keep him from his goals, and he went on to a tremendously successful career – staying connected to his alma mater for his entire life,” said Dan Larson, executive director of University Housing and Dining Services at OSU.
“Our history does not always reflect the best of us,” Larson said. “The naming committee and UHDS Leadership believed strongly that honoring Mr. Tebeau by naming our newest residence hall after him not only recognizes a man of great humility and strength, but will represent our ongoing commitment to learning from our past, the imperative of seeking our own personal awareness and growth and an unwavering pursuit of a socially just community.”
Born in 1925, Tebeau grew up in Baker, Oregon where he was an avid Boy Scout and ambitious student. After graduating from Baker High School, he was admitted to Oregon State College, where his lifelong love of education continued. After earning his Chemical Engineering degree at OSU , he received his civil engineering license and joined the State Highway Department (later Oregon Department of Transportation), where he enjoyed a 36-year career doing everything from surveying and planning to designing highways and bridges. He also taught part-time at Chemeketa Community College, and in 1970 was named the institution’s Teacher of the Year.
In 2010, he was inducted into the OSU Engineering Hall of Fame. Tebeau died at the age of 87 on July 5, 2013, leaving behind his wife of 62 years, Genevieve, seven children, 13 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.
When completed, William Tebeau Hall will house about 324 students. The five-floor, 76,400-square-foot building will become OSU’s 15th residence hall. The $28 million facility, which is adjacent to Wilson and Callahan halls, is funded through state bonds that will be repaid by resident fees.