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July 5, 2013

Naming rights and naming wrongs

PEABODY — What’s in a name?

When it comes to the naming rights at various locations around Peabody schools, there’s money. At least some members of the School Committee think there might be. And member Dave McGeney wants to dispute the notion, raised by colleague Beverley Griffin Dunne, that it would be tantamount to selling the city’s soul to raise money by auctioning off naming rights and creating, for example, the Coca Cola Gymnasium or the Ty-D-Bol Science Lab.

In so many words, McGeney suggested that the city made that sale a long time ago, and it was a very good deal.

“Here’s the irony,” said McGeney. “Unlike our surrounding communities, Peabody is the only one named after a guy so rich he could do some good here.”

That fellow was George Peabody, who was born here and grew up in what was then called South Danvers. He went on to become one of the richest men in the world and one of the most generous.

He never forgot his hometown, but just in case, city fathers changed the name of South Danvers to Peabody in 1868, a year before George’s death. Previously, he had endowed both Danvers and Peabody with separate libraries having identical names.

“The Peabody Institute Library,” McGeney reminded, “is named after the man and not the city.”

Griffen Dunne strongly opposes the idea of selling naming rights, particularly at the Veterans Memorial High School, where names have traditionally gone to veterans or military concepts. On the other hand, she does express sympathy for efforts to increase funding at the schools.

McGeney denied that any veterans’ names would be eliminated or forgotten at the high school.

“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we weren’t looking for new sources of revenue,” he added. “I don’t think we should be criticized for looking into things.”

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