Dillard University marked its 144th Founder’s Day Convocation with the inauguration of the University’s seventh president, Walter Mark Kimbrough, Ph.D., and a weekend of events at the Gentilly campus beginning with A Taste of New Orleans: A Musical Celebration honoring President Kimbrough Friday, Oct. 18, in the Georges Auditorium.
The host and hostess for the musical tribute were native New Orleanians, Grammy-nominated national recording artist Ledisi and film and stage actor Nicoye Banks.
In addition to the Dillard University Concert choir, performances included Delfaeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, Image Musiq, Dillard University’s Female Ensemble and Male Quartet, N’Kafu traditional African dance company.
On Sat., Oct. 19, Dillard celebrated Founders’ Day and the President Kimbrough’s inauguration with a ceremony at Lawless Memorial Chapel. Inaugural program participants included Dillard University Board of Trustees Chairwoman Joyce Roche, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Gerald Lord of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church, United Negro College Fund President Michael Lomax, Dillard University Faculty Senate President Eartha Johnson, SGA President Kieaerra Harris and National Alumni Association President Pamela R. Higgins Francois.
The weekend culminated with the Inauguration Worship Service on Sunday, Oct. 20, where the sermon was delivered by President Kimbrough’s father Rev. Walter L. Kimbrough, who has provided leadership at all levels of the United Methodist Church in Georgia and Illinois for nearly 50 years. He is currently pastor of Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Atlanta.
Walter Mark Kimbrough, Ph.D., became Dillard University’s seventh president on July 1, 2012. Known as the Hip-Hop President, Kimbrough is one of the youngest college presidents in the nation. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia, where he earned a B.S. in agriculture, and of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a master’s degree in college student personnel services. In 1996, he earned a doctor of philosophy in higher education from Georgia State University. Prior to his appointment at Dillard, Kimbrough served as president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark.
He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and has been recognized for his writings and research on HBCUs and African-American men in college.
Since his appointment at Dillard University, Kimbrough has continued his commitment to higher education trends, social media and today’s youth. He has more than 8,000 Twitter followers and is considered one of the most dynamic figures in higher education today. On April 18, 2013, he launched his Presidential Lecture series “Brain Food” with a lecture by Michael Eric Dyson. The series has also featured Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander, and Clarence B. Jones, advisor and speech writer to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
President Kimbrough and his wife Adria have two children Lydia Nicole and Benjamin Barack.
Soon after his arrival to New Orleans, President Kimbrough sat with The New Orleans Tribune for an exclusive interview during which he shared his plans and goals for Dillard University, including short term objectives like guiding the continued recovery from Hurricane Katrina to long-range goals such as increasing enrollment, creating an identifiable brand among its academic offerings and developing a strategic plan for the University.
Dillard University’s celebrated history dates back to 1869 with the founding of Straight University and Union Normal School. The creation of the two schools came with support from the American Missionary Association (now known as the United Church of Christ) and the Freedmen’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church (now the United Methodist Church). The schools were later renamed Straight College and New Orleans University. In 1935 Straight College and New Orleans University merged to form Dillard University, with the trustees calling for the implementation of coeducational, interracial school serving a predominately African-American student body while adhering to Christian principles and values. The new school was named in honor of James Hardy Dillard, a distinguished academician dedicated to the education of African-Americans.