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Bishops surprised at Dillard’s recovery progress,
hotel is a classroom

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Marvalene Hughes
Feb. 27, 2006

By Betty Backstrom*

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS)--When the board of trustees for Dillard University in New Orleans made a recent visit to the storm-damaged campus, the group was pleasantly surprised at the restoration completed so far by contractors.

“After three months of remediation, we realize today how much progress has been made,” said Marvelene Hughes, president of the United Methodist-related, historically black university.

The visiting group -- accompanied by Bishop William W. Hutchinson of Louisiana and four bishops from other annual conferences -- took a walking tour of the 136-year-old campus, which flooded after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast Aug. 29.

The Samuel Dubois Cook auditorium, the site for many campus events and conference-wide functions such as the W. T. Handy Convocation, was close to full restoration after having up to seven inches of mud left inside from flood waters.

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A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

Bishops accompanying the board of trustees of Dillard University listen as Arthur Clement, architectural consultant, outlines progress in the school's restoration.
Kyle Tomlin, owner of the Dallas-based company performing the restoration and cleanup at Dillard, explained that careful steps have been taken to ensure that the restored facilities are safe for students, who could return as early as July.

“After removing all mold-damaged material, everything was carefully sanitized. An environmental company has taken samplings to be certain that air quality is up to the highest standards,” Tomlin said.

In a November presidential message on the school's Web site, Hughes said three dorms must be rebuilt; classrooms, the library, administration headquarters, the student union and gymnasium must be restored and the campus grounds re-landscaped.

“Even though some trees may be down or shorn of limbs on the campus, Dillard would not be Dillard without the great oaks! The Avenue of the Oaks represents a longstanding tradition,” she said. “It is a symbol of accomplishment and achievement for Dillard students who for generations have marched proudly under the promenade of stately trees, and they will again in June.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

Rebecca Roussel, a senior in mass communications at Dillard, tours the campus with fellow classmates Jan. 13.
The tour group also looked inside Rosenwald Hall, which wound up with a completely flooded basement. “We lost a tremendous amount of IT equipment,” said Arthur Clement, architectural consultant. “The new equipment will be housed on the third floor of the building once restoration is completed.”

Rebecca Roussel, a senior mass communications major, came along on the tour with a group of fellow students. “We’re doing a short documentary on the restoration as a class project,” said Roussel, who plans to graduate in July.

Roussel, along with 1,100 other Dillard students, is currently attending classes at the Hilton Hotel, located near the Mississippi River in downtown New Orleans.

“Eight hundred are actually residing at the hotel, with the remaining 300 driving to school every day," said Mark Barnes of Dillard’s office of Institutional Advancement.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

The Hilton Hotel is the temporary home for Dillard University students.
Dillard University had 1,900 active students prior to Hurricane Katrina. “We’ve all been in touch with our friends who are attending other schools throughout Louisiana and other parts of the United States,” Roussel said. “Quite a few are attending Louisiana State University and Southern University in Baton Rouge. Some are at Texas Southern or TCU. Others are at Morehouse or Spelman in Atlanta. Most of them are saying they want to come back when the campus opens again.”

Bishops Michael Coyner (Indiana Area), Jane Allen Middleton (Harrisburg Area), Charles Crutchfield (Arkansas Area), and Thomas Bickerton (Pittsburgh Area) were with the group touring Dillard as representatives from the denomination's Council of Bishops.

“The magnitude of the situation in New Orleans is staggering. It is very encouraging to see the progress at Dillard University as the city struggles to come back,” said Bickerton.

*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or

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