KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s new sorority housing will be named after one of the school’s most accomplished alumnae.
With support from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, NU System President Ted Carter and UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen, the 41,000-square-foot residence hall under construction on UNK’s east campus will be known as Bess Furman Armstrong Hall.
“Bess’s legacy is a testament to the power of education and the impact one individual can have on our nation and world,” Kristensen said. “As we celebrate the naming of Bess Furman Armstrong Hall, we are reminded of the vital role our institution plays in shaping the leaders of tomorrow and the trail Bess charted for future generations of UNK students.”
A Danbury native, Furman Armstrong was destined for a career in journalism. Her father was publisher of the Danbury News and she learned to set type and assist at the newspaper office as a young child.
Furman Armstrong attended the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney (now UNK), where she served as the first woman editor of The Antelope student newspaper before graduating in 1918.
She worked as a schoolteacher before landing her first job with a Nebraska newspaper and wrote an award-winning report on presidential candidate Al Smith’s campaign appearance in Omaha. That led to an Associated Press position in Washington, D.C., where she became the first woman reporter regularly assigned to cover the U.S. House of Representatives by a press association.
Furman Armstrong covered the White House during five presidential administrations, as a reporter for the Associated Press from 1929 to 1936, then as a correspondent for The New York Times from 1943 to 1961. She became lifelong friends with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and used her writing talent to champion women’s rights and influence the role of women in politics.
In 1961, Furman Armstrong joined the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare as a public affairs assistant. She became head of the department’s press information division the following year, making her the first woman to hold a top public affairs position with a cabinet agency. Furman Armstrong also worked for the Office of War Information during World War II, wrote a history of the U.S. Public Health Service and authored two books – “White House Profile” and her autobiography, “Washington By-Line.”
She served as president of the Women’s National Press Club in 1946 and was inducted into the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame in 1975, six years after her death.
Bess Furman Armstrong Hall is scheduled to open in January, with a ribbon-cutting event planned for Feb. 1.
“I’m happy that the building will be named after a strong, accomplished woman, like the women who will live there,” UNK Student Body President Temo Molina said during last week’s Board of Regents meeting.
Located just east of the Nebraskan Student Union, the 140-bed residence hall features dedicated housing pods, chapter rooms, lounges and study areas for each Panhellenic sorority – Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Alpha Xi Delta and Gamma Phi Beta – along with an outdoor patio and green space. There are flexible housing units designed to meet the chapters’ future needs, as well.
It also includes chapter rooms and a shared lounge for UNK’s multicultural chapters – the Sigma Lambda Gamma and Lambda Theta Nu sororities and Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity – giving them a permanent on-campus home for the first time.
The new sorority housing is part of a $32.65 million project that replaces University Residence North (URN) and University Residence South (URS). Located directly south of the sorority building, Martin Hall reopened in January following a major renovation that transformed the nearly 70-year-old residence hall into a modern living space for UNK fraternity members.