For my six years at Dillard, I have had one big project: resolving the Katrina loan. When I first arrived we were working on paying back a $156M loan that by now would have required us to pay almost $8M a year, money we did not have or would have. In the spring of 2013, we were granted a 5 year forbearance, which gave us time to try to come up with a plan.
So for the past few years, at least twice a month, the four presidents of the effected schools (Tougaloo, Xavier and SUNO along with us), met by phone with our advancement chiefs and our Washington DC lobbyists to develop plans to resolve. We made several trips to DC during both administrations, with congressional reps on both sides of the aisle, and our advocacy groups like UNCF, to resolve this issue.
This spring, the Katrina loans were forgiven. This is a huge milestone for all of us and probably one of my most important accomplishments since being at Dillard. So on July 10th, we spend a full day in Washington DC with a simple task.
To say thanks.
We started with Senator Roy Blount (MO), a former college president and Republican leader who was a great supporter.
Then we saw Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, whose education team is terrific!
We met with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, along with her special assistant Dr. Leonard Haynes and White House Initiative director Johnathan Holifield.
Tougaloo graduate Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS) was a consistent supporter of the mission.
And we ended the day with a reception for all the congressional staffers, including the staffs of Rep. Steve Scalise (LA) and former Senator Thad Cochran (MS). As soon as he landed, our Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA) also came by so we could thank him as well.
In an era where bipartisan is a word no one uses, this was truly a bipartisan effort. And while we won’t agree on every issue, this was one issue that regardless of their side of the aisle we found some synergy. We are pictured here with John Ladd of the Carmen Group, who was very active in the entire process.
And that, my friends, is the Katrina story.