Throughout the history of Wilmington College, and subsequently UNCW, the citizens of New Hanover County have remained steadfast supporters and patrons. 47 years ago, the Board of Trustees cited this community support, in the form of tax levies and referendums, as one of the major factors in the decision to name the new Wilmington College gymnasium “Hanover Hall.”
In 1946, North Carolina Governor Gregg Cherry called for a committee of North Carolina college presidents to brainstorm about ideas for addressing the higher education facilities crisis in their state. Their meeting led to a campaign in New Hanover County spearheaded by Wallace West, Chairman of the Education Committee of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. The importance of the campaign was tantamount. Regardless of the perceived support garnered for the establishment of a local college for Wilmington, the campaign additionally had to convince registered voters to make it to the polls. Any previously registered voter who failed to turn in a ballot counted as a “nay” vote at that time, and posed a serious threat to the college’s establishment.
On voting day, March 25, 1947, the residents of New Hanover County began their legacy as patrons of education. Seventy-four percent of the eligible voters approved a five-cent tax levy on every $100 of property value and raised $36,500. The state created a Board of Education fund, separate from the rest of the taxes raised, to support the budgets of Wilmington College, and in the end Williston College as well.
The name “Hanover Hall” reflects the essential role of the citizens of New Hanover County in establishing the college, as well as the contribution of the school to preserving the tradition of local history in the area. New Hanover became a county in 1728, named in honor of the Hanoverian Kings who ruled England at that time.
Since its groundbreaking on September 26, 1963, “Hanover Hall” has played a number of roles for Wilmington College and UNCW. Originally costing $492,000, the gymnasium was a state of the art home for the Seahawk basketball team from 1965-1977, and hosted Wilmington College’s first 4-year baccalaureate graduation in 1965. Hanover Hall became a physical education center following the building of Trask Coliseum, and is currently the home of the UNCW Athletic Center and the Seahawk Strength Center.
Book: From These Beginnings: Wilmington College, 1946-1969.
Article about naming of Hanover Hall in the student newspaper, the Seahawk in 1966