By Mark Veals
To mark its 150th founding anniversary, Dillard University will welcome singer Patti LaBelle as its featured performer for its gala event on May 11. The Grammy-award winning artist, actress, and entrepreneur will perform at the event, which also serves as a fundraiser for students attending this historically black university. The gala at the Hyatt Regency downtown will recognize the university’s contribution to the city, and work to sustain its legacy.
“For me, Dillard is an integral part of the history of New Orleans. It was built by a diverse coalition of local and out of state citizens,” said Walter Kimbrough, Dillard’s president.
“It has been supported by two religious denominations. It provided the state’s first nursing program. It has a unique location in a residential community important in building the black middle class of the city. So, all of those factors help build the legacy,” Kimbrough said.
It is not the first time LaBelle has brought her philanthropy to help the local university. A decade ago, she headlined their 140th anniversary fundraiser. LaBelle will be joined by Hip Hop artist Lana Michelle Moorer, also known as MC Lyte, who serves as a Dillard Board Trustee member, and will also be the host of the event. The proceeds of the gala fundraiser support the university’s Student Assistance for Financial Emergencies (SAFE) fund that helps retain students most at-risk of not completing their degrees because they could not pay their outstanding balances. Since its inception, the SAFE Fund has so far helped 300 students to remain enrolled at Dillard and over 100 students have graduated.
“While there is federal, state and institutional aid available, sometimes a [financial] gap still exists because funding runs out. SAFE is used to help make up that difference so that students can persist and ultimately graduate from Fair Dillard,” said David D. Page, Dillard’s vice president of Enrollment Management. “The support of our alumni, family/friends, and donors is critical and ultimately makes this happen.”
The gala will also pay tribute to past university presidents, campus life, and more. Additionally, distinguished alumni will be honored at the gala. The honorees include: Dr. Millie Charles, recipient of the Dave Dennis Lifetime Achievement Award which is presented to an alumnus who has exhibited significant achievement in their career or community. Michael Griffin, the recipient of the Henry ‘Plook’ Lucas Service Award, which is awarded to an alumnus who has exhibited significant leadership through service to his/ her Alma Mater. Warren Jones, the recipient of the Justice Revius O. Ortique Professional Excellence Award, which honors an alumnus who has attained high achievement in his/her career field. Crystal McDonald, the recipient of the Young Alumni Award, which recognizes established and future leaders among Dillard’s young alumni or those who have demonstrated such during their first 15 years as an alumnus. Lastly, Dorothy Perrault, the recipient of the Frank Mason Leadership Award, which honors an alumnus who has been a momentous supporter of Dillard University.
“Today we are focused on ensuring that we contribute not just locally but globally in a range of areas. This means continuing to be a leading producer of physics graduates, to continue to develop a hands-on film program, as well as address the dearth of people of color in the legal community.” “We definitely aren’t simply interested in celebrating 150 phenomenal years; we are essentially launching a new era of creative innovation,” Kimbrough said.
Both Hyatt Regency and WDSU Channel 6 will sponsor the event and the public can find out my information at http://bit.ly/du150gala