Oct. 4, 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — When students in colleges along
the Gulf Coast fled Hurricane Katrina, the United Methodist Church’s
historically black schools were among the many institutions that
“We have extended our welcome and hospitality to our sister
institutions in the Gulf region by opening our doors and resources to students
who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina,” said Trudie Reed, president of
the Council of Presidents. The organization comprises the presidents of the
denomination’s 11 historically black colleges.
Dillard University in New Orleans was among the schools that evacuated in
advance of Hurricane Katrina. When the storm made landfall in Louisiana and
Mississippi Aug. 29, Dillard suffered heavy damage.
The Council of
Presidents paid tribute to Dillard and discussed relief efforts during a Sept.
27 meeting in Nashville.
Reed said the opening of doors has included
raising money, taking in families and providing resources to those in need. The
church’s black colleges have collectively accepted more than 230 students from
Dillard and other schools on the coast, offering gifts such as tuition, fees,
room and board, books and sometimes weekly allowances, she said. The schools
also have accepted faculty and staff members. Most of Dillard’s more than 1,500
students have enrolled at other predominantly black colleges and universities
across the country.
“We are proud to celebrate our ongoing role and
legacy of educating deserving students by offering hope, opportunity and tools
for lifelong learning,” said Reed, who is also president of Bethune-Cookman
College in Daytona Beach, Fla. “While worldly possessions have been lost, the
students that we have accepted into our homes on a temporary basis have gained a
new family and home away from home within a Christian context, where values are
transmitted and human dignity is being restored.”
The Educational &
Institutional Insurance Administrators Inc., the risk insurance company
available to all of the church’s colleges and universities, has provided a $1
million insurance advance to cover Dillard’s cost of being down. “I am so
pleased that they are stepping up to the plate to provide resources for Dillard
University,” Reed said.
EIIA was formed during the 1960s, when a number
of historically black colleges and universities related to the United Methodist
Church were unable to obtain property coverage from the commercial insurance
market. The denomination assisted the colleges by combining their resources and
buying insurance as a group.
The presidents also learned that Brown University has committed
funds from its endowment to assist in rebuilding Dillard, and the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry has made nearly $300,000
available to assist the university. Donations for Dillard can be made at
www.gbhem.org/hurricaneresponse.html online or by mail to the Dillard University
Hurricane Relief Fund, c/o The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry,
P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-007.
“We are not (the Federal
Emergency Management Agency), but I think the church is making a statement about
the importance of this institution,” said the Rev. Jerome King del Pino, top
executive of board.
It is fortunate that a connectional church exists to
“enables us to respond to Dillard in a way that will assure that it is going to
be restored,” he said.
“Dillard is a stellar institution … that is going
to continue to provide leadership for the church and society and will be able to
do that at a time when we need it most,” he said.
When the university
evacuated, school officials set up offices in Washington and Atlanta, and many
of the students enrolled in other historically black institutions while
retaining their academic credit from Dillard.
“The Dillard family is
scattered everywhere,” said Dillard President Marvalene Hughes. “The academic
cluster is in Atlanta. I have spent most of my time in fund raising in
Washington and with foundations across the country, which is very critical for
She and other officials journeyed to the campus Sept. 28 to
assess the campus before deciding how to reunite the Dillard family and rebuild.
They had hoped to resume some classes on campus in January but postponed those
plans because of damage on the campus. In addition to flooding, three of
Dillard’s buildings were damaged by fire.
“We are looking at alternative
sites at this time,” Hughes said. “We are in the throes of making immediate
decisions. We were too optimistic for January. I am projecting the fall
semester, but we are selecting alternate sites to bring the community
Dillard officials announced Oct. 3 that plans are under way to
commence classes as early as January at a site in New Orleans. Dillard has
signed a memorandum of understanding with Tulane University, also in New
Orleans, to provide temporary facilities for Dillard while the campus undergoes
“The board of trustees, in consultation with various
stakeholders, sought a solution that would reconnect the Dillard community
physically, emotionally and spiritually, as well as enable the important work of
teaching and learning to commence without further interruption,” Hughes said in
a news release.
“Tulane invited us to consider a memorandum of
understanding, which we developed collaboratively,” she said. “They have
responded enthusiastically, and we approved this opportunity to return to our
home in New Orleans.”
Dillard University will “maintain its separate
identity and heritage as a historically black college, re-establish its
learning-centered community of students, faculty and staff, and reclaim its
legacy of 135 years in the city,” she said.
News reports have stated that
historically black schools along the Gulf Coast will have a hard way to go
because they lacked appropriate insurance to cover damages. On Sept. 29, Hughes
drafted a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to the paper’s
report ran about the storm stretching the safety net for black colleges. The
letter, posted on the school’s Web site, said the story was accurate in
reporting Dillard’s damage but that the school does have insurance to help with
“Contrary to the reporter’s assertion … Dillard does indeed
have business interruption insurance, which will be of some assistance in our
recovery efforts. However, by no means will this meet the overall need,” she
During the Council of Presidents’ meeting, Hughes expressed
gratitude for the United Methodist Church’s support and for the black colleges’
generosity in accepting Dillard’s students “with the warmth that has caused them
to feel at home.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer
based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470
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