Jump to content

Dillard University

Coordinates: 29°59′42″N 90°03′55″W / 29.99500°N 90.06528°W / 29.99500; -90.06528
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dillard University
Former names
Straight University
Straight College
Union Normal School
New Orleans University
MottoEx Fide, Fortis
Motto in English
"Strong Through Faith" (lit. "Out of faith, strong")
TypePrivate historically black university
Religious affiliation
United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church
Academic affiliations
Endowment$100 million[1]
PresidentMonique Guillory (interim)
ProvostMablene Krueger (interim)

29°59′42″N 90°03′55″W / 29.99500°N 90.06528°W / 29.99500; -90.06528
ColorsRoyal blue & white
NicknameBleu Devils and Lady Bleu Devils
Sporting affiliations
MascotBleu Devil

Dillard University is a private, historically black university in New Orleans, Louisiana. Founded in 1930 and incorporating earlier institutions founded as early as 1869 after the American Civil War, it is affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.


Photo of an early building on the Straight University campus

The history of Dillard University dates to 1869 and its founding predecessor institutions—Straight University (later renamed Straight College) and Union Normal School (which developed into New Orleans University).

Straight University[edit]

Responding to the post-Civil War need to educate newly freed African Americans in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the surrounding region, the American Missionary Association of the Congregational Church founded Straight University on June 12, 1868.

Straight University also offered professional training, including a law department from 1874 to 1886. Its graduates participated in local and national Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era civil rights struggles.

Straight University was renamed Straight College in 1915, to better reflect the limitations of its curriculum.

Union Normal School/New Orleans University[edit]

The Union Normal School was established on July 8, 1868, by the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to train teachers. The Society also recruited teachers in the North to work in the South educating freedmen and their children.

New Orleans College, c. 1920

In addition to Straight University, the AMA helped found several other historically black colleges and universities, such as Clark Atlanta University, Fisk University, Hampton University, Howard University (with Freedmen's Bureau), Huston-Tillotson University, LeMoyne-Owen College, Talladega College, and Tougaloo College. Straight University and Union Normal School later became known and developed as Straight College and New Orleans University, respectively. Both schools offered education for elementary-level teachers, but quickly enlarged their curricula to include secondary, collegiate, and professional-level instruction.

New Orleans University operated a secondary school, Gilbert Academy. By the 1890s, the university offered professional medical training. It included a school of pharmacy, the Flint Medical College, and the Sarah Goodridge Hospital and Nurse Training School. After the medical college was closed in 1911, the Flint Goodridge Hospital emerged and continued nurse training.

"A Great Negro University in New Orleans": 1930–1935[edit]

University Presidents
Will W. Alexander 1935–1936
William Stuart Nelson 1936–1940
Albert Walter Dent 1941–1969
Broadus Nathaniel Butler 1969–1973
Myron Wicke 1973–1974
Samuel DuBois Cook 1974–1997
Michael Lucius Lomax 1997–2004
Bettye Parker Smith 2004–2005
Marvalene Hughes 2005–2011
James E. Lyons, Sr. 2011–2012
Walter M. Kimbrough 2012–2022
Rochelle L. Ford 2022-2024

Local Black and White leaders felt there was a need to develop a larger, more notable African-American institution of higher learning in New Orleans and the greater South. Due to economic hardships and rounds of negotiations between the two institutions, Straight College and New Orleans University chartered Dillard University on June 6, 1930.[2]

Named after James H. Dillard,[3] the new university was created to "... offer a traditional liberal arts curriculum—rather than nonprofessional, vocational training" and emphasize a close engagement with the Black community through "various education extension programs, societies, and clubs."[4] Its development was tempered by the Jim Crow era. Many local whites took issue with the possibility of a black president presiding over white faculty members. The increased numbers of African-American bus riders in the Gentilly area, as students started attending classes, disturbed some white residents. Edgar B. Stern Sr, an influential and diplomatic member of Dillard's board of trustees, suggested Will W. Alexander as a compromise candidate for president. A white Southern preacher, he became Dillard's first acting president (1935–1936). His experience as the director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation proved valuable. Dillard University opened its doors in the fall of 1935, and was able to attract prominent scholars such as Horace Mann Bond, psychology and education; Frederick Douglass Hall, music; Lawrence D. Reddick, history; and St. Clair Drake, sociology and anthropology.

Hurricane Katrina[edit]

In August 2005, the campus, not far from the lower levee breach of the London Avenue Canal, suffered extensive flood damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Nelson Hall was destroyed by a fire. A bus fire destroyed belongings of 37 students who were in the process of being evacuated.[5][6]

In spring 2006, the students of Dillard University took their classes at The New Orleans World Trade Center and The New Orleans Hilton Riverside Hotel. As is tradition, Dillard held graduation on the Rosa Freeman Keller Avenue of the Oaks in July 2006. Students returned to campus in September 2006.

Ray Charles Program[edit]

In 2003, musician Ray Charles added a provision in his will to endow a $1 million (~$1.59 million in 2023) professorship of African-American culinary history at Dillard. It is the first such position in the country, and is called the Ray Charles Program.[7][8]

2016 senatorial debate[edit]

In November 2016, Raycom Media rented a space at Dillard University to host a debate with senatorial candidates, including David Duke. The event was met with opposition; six protesters were arrested. When the rental agreement was made, months in advance, the university was unaware of the candidates.[9][10][11]

Partnership with Ross University School of Medicine[edit]

In 2019, Dillard signed a partnership with a for-profit college, Ross University School of Medicine, to increase the number of African American physicians in the US.[12]

Scott's donation[edit]

In 2020, MacKenzie Scott donated $5 million (~$5.8 million in 2023) to Dillard University. Her donation is the largest single gift in Dillard's history.[13]


Academic rankings
Liberal arts
U.S. News & World Report[14]RNP
Washington Monthly[15]83

Dillard University offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees in over 35 majors. These majors are organized within four academic colleges, and further subdivided by departments.

Undergraduate research[edit]

The university is a member of the Council of Undergraduate Research and the National Council of Undergraduate Research. Most departments offer courses in methodology, and the university's Office of Undergraduate Research organizes additional workshops on writing proposals, analyzing data, and using human participants. Students can participate in A Katrina Recovery Initiative (AKRI), Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LAMP), and the Undergraduate Research & Creative Work Competition. The university also produces the Dillard University Journal of Undergraduate Research (DUJOUR), which publishes the findings and articles of finished undergraduate research projects.[16]

Institute of Jazz Culture (IOJC)[edit]

The Institute of Jazz Culture was established in 2002 by founding director, Irvin Mayfield at the intersection of community, jazz and education. Under the current leadership of Edward Anderson, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of the IOJC, the institute is producing curriculum and programming on the collegiate and the secondary levels.[citation needed][17]

Dual degree programs[edit]

Dillard has dual degree programs in multiple disciplines with institutions such as Louisiana State University, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Georgia Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Texas Chiropractic College, and Western Michigan University.[18][19]


The Dillard athletic teams are called the Bleu Devils and Lady Bleu Devils. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) since the 1981–82 academic year.[20][21][22][23][24][25]

Dillard competes in 12 intercollegiate varsity sports: Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, tennis and track & field; while women's sports include basketball, cross country, tennis, track & field and volleyball; and co-ed sports include cheerleading and dance.


The Dillard basketball teams and volleyball team play at Dent Hall.


Dillard University campus on Gentilly Boulevard

Dillard University's campus is located on 55 acres (22.3 ha) in the suburban-like Gentilly neighborhood of the New Orleans 7th Ward district. The campus is anchored by Neoclassical architecture and live oak trees. The double tree-lined "Avenue of the Oaks" forms the focal point of the gated campus.

Academic buildings[edit]

DUICEF (Dillard University International Center for Economic Freedom) was dedicated in 2004. It houses the offices of the Division of Education & Psychology and the Division of Social Sciences, and computer and language laboratories.

Howard House, built in 1936, was originally a guest house, but currently is home to the business program. The building was named in honor of New Orleans native Alvin Pike Howard (1889–1937), successful businessman, former professor of Tulane University and former director of Hibernia National Bank; he is a noteworthy contributor to the development of Dillard University.

The Professional Schools Building is the newest academic building on campus. It was dedicated in 2010. The building is home to academic and research programs for the College of Business, School of Nursing, School of Public Health, and the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.[26]

Rosenwald Hall is a hall at Dillard University. Dillard's first permanent building was originally the campus library. It was built in May 1934. The building is named in honor of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, to whom the building was dedicated in June 1948. This building houses the university's administrative offices and was under construction due to damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but has since re-opened.

Samuel DuBois Cook Fine Arts and Communications Center at Dillard University, New Orleans, was built in 1993. The building is named in honor of Dillard University's sixth president, Samuel DuBois Cook. With his tenure came the start of the modernization of Dillard University's infrastructure. In the building are the Fine Arts Gallery and studios, state-of-the-art television and recording studios, the Music Department, the Drama Department and a theater, and a radio station.

Stern Hall is a hall at Dillard University. Dillard's science building was built in 1952. It is named in honor of Edgar Bloom Stern, a prominent financier and philanthropist of New Orleans. The building was renovated in 1952 and again in 1968. In the building are the Division of Nursing, Division of Natural Sciences, two computer labs, Biology, Chemistry and Physics labs as well as a learning center sponsored by the Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LAMP) program.

Athletic facilities[edit]

Dent Hall at Dillard University, New Orleans, is the university's gymnasium. It was named in honor of Albert W. Dent, the university's third president. It was built in 1969 at the end of his service. Dent Hall is the home of the Bleu Devils and the Lady Bleu Devils basketball teams (Athletics Department). In this building are The Division of Campus Life, Career Services, Student Development, Student Government Association, the Daniel C. Thompson/Samuel Dubois Cook Honors Program, offices, classrooms, computer labs, a dance studio, a weight center and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

Henson Hall is Dillard University's old gymnasium, which was built in 1950 and renovated in 1990. The building is named in honor of an explorer and co-discoverer of the North Pole, Matthew Alexander Henson. He was the first human of African descent to reach the North Pole. The university's bookstore and temporary library are housed in Henson Hall due to space constraints following Hurricane Katrina.


Will W. Alexander Library[27] is Dillard University's library. It was built in 1961. The library was dedicated in honor of the first acting president of Dillard University, Will W. Alexander on October 22, 1961. The library houses an extensive collection of books, journals, microform and newspapers, as well as such historical documents as the papers of the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ. The library was damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and reopened in April 2008.


Lawless Memorial Chapel is Dillard University's chapel. It was built in 1955. Chapel was dedicated to the memory of Alfred Lawless Jr. and his son Theodore K. Lawless on October 23, 1955. Now named Lawless Assembly Hall, it is the only building on Dillard's campus that did not suffer flood damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

On-campus housing[edit]

Camphor Hall is a dormitory at Dillard University, built in 1947. This female dormitory was originally a male dormitory. The building was named in honor of a Louisiana native, educator and missionary, Bishop Alexander Priestly Camphor. This dormitory is connected to Hartzell Hall.

Hartzell Hall is a dormitory at Dillard University, built in 1935. Hartzell is named in honor of Joseph Crane Hartzell, a missionary bishop for the Methodist Episcopal Church. The building was originally a junior and senior female dormitory, and re-opened in the fall of 2013. This dormitory is connected to Camphor Hall.

Straight Hall is a dormitory at Dillard University, built in 1936 and renovated in 1957. Straight Hall was originally a female dormitory in its earliest days. The building is named in honor of Seymour Straight, president of the Board of Trustees of Straight College, which opened in 1869 and later in 1930 merged with New Orleans University to form Dillard University. Re-opened in the spring of 2013.

Williams Hall is a female dormitory building located to the left of Kearny hall. It was dedicated in honor of noted New Orleanian educator and philanthropist Fannie C. Williams (1882–1980) in June 1946. The building was renovated in 2000 and became a co-ed dormitory in 2014.

Gentilly Gardens is on campus apartment style housing at Dillard University. These co-ed apartment blocks house junior and senior students.

Nelson Complex consisted of three modular buildings that served as undergraduate housing for students. Named after William Nelson, the first African American president of the university, it was destroyed by fire during Hurricane Katrina.

Student center[edit]

Kearny Hall is the student center at Dillard University. It was built in 1935 and renovated in 1966 and 1996. This building is named in honor of New Orleanian Warren Kearny, Trustee of Dillard University. Kearny Hall is located at the center of the campus. In the building are a lounge area, post office, cafeteria, food service offices, as well as the Student Government Association office. The cafeteria section was remodeled during the summer of 2019, updating the interior design.

President's house[edit]

Built in 1936, the president's residence has been renovated three times: 1964, 1972 and 1997. It has been home to six of the seven presidents of Dillard University. It now serves as the Alumni House.

Notable alumni[edit]

The following notable individuals are alumni of Dillard University, Straight University, or New Orleans University:

Name Class year Notability Reference(s)
James W. Ames 1882 Founder, Dunbar Hospital, the first black hospital in Detroit, MI
Harold Battiste Jr. 1952 Jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger; musical director for Sonny & Cher, Dr. John and many others; arranger for Sam Cooke
John W. E. Bowen Sr. 1878 Among first African Americans to receive a PhD
Napoleon Bracy Jr. 2000 Member of the Alabama House of Representatives [28]
Jericho Brown 1998 Award-winning poet [29]
Sherman Copelin 1965 Member, Louisiana House of Representatives
Dave Dennis 1968 Civil rights activist, Algebra Project
Roger Donald Dickerson 1955 Pianist and composer
Patrick O. Jefferson 1990 Member of the Louisiana House of Representatives for District 11; lawyer from Arcadia [30]
Kimberly S. Johnson Professor of Medicine at Duke University
Ernest Lyon 1888 Minister, former United States Ambassador to Liberia, and founder of the Maryland Industrial and Agricultural Institute for Colored Youths
Ellis Marsalis Jr. 1955 Jazz pianist and music educator; father of jazz artists: Branford, Wynton, Jason and Delfeayo; retired director of Jazz Studies, University of New Orleans [31]
Orelia Merchant 1992 Federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, since 2023
Garrett Morris 1958 Comedian/actor (Saturday Night Live, The Jamie Foxx Show, Martin)
Khalid Abdul Muhammad 1970 National spokesman, Nation of Islam
Alice Dunbar Nelson 1892 Women's rights activist, poet, author and lecturer; wife of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Alfred Lloyd Norris 1960 Bishop, United Methodist Church
Revius Ortique Jr. 1947 First African American to serve on the Louisiana State Supreme Court (now retired); member of the Dillard University Board of Trustees
Brenda Marie Osbey 1978 Poet Laureate of Louisiana
Louis Pendleton Dentist, businessman, and civic leader in Shreveport, Louisiana; organized the civil rights movement in his city through the formation of the interest group known as "Blacks United for Lasting Leadership", which successfully lobbied for racial justice
P.B.S. Pinchback 1885 First African-American governor in the United States; 24th governor of Louisiana
Renée Gill Pratt Local New Orleans politician; director of the Center for Student Retention and Success in Southern University at New Orleans
Beah Richards 1948 Actress of stage, screen and television' poet, playwright and author
Joyce M. Roche 1970 President and CEO of Girls, Inc.; former president and chief operating officer of Carson, Inc.; first female chairperson of the Dillard University Board of Trustees
Ruth J. Simmons 1967 First African-American president of an Ivy League University (18th president of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island); first African-American president of a "Seven Sisters" school (ninth president of Smith College)
Carl E. Stewart 1971 Judge, U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana
Jimmy Womack 1976 Minister, Member of the Michigan House of Representatives, seventh district


  1. ^ Barefield, Allana (November 22, 2018). "Dillard's 'Hip Hop Prez' Walter Kimbrough making a difference on campus and beyond".
  2. ^ Bernard, Louise and Radiclani Clytus. Within These Walls: A Short History of Dillard University. New Orleans: Dillard University, 1999. 10.
  3. ^ "Dillard University", Black Past
  4. ^ Bernard and Clytus. Within These Walls (1999), p. 11
  5. ^ "Community Responds with Donations for Hurricane Evacuees from Dillard University at Centenary College". Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved November 30, 2008.
  6. ^ "Hurricane Katrina Shelters Open". Shreveport Times. Archived from the original on May 22, 2006. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  7. ^ "Dillard University | About the Ray Charles Program". www.dillard.edu. Archived from the original on September 23, 2019. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  8. ^ Read, Mimi (February 23, 2005). "A Gift to Black Cuisine, From Ray Charles". The New York Times. Retrieved October 11, 2010.
  9. ^ Williams, Jessica (November 2, 2016). "At least six arrests after raucous protest against David Duke at Dillard University leads to pepper-spraying". The New Orleans Advocate. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  10. ^ Seltzer, Rick (November 3, 2016). "Why Host David Duke?". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  11. ^ "Former KKK Leader David Duke Blames Debate Protests On Black Lives Matter 'Radicals'". NPR.org. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
  12. ^ David, Pluviose (June 27, 2019). "Ross University, Dillard Partner to Expand Black Physician Pipeline". Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  13. ^ writer, JESSICA WILLIAMS | Staff. "United Way, Dillard University receive $15M from Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos". NOLA.com. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  14. ^ "Best Colleges 2024: National Liberal Arts Colleges". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 20, 2023.
  15. ^ "2023 Liberal Arts Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  16. ^ "Dillard University | Undergraduate Research". www.dillard.edu. Archived from the original on April 27, 2019. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Ramsey, Jan. "Edward Anderson". OffBeat Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  18. ^ "Dillard University | Dual Degree Programs". www.dillard.edu. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  19. ^ "DU Admissions Presentation". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 5, 2021.
  20. ^ "Dillard Athletics". dillardbleudevils.com. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  21. ^ "Dillard University Athletics Information". collegefactual.com. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  22. ^ "Dillard University Athletics". hbcusports.com. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  23. ^ "GCAC Members". gcaconf.com. Archived from the original on February 3, 2022. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  24. ^ "Dillard University". playnaia.com. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  25. ^ "Dillard University". usnews.com. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  26. ^ "Dillard University – Home". www.dillard.edu. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  27. ^ "Dillard University | Will W. Alexander Library". www.dillard.edu. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  28. ^ "REPRESENTATIVE BRACY, NAPOLEON". The Alabama Legislature. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  29. ^ Morgan, John (September 5, 2014). "READER SUBMITTED: Poet Jericho Brown To Read At Quinnipiac University".
  30. ^ "Alumnus Patrick Jefferson Takes Office as Louisiana State Representative". Dillard University. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2015.
  31. ^ MacCash, Doug (April 1, 2020). "Ellis Marsalis, New Orleans jazz piano legend hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms, dies". The New Orleans Advocate. Retrieved April 1, 2020.

External links[edit]