The Story Behind the Name: Yerkes House

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Centrepiece. 

Amelia Yerkes-1901 graduated from Caldwell College, the 19th-century girls school that eventually grew into Kentucky College for Women and later the woman’s department of Centre College. Although she never married, she was a spirited member of a bridge club and spent much of her long life—90 years—engaged in church and community work.

In 1949, she became one of the first two women elected to the Centre Board of Trustees. The other was Julia Poynter, former head of the preparatory school for girls at Science Hill in Shelbyville, Ky. Yerkes and Poynter had both served on the woman’s department’s Board of Visitors since its first meeting in 1930. It was started to represent alumnae interests to the Centre board. Yerkes had been president of the visitors board and also of the Centre Alumnae Association.

When she retired from the board in 1963 after almost 14 years, the trustees unanimously voted to name the new women’s residence hall then under construction in her honor.

The name also recognized nearly 100 years of her family’s service to Centre. Her grand-
father Stephen Yerkes was a Centre trustee from 1863 to 1889 and occasionally taught Greek and other classes at Centre. A Presbyterian minister, he originally came to town in 1857 to teach in the Danville Theological Seminary. Her father, John W. Yerkes-1873, received a master’s degree from Centre in 1876, then became a lawyer and Centre trustee who regularly taught in Centre’s law school. The silver loving cup still presented annually to the fraternity with the highest scholastic average originally belonged to him, a memento of his 16 years as Commissioner of Internal Revenue in Washington, D.C. His widow and daughter gave it to the College in 1940.

“[Miss Yerkes] represents to the fullest the Yerkes family name,” said President Thomas A. Spragens at the Yerkes House dedication, the third and last of the three dormitories built to house women following their move from the Kentucky College for Women campus to the main Centre campus. “We recognize her as a person of great wisdom and a delightful spirit, who has a deep love of mankind.”

by Diane Johnson
January 9, 2018

By |2019-10-11T19:35:25-04:00January 9th, 2019|News|