On Wednesday, Oct. 26, the University officially dedicated Laura Wooten Hall, named for a former Princeton resident who was a Campus Dining staff member for more than 27 years. Wooten served as a volunteer poll worker in New Jersey for local, primary, and general elections for 79 consecutive years, which made her the longest-continuously serving election poll worker in the United States.
The formal dedication of the building occurred just weeks ahead of midterm elections on Nov. 8, aligning with Wooten’s legacy of civic service.
Last July, the University announced that Marx Hall would be renamed Laura Wooten Hall. The Council of the Princeton University Community Committee on Naming recommended the change, which was then approved by the University Board of Trustees.
Last week’s renaming ceremony was attended by local, state, and University officials, as well as Wooten’s family and friends. New Jersey state Senator Shirley Turner, one of the primary sponsors of “Laura Wooten’s Law,” a statute that requires middle schools to expand civics education starting this academic year, was one of the state officials in attendance.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Senator Turner said she was grateful to be able to honor Wooten’s legacy by attending the ceremony.
“Laura Wooten was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She was a cafeteria worker who believed in voting and civic responsibility. The stories of ordinary people are not told or recognized often enough, yet they are the people who bring about change and movements,” she noted.
Remarking on Princeton’s decision to dedicate the building, Turner stated, “Princeton University is an elite school and to name the building for an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing is tremendous.”
During the ceremony, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 commended Wooten’s service.
“We hope that generations of Princetonians are inspired by the story of her extraordinary contributions as they explore ways that they too can serve our nation and humanity,” he said at the dedication.
According to the plaque now affixed to the building, Wooten was selected for this honor to recognize her “contributions to our nation and the democratic process.”
During her lifetime, Wooten encouraged Americans to exercise their civic rights and vote.
In a November 2018 interview with NBC News, Wooten said, “Vote every time. Let nothing and no one stop you because your vote is your voice.”
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ co-head Vote100 fellow Anjali Brunnermeier ’25 voiced her appreciation for Wooten’s long service.
“It is vital that we promote such endeavors and honor those who work so hard to promote our ability to vote and participate in democratic processes,” she emphasized.
Brunnermeier added, “Laura Wooten’s life work is inspiring to us all and deserves vast recognition. The Vote100 Team and I hope to continue these efforts as we approach the 2022 Midterm elections and beyond.”
Assistant Director of Finance and Planning for the University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Wooten’s grandson, Caasi Love, continues his grandmother’s decades of contributions to the University. He wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that he was inspired by the building dedication, and thought that “it would have brought [his grandmother] so much joy to see the impact on the community she grew up in.”
Love shared that Wooten remained steadfastly committed to the importance of civic engagement, even in the face of personal grief. When her brother died the day before Election Day in 2017, she planned cancel her shift the following day.
However, she changed her mind after learning that the location was short-staffed “at some point during the night or early morning,” Love wrote. “In her 90s at 4 a.m., instead of calling someone, she walked to Lawrence Road Fire House and performed her duty.”
Wooten passed away in 2019 when she was 98 years old. Yet, the plaque on Laura Wooten Hall will continue to remind all those who enter that her story “stands as a testament to the positive impact that one remarkable person can have through lifelong dedication to public service and civic values.”
Madeleine LeBeau is a Staff Writer for the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.