Portland academy founder proposes to reopen closed Detroit Black college
Michigan’s only historically black college and university is slated to revive early next year after it closed in 2013, an announcement made Tuesday.
D’Wayne Edwards, founder of PENSOLE Design Academy in Portland, Oregon, is behind the proposal for state approval to recognize the former Lewis College of Business as Michigan’s only HBCU.
If the new school is approved, it will be known as the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design, and it is said to be the only HBCU in the country to reopen after it closes.
“The Lewis College of Business was first founded in 1928 as a secretarial school for black women,” said Edwards, the majority shareholder of the previously closed HBCU, based in Detroit. “After moving to Detroit in 1939, it became a critical source of economic importance for the city’s black community. GM, Ford, and Michigan Bell hired their first black clerk at the school. 82 years later and 14 years after losing HBCU accreditation, I am honored to be resurrecting the legacy of Violet T. Lewis in Detroit. “
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he supported Edwards’ efforts.
“As a predominantly black city, Detroit should have an operational Historically Black College. It hasn’t been a hole in our educational landscape for too long, ”Duggan said in a statement. “The first HBCU to reopen anywhere is in Detroit.” Would be a great demonstration of how our city is returning as a city of opportunity for people of color. “
The school is slated to open in March 2022 in collaboration with the College for Creative Studies. PLC would serve aspiring black creatives, designers, engineers, and business leaders.
Founding supporters of the new HBCU include Target through the retailer’s diversity and integration work, and Dan and Jennifer Gilbert through the Gilbert Family Foundation. The Gilbert Family Foundation has donated $ 500 million to projects in Detroit to improve economic opportunities for the city’s residents.
Jennifer Gilbert, in a press release she knew “This historic institution will again cultivate a diverse talent pipeline and further cement Detroit’s innovation legacy.”
The Lewis College of Business was founded in Indianapolis in 1928 by Violet T. Lewis, who opened a Detroit campus in 1939 and eventually closed Indiana School to focus on Michigan School. Lewis, who was also a co-founder of Gamma Phi Delta Sorority Inc., completed the secretarial program at Wilberforce University in Ohio, which led to a position at Selma University in Alabama.
There she taught shorthand in the economics department of the university. She eventually moved to Indianapolis to be closer with family, but she wanted to create a place where students, especially black women, could receive quality business education.
The school began as a nine-month shorthand school. Eventually, under Lewis’ leadership, it became an accredited junior college and served as a pipeline for students to find jobs with auto companies.
There are about 100 HBCUs across the country, said Robert Palmer, professor at Howard University and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
Michigan has only one home.
HBCUs began serving African American students mainly in the south when colleges denied access to black students, Palmer said. Today the federal government defines an HBCU as an institution established before 1964 to provide access to education for African Americans.
“They were created out of a system of segregation,” said Palmer, whose research examines the access, equal opportunity, whereabouts and persistence of students of color, particularly among HBCUs.
HBCUs make up 3% of all colleges, but Palmer said they are “more relevant today than ever”.
“They disproportionately produce judges, teachers and doctors in the country,” Palmer said.
Additionally, more and more colleges and universities are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, but often colored students have to adjust to white culture, leave parts of themselves behind, and face racism even afterward, he said.
HBCUs create a culture and curriculum relevant to African American students, he said. The faculty and staff look like the student population and serve as mentors and role models, Palmer said.
“On the HBCU campus, the entire village – from colleagues to faculty to administrators – works collectively to support and maximize student potential,” said Palmer. “When you feel belonging, you become a lot more involved with other students, attend classes, spend time on campus and that leads to higher retention and graduation rates.”
The luminaries who have attended HBCUs include Vice President Kamala Harris, who graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC; Rev. Jesse Jackson, a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University; Film director Spike Lee, a graduate of Morehouse College, Georgia; and former Detroit-based Motown singer Gladys Knight, who graduated from Shaw University in North Carolina.
The revitalized Detroit College will be relocated to the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education of the Center for Creative Studies on Milwaukee Avenue in Detroit before a permanent location is developed. Enrollment for the new school is expected to begin in December.