|Dillard University seeks reconstruction assistance|
Dillard University in New Orleans, damaged by
Hurricane Katrina in 2005, reopened its campus 13 months later. A UMNS
photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
By Linda Green*
May 23, 2007 | NEW ORLEANS (UMNS)
Dillard University needs carpenters, landscapers, painters and
"people to do whatever one does when the ceilings and walls are in
disrepair," according to its president.
The United Methodist-related university in New Orleans sustained
massive damage when Hurricane Katrina roared across the Gulf Coast
almost two years ago. The school is calling on people who know about
construction, building codes and compliance to assist it in making its
facilities better than before.
Dillard University President
Marvalene Hughes sits
inside the campus chapel.
"One of our goals has been not just to return the facilities to the
pre-Katrina status, but to make all the facilities better than they have
been," said Marvalene Hughes, Dillard president. The campus grounds
also need upgrading to "make them more appealing and a place where
students sit and just spend their leisure time simply enjoying the
beauty of the campus," she said.
In particular, the school is focusing on remodeling its chapel, which Hughes described as the "heart of this campus."
Campus became a lake
Immediately following the 2005 hurricane, the entire campus was under
water for an extensive period. The 136-year-old university is about a
quarter of a mile from the levees that broke, and ensuing flooding
turned the campus into a lake eight to 10 feet deep.
Three buildings burned down and three others had to be demolished
because of water damage, Hughes said. The university rebuilt each
remaining building and was able to salvage other structures and declare
them usable after "demucking" and certifying them free of mold or other
In the two years since the hurricane, the university has addressed
student housing, classroom space and dining areas and has modified
Dillard has been fortunate to "have good insurance through EIIA and
has recovered more than $100 million" from its damages, according to
Wanda Bigham, the staff member at the United Methodist Board of Higher
Education and Ministry who directly relates to schools, colleges and
EIIA, the Educational & Institutional Insurance Administrators
Inc., is the risk insurance company available to all of the church's
colleges and universities. The company 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.
"My estimation now is that we are about 55 percent back to our normal
status, meaning that our construction is back at about that amount and
that our student population is about at that number and so are faculty
and staff," Hughes said. Dillard reopened on its own campus last
September after using a downtown hotel for classrooms and housing.
Prior to Katrina, 1,900 students were enrolled at Dillard, and the
enrollment during the spring term that just ended was 1,100 students. "I
want to go beyond that. I have a five-year target for that," she
While Dillard has reached its anticipated goal since Katrina, it is
preparing to aggressively recruit in order to attract former and new
students. "We are continuing our construction, so that the space will be
there and the campus will be more attractive than it ever was," Hughes
said. A May 18 story in the Chronicle of Higher Education
indicates that the enrollment outlook this fall for the colleges and
universities in New Orleans is brighter and the institutions expect
Master plan for rebuilding
The university, its friends and supporters want to build a 21st
century campus, Hughes said. Dillard has taken a master plan perspective
and invested and raised $15 million to enhance its science labs,
nursing labs and public health labs. "It took a lot of money, but we
raised it. All of the labs are new," she said.
The university is ready to enter the second phase of its recovery
process, and it is focusing its attention on the chapel, "where the
spirit exists" on campus, Hughes said.
Other areas of reconstruction include the administration building and
the library. The administrative offices are currently in a rented space
in downtown New Orleans.
Storm debris sits in front of an
entrance to Dillard University following the hurricane that left the
entire campus under water. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
The chapel is the only building that did not stand in water. Wind and rain damage to the roof allowed water into the building.
"The chapel needs a lot of internal remodeling and painting and doing
whatever one does when the ceilings and walls are in disrepair," Hughes
said. In addition to being a worship facility, the chapel is also used
for classroom and meeting activities.
"Even to get it back as it was will cost a lot of money for the
interior, and then to move it to the stage where we really want it to be
will cost about $2.6 million," she said. It also needs gardeners and
painters, she added.
Insurance covered the cost of the chapel's roof but not the
building's interior, according to Hughes. After engaging in an
architectural bidding process, "we discovered that we are about $2
million off, so it (remodeling) is on hold," she said.
Prayers and funds needed
The denomination's support is needed in restoring the chapel to its role as the hub of the university, officials said.
"The chapel needs extensive renovation and I believe the love and
labor of United Methodist VIM teams could really bless the school and
students," said Cynthia Hopson, director of the Black College Fund and
Ethnic Concerns, the local church apportionment fund that supports the
African-American academic institutions related to The United Methodist
She encourages United Methodists to "pray, send money and students so
the school can return to its previous glory" and she expressed
"confidence that rebuilding Dillard will be a critical part of a
renaissance in New Orleans."
Bigham agrees. "I think a great deal of the growth in enrollment in future years will be linked to the recovery of New Orleans."
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marvalene Hughes: "It's not just our goal to recover to what we were."
College After Katrina
Dillard University reopens on its own campus, president says
Some New Orleans Colleges Predict Bigger Enrollments This Fall
New Orleans colleges expect surge of new students
Colleges expect surge of freshmen
Black Colleges and Universities of The United Methodist Church
General Board of Higher Education and Ministry