News Archives



Oct. 4, 2005

By Linda Green*

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 responded.

“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.

United Methodist-related 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 rebuilding.”

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 together.”

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 extensive repairs.

“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 rebuilding.

“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 wrote.

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 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Resources

The Black College Fund

Black United Methodist Colleges and Universities

Board of Higher Education and Ministry

Bethune Cookman College

Dillard University