College Names: Rah! Rah! for names with a college degree.

college names

In the course of her daughter’s college search, guest blogger Susan Chesney discovered a whole new category of name possibilities.

Our daughter Laura is applying to colleges, fourteen of them to be exact. Her brother Peter  (Vassar ’08) took her on a college tour to New York and New England last summer. We didn’t accompany them so that we could save money.  I have an expensive weakness for decent accommodations and healthy food. But our kids can travel on a shoestring.

Peter and Laura visited twenty schools. They texted and called us often, talking incessantly about the various colleges they had visited that day and those they would be touring next.  I remember hearing the name “Sarah Lawrence” in a whole new light, and thinking, that’s pretty! “Bard” sounded quirky, and “Bates” sounded kind of creepy like the Bates Motel in “Psycho.”

When they returned home, the quest for the perfect college wasn’t over.  Laura has a book called “The Best 366 Colleges,” with descriptions of schools across the United States. Laura has been carrying THE BOOK around for two years now. She has talked about this college and that and is open to going to school in Ohio, Pennsylvania and even as near to her family as (gasp!) California! As she talks about different colleges, I am hearing more and more names that have cool potential for baby names, my constant obsession, as you Nameberryites all know!

Because we live in California where most college are universities named after the cities they are located in, many of the far-away liberal arts colleges have names that I had never heard of until now, such as Kenyon, Allegheny, and St. Olaf. But others have names that are familiar like Reed, Bowdoin, and, of course, Harvard.

A few days ago as I was obsessing about names, I realized that THE BOOK is not only an amazing collection of college descriptions, it is also a delightful dictionary of classic, quirky, vintage, and place names that could provide great inspiration for all of us on Nameberry.

College Names


ALLEGHENY (al-uh–GAIN-ee, but my daughter and I think uh-LEG-uhn-ee is prettier.) – Pennsylvania

(University of Michigan Ann) ARBOR – Michigan



BEREA – Kentucky

(University of California) BERKELEY (Go Bears! Sorry, I’m from California!)

(Sweet) BRIARVirginia

BRYN (Mawr) – Pennsylvania

CLARE(mont) – California

(Santa) CLARACalifornia

DREW – New Jersey, could be a boy’s name, too.

EMORYGeorgia–also unisex

MARQUETTE – Wisconsin

(Claremont) MCKENNACalifornia

SARAH (Lawrence) – New York

WILLA(mette) – Oregon


ALBION – Michigan

ALFRED – New York

(Saint) ANSELM – New Hampshire

BOWDOIN – Maine, great middle name!

CALVIN – Michigan

CARLETON – Minnesota


CLARK – Massachusetts

COOPER (Union) – New York

DUKENorth Carolina

EMERSON – Massachusetts

(Wake) FOREST (University of North Carolina)

HARVEY (Mudd) – California

HARVARD – Massachusetts

HENDRIX – Arkansas

(Sarah) LAWRENCE – New York

LINCOLN (University of Nebraska – Lincoln)


KNOX (The University of Tennessee at Knoxville)

(St.) OLAF – Minnesota


SIMON’s (Rock College of Bard) – Massachusetts

TRUMAN (State, Mo) – Missouri

WESLEY (an) – University – Connecticut, College – Georgia


XAVIER – University of Louisiana, University – Ohio

YALE – Connecticut

Now it’s your turn, Nameberryites! Think back to your college days. Tell us the name of your Alma Mater. If the college that you graduated from is blessed with a name that is befitting an infant, let us know. Otherwise tell us the name of your college and then share a potential baby name or two that have to do with the your college.

If you are planning to go to college, tell us some baby names that you associate with your dream college or university.

I will start:

I got my B.F.A. at Art Center. No baby name potential there. But it was on Lida Street. Lida, a lovely name for a girl!  I got my M.A.T. at Occidental College. Occidental sounds like a dentist, not a baby name. But the name of the cafeteria and dining hall is Clancy’s. Love Clancy for a boy or a girl.

SUSAN CHESNEY, a graduate of Art Center College of Design, was the president of a graphics company for twelve years. She lives near Pasadena, California with her husband Kent, daughter Laura (son Peter lives nearby), dog Roxanne Louise and cat MosesMalone.

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