Dillard Notables of 2019: #1 SESQUICENTENNIAL

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You only turn 150 once, and this was a great time to have an entire year devoted to celebrating Dillard University. We studied what had been done other places, but I really believe we set a new standard for 150 year celebrations. I think the best compliments came from colleagues who said they noticed the way we celebrated this past year. Led by our VP for Institutional Advancement Dr. Marc Barnes, our director of communications and marketing Dr. Sheryl Haydel (who did such a great job she was stolen from us- I’m still salty about it), and a team of probably hundreds we made sure people saw Dillard all year long.

We started with the basics. Let’s brand Dillard all over New Orleans.

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Banners on Gentilly Blvd
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Bus wraps
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Billboards on the street
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Airport billboard

We all did some internal branding.

With the visible signs of the sesquicentennial in place, we held a number of events, special as well as traditional events, to highlight our 150th year.

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As soon as the new year began in January we had a day of service where over 800 students, faculty and staff participated in service activities all across the city. While we have routine service activities, this was the first time we cancelled classes and closed some offices so that we could engage in service as a university.

We were able to get news stories along the way, including this one sharing the history of the university.

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We were invited by New Orleans City Council to present on the 150 year history of the university, and were given a proclamation in honor of this milestone. Councilman Jay Banks (to my left in the picture) is a Dillard alumnus.

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Our class of 2019 really lucked out. Our branding of the sesquicentennial was prominent at commencement weekend, starting with the robes of the graduates which prominently displayed the logo.

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Our guest preacher this year was Rev. Ralph D. West, pastor of Church Without Walls in Houston. We learned that his daughter is a Dillard alumna. I blogged about his awesome message.

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Commencement 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the class of 1969. Note that their class graduated during Dillard’s centennial year so they really have had a front seat during two milestone events. As you can see their class soles also have the sesquicentennial logo.

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Our commencement speaker was Regina Hall, veteran actress who began her career as a college teacher! She has also been recognized not only for her acting but philanthropic work.

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The weekend was not over as we held our sesquicentennial gala that evening. Our trustee MC Lyte was the Mistress of Ceremonies.

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And our special guest artist was the legendary Patti LaBelle. Over 1,000 people attended the event and we raised over $1.1 million. SPECIAL KUDOS go to David Page, VP for Enrollment Management, and Dr. Roland Bullard, VP for Student Success, who were the gala co-chairs. This was the biggest event like this in our history.

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In partnership with WDSU, we had an hour documentary that aired prime time in June. It was a great overview of the history of Dillard and a nice touch for our sesquicentennial. You can watch the entire program here:

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Our 2019 Founders’ Day program featured one of our most prominent alums, Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University. She was the first Black president of an Ivy League university (Brown University), and president of a women’s college (Smith College).

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Our Ray Charles program held a Dinner En Bleu event which honored a number of local people for their contributions to the New Orleans food culture. This included the family of Leah Chase who died that summer.

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And we closed out the year like we do every year with our Concert Choir Christmas Concert.

Our sesquicentennial year was truly a once in a lifetime event. I’m not sure what you call the 175th anniversary but we’ll come up with something.

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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