Yale University
Yale University renames college after alumnus who pioneered computer programing language Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images

Yale University on Saturday (11 February) announced that it would rename one of its prestigious institutions, Calhoun College, which was named after a staunch supporter of slavery and 19th Century alumnus John C Calhoun.

The university has decided to rename the college after Grace Murray Hopper, who graduated from the Ivy League university in the 1930s. A pioneering computer scientist who changed the way people used technology, she also served as a US Navy rear admiral.

The move reverses a decision taken by the college in 2016, when it said it would not rename the college despite protests.

Calhoun, a statesman from South Carolina and had served as vice-president of the country under former president John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He also held positions of secretary of state, secretary of war and a senator.

President of Yale University Peter Salovey, announced the decision and said, "We have a strong presumption against renaming buildings on this campus. ... I have been concerned all along and remain concerned that we don't do things that erase history. So renamings are going to be exceptional.

"John C. Calhoun. White supremacist. Ardent defender of slavery as a positive good. Someone whose views hardened over the course of his life, died essentially criticizing the Declaration of Independence and its emphasis on all men being created equal."

He described Hopper as "a visionary in the world of technology" and a trailblazer in fields dominated by men. In 1930, Hopper had received a master's degree in mathematics and a PhD in mathematical physics and mathematics in 1934. She retired at the age of 79 as Navy rear admiral and died at the age of 85 in 1992. She was posthumously awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom last year.

Salovey and other Yale Corporation members made the decision after an advisory panel made the unanimous recommendation to rename the college. It would take effect in the 2017-18 academic year.

The university will however, not remove symbols of Calhoun from the campus and will allow its alumni to associate themselves with Calhoun college instead of Grace Hopper College.