Thursday, December 31, 2015

10 Dillard University Notables of 2015: #5 to #2

The countdown continues of memorable moments at Dillard in 2015.

#5 80th anniversary of DU Theater

Dillard has the oldest HBCU theater program in the nation and this year we celebrated our 80th anniversary. For Founder's Day this past October, Dillard alum Garrett Morris was the speaker. He of course got his start in DU Theater, and has gone on to do Saturday Night Live, Martin, Car Wash, and the Jamie Foxx Show.

Current theater students are doing well, with recent performances in local productions of The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye.

#4 Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture

2015 was the year the Ray Charles program finally took off. In 2014 Zella Palmer joined us as the chair of the program and she creatively jumped started a program which was established when Michael Lomax was president. In this past year there have been lectures, conferences, cooking demonstrations, and trips to better understand cooking and food culture. Look for more from this exciting program.

#3 MC Lyte

Lots of colleges and universities like to have celebrities on their boards who lend their names. That's not what MC Lyte has done. With her Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, she has provided scholarships for men to attend Dillard, the first two are freshmen now and she recently made another award on the Steve Harvey Show and two more at the Soul Train Awards.

MC Lyte though is an active trustee. She attends and ACTIVELY participates in board meetings, including conference calls. She offers ideas and suggestions, and shows a genuine interest in the students. She is doing this because this is her passion, and she has brought so much to Dillard. I am personally very thankful for her and her team.

#2 The Million Dollar Man

This year we received the largest, one time gift from an alum- $1 million. I had dinner with Mr. Edwards soon after the gift. He recounted how he attended Dillard due to the generosity of others, and vowed that one day he would do the same. He did. No talk, no fanfare, just action. All HBCUs need more alums who will follow his lead.

I'll share the top memory tomorrow, but you should know the answer which can be given in one word...

10 Dillard University Notables of 2015: #10 to #6

For the end of 2015 I am reflecting on a great calendar year. And since everyone has a list, I'll add one of my own. Here are some memorable moments at Dillard for 2015, starting with #10.

#10 Remembering Katrina ten years later

For several weeks the city of New Orleans took time to remember Hurricane Katrina. As most know, Dillard was impacted far greater than any other New Orleans area university. But under the leadership of Dr. Marvalene Hughes, who began her tenure as president only 7 weeks before Katrina hit, the campus has been able to rebound. There is still work to be done, but we continue to strengthen post-Katrina.

#9 Mike Newell is no joke (and neither is Dillard's men's basketball squad)

At the end of 2015, the men's basketball team is 8-4. Over the course of the previous 4 seasons we won 15 games- total. We won 5 last year. Mike Newell came in saying he wanted to be competitive, would recruit good guys with skill, and he has done just that. He is not playing. We just won a game last night by 47 points. FORTY-SEVEN.

#8 Awesome speakers continue to visit Dillard

Brain Food. Jason Riley. Charles Blow. Iyanla Vanzant. Sil Lai Abrams. Michael Morton. Karrine Steffans. Dance Theater of Harlem.

Ortique Lecture on Law and Society. Bryan Stevenson.

My class on hip hop, sex, gender, and ethical behavior. Killer Mike. Shanti Das. Dee-1. Monica Miller. Plus we had numerous guests via Skype including David Banner, Big KRIT, Michael Eric Dyson, James Peterson, Lady Leshurr, Carolina Dirty, Renada Romain, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Bakari Kitwana, and Lisa Fager.

I'm committed to a wide range of people and a wide range of topics (including the controversial).

#7 DU Concert Choir, Jussie Smollett, Estelle, and UNCF

Empire was a break out hit this year, so it was awesome for our choir to perform one of the hit songs from the show on the UNCF Evening of Stars with Jussie Smollett and Estelle.

#6 Signature Programs- Physics and Film

Dillard has the oldest nursing program in Louisiana and is one of our largest programs. But this year we decided to give more emphasis on physics and film as programs that can be developed to become stellar programs along side our historic nursing program.

Dillard currently ranks second in the nation for producing African Americans with undergraduate degrees in physics. We are one of a few HBCUs with film programs, but being in Louisiana which is one of the top film producing states, we have distinct advantages as our students have worked on independent films, major films like The Butler, and TV shows like CSI New Orleans.

This is the first half of the list. Stay tuned for 5-1...

The Prez

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ozell Sutton

I got word last night that Ozell Sutton died. Bro. Sutton is someone I have known most of my adult life as he was a past general president of Alpha Phi Alpha. So I was excited when I became president of Philander Smith College in 2004, the place he famously called his "alma mama."

Sutton explained that your alma mater is the place where you matriculate, but an alma mater is a place that nourished and molded you. This nourishment led him to become a significant civil rights figure in Arkansas and in the South. 

We rolled out a social justice mission in 2007 and as the concept grew we decided to create a social justice award. Of course, it had to be named for Sutton and we announced the award in 2009 at the opening convocation where Father Michael Pfleger was the preacher.

Sutton then made the first presentation to Nigel Haskett, a McDonald's employee who was shot breaking up a domestic violence situation in the restaurant in August of 2008. We were excited to be able to recognize Haskett and have Sutton there for the ceremony.

I was glad to have his support when I was president at Philander.  He was a true trailblazer on many fronts, a civil rights legend, and an all around good brother.

The Prez

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The measure of your generosity

As we come down to the end of the year, this message from Bob Gass in his "Word for You Today" might inspire us all to be generous. At Dillard we have LOTS of great students who simply lack resources. Over the next few weeks most of us will spend money for things we don't need and even for people we don't like. Maybe we can give to help students stay in school.

The Prez

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.”  Mt 9:36 NIV

The measure of your generosity
In spite of economic challenges, people in the United States still live in the world’s most prosperous country. Yet less than 3 percent of their income goes to charity; that’s lower than it was during the Great Depression. You say, “If I ever get a lot of money I’ll be generous.” Who are you kidding! Prosperity has little to do with generosity. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is [invested], there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21 NIV). The median income in the state of Mississippi is the lowest in the country, yet it leads the nation in charitable giving. By contrast, New Hampshire leads the nation when it comes to personal income, but guess where it ranks in charitable giving? At the bottom! Financial expert Daniel Levin says, “Prosperity isn’t in what you’ve attained, but rather in what you give away.” The truth is, if you want to become a more generous person you can’t wait for your income to increase; you must allow God to change your heart. That means looking for a reason to give every day, and finding a compelling cause or a worthy ministry. And you won’t have to look far; they’re all around you. The Bible says of Jesus, “When he saw the [crowds], he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless.” When it comes right down to it the recipients of our generosity aren’t really churches, causes, or institutions. They’re people—people loved and valued by God; people for whom Christ died. So what are you doing for others? How you answer that question is the measure of your generosity! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Brain Food: The Dance Theater of Harlem

Thanks to our friends at the New Orleans Ballet Association, we were able to host a special lecture/performance of the Dance Theater of Harlem. The performed at several venues that weekend, but we were excited to host this special session which was very informative.

The theater was formed in February of 1969, inspired after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Arthur Mitchell founded it to be unapologetically ethnic. Like many HBCU, it started in a church basement. And like HBCUs, have struggled some, closing for a while before reopening in 2012. We learned a great deal from Virginia Johnson, the artistic director, and Robert Garland, the resident choreographer.

Not only was the dancing great, but the history was inspiring. We have to support our institutions.

The Prez