Monday, December 15, 2014

A Decade as President

This past Saturday I served as the commencement speaker at Delaware State. Commencement is always a great event, so I was pleased to accept the invitation. Saturday was December 13th. On that day, in 2004, I began my work as president of Philander Smith College.

So today would have been that day, this Monday. 10 years a president is a long time. You can tell because my hair is whiter and there is less of it. There are lots of memories during that time. Always the best part of being a president is working with students and families. When you can watch someone progress and then enter their careers, get married and start families-there is nothing quite like it. It is always special to see those who don't have a clue finally get it along the way. That is the reason why I do what I do.

And yet, I think many people have an unrealistic impression of the presidency. It is a LONELY job. I am very blessed to have a wife who has been a higher ed attorney (assistant to the president) and worked in student affairs, so she really understands what I do. This is her calling too, and she often does so much for our students on her free time- people really have no idea.

But you never expect to have people dislike or even hate you because you have to make a decision they don't like, or many times, they just don't like you because you are simply the president! Right before I moved to New Orleans a colleague said, "Why would anyone want to be a president?" This job takes a toll on you and your spirit, so being grounded in your faith is the only way to survive a presidency, because you have to survive. Simply stated, if you don't know Jesus, you don't need to become a president!

So we'll see what the future holds. The first decade went quickly so I am looking forward to a second decade. This is definitely a calling.

The Prez

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ortique Lecture on Law & Society: Benjamin Crump

Last Tuesday we held the 5th annual Ortique Lecture on Law and Society. The lecture is in honor of Justice Revius Ortique, Dillard graduate who was the first African American on the Louisiana Supreme Court. His family, including wife, daughter and son in law have been tremendous supporters of the university.

We hit the jackpot this year with Benjamin Crump, who spoke roughly one week after a grad jury did not indict the officer in the death of Michael Brown. Crump, a new generation of civil rights attorney, captivated the crowd as he spoke about several civil rights cases and provided a broader understanding of the issues. He also spent time with our pre-law students prior to his open lecture. A standing-room only crowd was not disappointed.

The Prez

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dillard's Center for Law and Public Interest

8 days after the grand jury in Ferguson returned with no indictment, and less than 24 hours before a grand jury in Staten Island did the same thing, we announced our new center for law and public interest. There is clearly a need for more of us to look more closely at law and public interest, government, and policy. Hopefully our efforts will be meaningful in this regard.

My announcement is below. It provides the historical context by which we enter this new endeavor.

The Prez

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

6th annual dinner for students with the Kimbroughs. We started in Little Rock at Philander Smith once Benjamin was born, deciding not to try to travel for both holidays. Plus that year we had a number of students from the Bahamas who could not get home. So it started in 2009 and we have done 3 in Little Rock and now 3 in New Orleans. Always a good time and a lot of food gets eaten!

The Prez

Friday, November 21, 2014

Death of a King

Last night I had a chance to hang out with some cool folks- Dr. Francis, Mary Matalin and Mayor Landrieu as we welcomed Tavis Smiley for a small reception for his new book, "Death of a King.: He spoke for about 10-15 minutes and made me want to read it immediately. The book covers the last year of King's life, from April 4, 1967 to April 4, 1968.

Those at the reception were stunned by the facts the book reveals, particularly how King was shunned by everyone, not just President Johnson, but the NAACP and Urban League. This is definitely a must read for anyone wanting to understand King beyond "I Have A Dream."

The Prez

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Law School Admissions Council Law School Forum

On October 17th a group of 20 Dillard pre-law students attended the Law School Admissions Council law school recruitment forum. We had the biggest group, something other schools had to notice. We've stepped up our efforts to assist students who want to become lawyers, especially when the number of diverse lawyers is not keeping up with the diversity of the nation. This includes an AWESOME LSAT prep course that has generated eye-popping numbers.

In the next few weeks we'll be making an announcement about the next phase in this program. This will occur when we host Benjamin Crump who will be our 5th Ortique lecturer on law on society. The first was Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010. With the Ferguson decision probably announced by then, he will be visiting campus at an important time in this country's history. Definitely a must attend event.

The Prez

Monday, November 17, 2014

Misty Copeland

How many times have you been on a college campus for a lecture, 800 people show up, and many of them are girls under 18? I don't think I've ever seen it before... until last Tuesday. I happened to see a clip of the ABC News Person of the Week on Misty Copeland, an African American ballerina. The idea was intriguing to me so in August I started to make it happen.

Misty Copeland was that person to make this happen. It was powerful watching all of those little faces transfixed on Misty, the soft spoken dancer who was very aware of her role in history. But the highlight was the questions by girls as young as 5. Very rarely do they have a chance to speak in front of large crowds, but last week was their night. And they stepped up!

The Prez

Friday, November 14, 2014

#EducateOurMen... at Dillard!

Last weekend at the Soul Train Music Awards, MC Lyte and the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation awarded their first 3 scholarships to young men so that they may enter Dillard University next fall. Each young man received a $50K scholarship.

Having had a chance to talk with MC Lyte on a couple of occasions, I know she is extremely genuine. I am also thankful she chose Dillard as a partner. I am excited about the possibilities.

The Prez

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Basketball Season underway

Finally had a chance to see our 14-15 women's basketball team. They were 2-1 headed into Saturday's game with Auburn at Montgomery. I definitely saw a much improved team.

It came down to the wire and the visitors snuck out a win. But this team has great promise and I will be looking forward to watching them grow.

The Prez

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

Born on election day in 2008 (and first baby in the US with Barack in his name in honor of President Obama), Benjamin turned six today.

The Prez

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween 2014

A dragon, Hermione, and an Angel (or so she says!)
The Prez

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kevin Powell visits DU

I have always believed it is important to augment and supplement the education on a campus with guests, especially those who bring a different perspective to everyone. Recently we hosted Kevin Powell for 2 days as a scholar in residence. His major evening talks were around domestic violence, but he spoke to our freshman convocation group, to faculty, and to several classes.

Kevin has been active in a number of areas for decades. I first met him in 1997 when he spoke at Old Dominion University, and we have been in touch over the years. Scenes like the one above are what college should be like- students hungry to interaction, discussion and debate.

The Prez

Friday, October 17, 2014

Brain Food: Maggie Anderson

Maggie Anderson gave a Black business empowerment sermon! Based on her family's experience of buying black for one year, she provided with great detail the impact that the lack of Black support for black businesses has played in the nation. Few black grocery stories or dry cleaners. Just a few black banks. When she indicated that a black dollar stays in the community for 6 hours, versus 28 days or so in Asian communities, you can see why there are problems with unemployment in these communities.

It really was an ouch and Amen kind of program as I hope people left, like I did, asking what I can do to be more supportive. Knowing that New Orleans is a city that needs to employ black men, and thriving black businesses could mean jobs, maybe now is the time for the kind of movement we need to fix this problem.

We had a great time and learned a lot from a great guest. But the question remains:

What are we going to do?

The Prez

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Black Male Summit

Monday was Columbus Day. But I know many brothers who discover America every time they have a run in with police. So in this era of Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and others, we partnered with St. Augustine High School to host a summit where we want to begin a conversation on bettering the American experience for Black men.

I don't think this city has seen a panel like this before: Mayor, Police Chief, Sheriff, Judge, US Attorney and College professor. All but one a Black man. We began to start a conversation to teach young Black men how to engage the police. The students at St. Aug had fabulous questions, and we really needed more time.
But again this was a start. We will look for new ways to engage young men all across the city so that they can have good interactions not only with law enforcement, but with each other as well.
The Prez

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Not Too Live- but Very Thoughtful

Last week we had a great conversation with Uncle Luke, formerly of the 2 Live Crew. For some folks having him speak on campus is a problem since their music was very sexual and profane. But we heard a man that has matured, who talked about First Amendment rights, and the state of music today.

I believe the music is worse today than anything they did, especially because there was always a comical element to the 2 Live Crew. That is gone today. Completely. But Campbell really articulated the complexity of defining the values of a society by which we make ethical decisions. Was what they did ethical? Based on who you ask and their value system, the answer might vary.

And that makes ethics a tough field to understand.

The Prez

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Professor MC Lyte

In April I met with MC Lyte about a scholarship she wanted to do at Dillard. As we talked and bounced around ideas, one was to do a class to deal with lyrics in the music. So she agreed to co-teach the class which would include several trips on site. Her first visit was last week, and we started off with a campus empowerment program. This legendary MC inspired the students and guests to achieve their goals.

The next day we had our class. I watched her meticulously take notes as the students gave their impressions of our discussions on sex, gender and hip hop. She also wrote down the students' names so she could personally respond to them. She was such a natural in this small group and was very engaging. She is such a great partner for the university and we are thankful to have her.

The Prez

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Brain Food: Michael Steele

We kicked off a new season of Brain Food with former RNC chair Michael Steele. In a speech that gave equal criticism of both parties, Steele argued that the people need to take control over the country by truly holding politicians accountable. He mentioned Ferguson (as did I in my intro) noting that the people there have to elect those who will represent their interests.

About 250 people attended but the place should have been full. One guest said he was telling friends that he was coming to hear Steele and they asked him why he wanted to do that. Steele even addressed the fact that it has always been tough for him as a Republican & a Roman Catholic, but he tells everyone he was Black first. Anyone who heard him knew that.

My challenge is to get people to expand their minds by being willing to hear viewpoints that are different. The lack of critical thinking on display in the nation is the result of people not being able to listen to different points of view.

The Prez

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Volleyball Season!

Two matches. Two wins. A great way to start the season!

The Prez

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Orleans Magazine People to Watch 2014

Congratulations to our athletic director, Kiki Barnes, who was selected by New Orleans Magazine as one to watch this year. She is nearing completion of her doctorate this year and has been named AD of the year for our athletic conference as well.
The Prez

Dr. Norman C. Frances announces his retirement

You knew that day was going to come, but it still was somewhat of a shock. But today was that day. I had a call this morning at 9am from the Xavier board chair telling me about the announcement, and of course I changed my schedule to be there this morning for a truly historic event.

Dr. Norman Francis, who became president of Xavier the day King was killed in Memphis, will step down after 47 years at the helm. I can say that he is an amazing man, and you never guess he is 83 the way he operates. I've never seen anyone like him. I am sure Xavier will miss him greatly, and those would be shoes I would not want to try to fill! But it has been an honor to be here with him in New Orleans and I look forward to continue to learn from him this year and beyond.

The Prez

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cross Country Season has begun!

Our cross country team participated in their first meet on Friday. We were at City Park with fellow Gulf Coast Conference teams Xavier and Edward Waters.

Our strength is track and field (speed events), so cross country is harder for us. But definitely a great conditioning program for our sprinters.

The Prez

Friday, August 29, 2014

Brain Food coming up!

I'm excited about the upcoming Brain Food lectures. With this being an election year, Michael Steele is a great person to set the stage with these big midterm elections (including Louisiana Senate). Maggie Anderson's emphasis is supporting Black businesses and she will discuss her work in that area. I recently saw an ABC News Person of the Week featuring Misty Copeland, who has a phenomenal story about becoming a ballerina. And while Mike Brown is on everyone's mind, Benjamin Crump will be here in December to talk about him, Trayvon Martin, and the other issues facing Black men and women with regards to Civil Rights.
The Prez

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Daughters of Charity Health Center

On Wednesday the official opening of the Daughters of Charity Health Center in Gentilly occurred on campus. After Katrina, the university developed an idea to open a student union that would also house a community health center. The overall concept was to bring health care to the community, and then also have a facility where members of the community could stay healthy.

So after about 5 years this center became a reality. Lots of people worked on it (I really came in at the end trying to close the loop). A key person is Michael Griffin, Dillard alum who is the CEO of Daughters. He was a driving force in this new facility, which is accessible to Dillard students, faculty and staff.

The Prez

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prayer for the Michael Brown family

Yesterday around the time of the funeral for Michael Brown, our campus NAACP hosted a prayer vigil for his family. It was good for our students and the community to have a time to reflect and this about how we move forward in all of the Fergusons that exist across the nation.

We also had a nice story done by WDSU where a St. Louis native was interviewed as he has family in the area. Hopefully our students will be part of local solutions here in New Orleans to ensure that there is fairness and justice for all citizens so that we lessen incidents like this in the future.
To see the news story click HERE.
The Prez

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Parting Ceremony

Tomorrow students start classes. New students started arriving last Monday and by Wednesday they all arrived. Part of that process was a formal program to allow families their last moments before leaving their children to begin this new journey.

After a good message from our AD, good music and prayers, we had parents leave their children. One of the most powerful days in the academic year.

The Prez

Friday, August 22, 2014

2014 Faculty-Staff Institute

Last week we kicked off the year with our faculty-staff institute. This is our annual gathering to address current issues (like Title IX), as well as get a state of the university address (which I do). Last year we began doing a service recognition luncheon based on years of service. This year we recognized people with at least 20 years of service.

Our guest speaker was Dr. Jeff Gardere. You've seen him on something- Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN, or Love and Hip Hop to name a few. He helped us begin conversations about how to help people resolve conflict. We invited 100 student leaders to participate in this discussion and he did a fantastic job relating to all ages. He already has an invite for a January command performance!

The Prez

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lauren & Marcel

This past weekend we were in Little Rock as two of my former students were married. Lauren is a former Miss Philander Smith College (who graduated in 3 years then finished law school), and Marcel is a former SGA president (now working on a doctorate). I don't know if I ever saw this coming (I always keep my ears open about who is dating who), but it was a great ceremony.
(Y'all started late though and you know I like to be on time!)

I am very proud of them, as well as many of their friends who were in the wedding or came back. This group was part of the Renaissance era of PSC. Their performance as students, and now as young professionals, is what lifted the institution into new levels in terms of alumni giving, foundation support, and even rankings. What they did during those years was amazing. Glad to have played a small role in their development.

The Prez

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Higher Education Sunday, Cascade United Methodist Church, Atlanta

This past Sunday I was the speaker at my "home" church, Cascade United Methodist in Southwest Atlanta. There were probably 50 college students in attendance for the service, attending schools all across the country. Cascade always produces strong students.

My topic was "Do The Work: The Gospel According to Iyanla." The text came from Proverbs 22:1-16. The foundation is Proverbs 22:6 which of course is a famous one- train up a child in the way that they should go so that when they are old they won't stray from it. I offered thoughts for students, parents, and the church about the work they must do.

The bonus was seeing Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, 4th president of Dillard who served for 22 years. He often attended Cascade when he retired when my father was senior pastor. So it was cool seeing him and his wife. He recently turned 85!
The Prez

Saturday, July 12, 2014

HBCU Awards 2014

I am pleased that we were able to host the 2014 HBCU Awards. This is the 4th year of this program sponsored by HBCU Digest. We were excited to be nominated as a finalist in 8 categories, and we won 3 awards.

For the second year in a row we were named best nursing program. We have really done a lot to improve our program. A team of external consultants came in over a year ago to help us strengthen the program, and all of our 2014 graduates completed the required comps. Those that have taken the NCLEX have all passes as well. 

Cynthia Butler-McIntyre, past president of Delta Sigma Theta, was named female alumnus of the year. She was the centennial president of the organization, and this past fall presented Dillard with a $50,000 donation for our SAFE fund for students. She and I have known each other for a decade and she was one of the first people to congratulate me when I was appointed to Dillard.
And I was named  male president of the year. Definitely the result of the work of everyone at Dillard. Just glad to be on the team!
The Prez


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Hip Hop Sisters

During the Essence Festival this weekend I attended a reception sponsored by the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, which was started by MC Lyte. They added several people to their advisory board including recent Dillard alumna Nicole Tinson.

Nicole was able to come down for the event. She is preparing to start graduate school this fall so this was another great honor for her.
The Prez

Monday, June 23, 2014

Millennium Leadership Initiative

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to serve as the closing speaker for the 2014 Millennium Leadership Initiative, a program sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for persons seeking senior level administrative positions. The program targets women and people of color. I completed MLI in 2002, and have always said it was the BEST professional development experience I have ever had.

I focused my remarks on "To Be... or to Do," the point being that people have to decide whether they want to be a president, or if they want to do the job. These are very different things and so many people struggle because they wanted to be and not do. So I tried to give the group some considerations when going through a presidential search process so they would be able to determine if the position is a good fit.
One of my closing points was for them to know that they have no control over whether or not they become a president. So they should find a job they really love doing and do it exceptionally well.
The Prez