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Dillard to Award Four Honorary Degrees during 2017 Commencement Ceremony, Saturday, May 13

L. Kasimu Harris | Communications and Marketing

L. Kasimu Harris | Communications and Marketing

(New Orleans, LA) – Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, producer, performer Janelle Monáe Robinson, popularly known as Janelle Monáe, is among four recipients to receive honorary doctorates during Dillard University’s Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, on the Rosa Freeman Keller Avenue of the Oaks on Dillard’s campus. The ceremony is at 8 a.m. with the procession starting at 7:45 a.m.  Others who will receive Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters include noted New Orleans civil rights attorney Lolis Edward Elie, who will be honored posthumously; Michael O. Smith, general manager – Hyatt New Orleans, and distinguished Dillard alumna Dorothy Jacques Perrault.

Janelle Monáe, who will deliver the commencement address, is a high-energy performer known for such hits as “The Electric Lady,” “Arch,” “Q.U.E.E.N,” and “Tightrope.” She gave a jaw-dropping performance at Super Bowl 50 with her tribute to past and present musical acts. Recently, Monáe showcased her amazing talent as an actor with her roles in two Oscar-winning dramas Moonlight and Hidden Figures.

Lolis Edward Elie practiced law in New Orleans for 50 years. He is most known for his role in desegregating the city and successfully advocating for such groups as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Consumer’s League as well as members of the Black Panther Party. His law firm Collins, Douglas, and Elie, along with CORE and the NAACP, successfully represented four students who were arrested during a sit-in at a lunch counter in downtown New Orleans. The case, Lombard v. Louisiana (1963), went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was subsequently dismissed.

Elie was also active in galvanizing local consumers to boycott businesses along Dryades Street as well as shops on Canal Street as part of a strategy to get merchants to hire blacks in positions other than janitorial. Later, in partnership with Ernest Lake Jones, he represented members of the Black Panthers.

Collins, Douglas & Elie became the first black law firm to open an office in downtown New Orleans. Partners Judge Robert Collins and the late Nils Douglas are both 1951 graduates of Dillard.    

Elie received his law degree from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans in 1959.  He attended Dillard for several years before enrolling in law school at Loyola.

Dorothy Jacques Perrault is a 1960 graduate of Dillard who began her career as the first black registered nurse at Sara Mayo Hospital in New Orleans. It was the beginning of many “firsts” for Perrault. Later, she served at Flint Goodridge Hospital of Dillard University and the Veterans Administration Hospital. She then joined the staff of Charity Hospital where Perrault became the first black registered nurse promoted to General Nursing IV, supervising some 1,200 employees. She worked at Charity from 1966 to 1977 and also served two terms as the first black president of the Charity Hospital 500-member Nurses Federation.

Perrault was not only an innovator in the field of nursing but in business as well. She and her husband, Harry Perrault, operated Perrault Kiddy Kollege, LLC, a network of child development centers in the greater New Orleans area for over 40 years. Perrault also served as President and CEO of Classic Catering, Inc. and The Fashion Korner, Inc. Both businesses operated at Perrault Plaza (established in 1985), the first minority owned million-dollar complex of its kind in New Orleans. It was destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  In 2009, Perrault Kiddy Kollege was reopened at two locations.

Michael O. Smith serves as General Manager for Hyatt Regency New Orleans. He has spent 39 years with Hyatt and is an expert in the hospitality and tourism industry.  Smith has utilized his platform to excel towards a higher purpose as an innovative business leader and revered philanthropist in New Orleans. He has received widespread recognition for his efforts in safely evacuating nearly 4,000 guests and staff, along with supporting government officials in transporting thousands of residents from the Superdome through the hotel to buses departing the city during Hurricane Katrina.  In the aftermath of the disaster, the battered hotel remained closed for six years. During this time, Smith briefly relocated back to Hyatt Regency Washington and went on to complete the Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business

Smith returned to New Orleans in 2007 to spearhead the $285 million redevelopment of Hyatt Regency New Orleans. On the 5th anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Smith was honored as an “Unsung Hero” in a proclamation by the city of New Orleans. Through his leadership, vision and passion, the property reopened in 2011 as the city’s leading hotel destination, with Smith once again serving as General Manager of Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

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