A Brief History of Dillard University




Albert W. Dent, former president of Dillard UniversityIn 1941, Albert W. Dent was named Dillard’s second president. Although he had not earned an advanced degree, Dent proved himself to be a remarkable president and an effective leader in the international field of health administration during his 28-year tenure. He guided Dillard through the turbulent decades of World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power movement. Part of his legacy was solidified by capital improvements. The beautiful 33-acre consisted of Rosenwald Hall,  Kearny Hall, Hartzell Hall, Straight Hall, Howard House, the President’s Residence and several small cottages for faculty. During his administration, the University added:  Henson Hall, named for Matthew Henson; Stern Hall, named after Edgar B. Stern; Lawless Memorial Chapel, dedicated to its benefactor Alfred Lawless Jr. and his father Theodore K. Lawless; and the Will W. Alexander Library. Under his leadership, Dillard gained membership to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1958.


Dent also proved to be a pioneer. Having proven himself to be an effective superintendent of Flint-Goodridge Hospital, Dent declared that “a nursing program in Dillard University should develop better persons as well as better nurses; persons who will provide leadership in an increasingly important profession." Through Flint-Goodridge, African Americans had received much-needed care at affordable costs which included Dent’s nationally acclaimed “Penny-a-Day” insurance plan at $3.65 per year. Therefore, establishing a nursing program was a logical next step. Dent’s vision became a reality in 1942 when Dillard became the first institution of higher learning in Louisiana to establish an accredited baccalaureate program in nursing. A key figure in developing Dillard’s nursing program was Rita E. Miller, a Black nurse who understood and championed professional nursing education. Miller devised a rigorous five-year academic program with high admission standards which led to the program receiving full accreditation from the National League for Nursing in 1952. Dent was also responsible for Dillard becoming a founding member of the United Negro College Fund in 1944.


Under Dent, Dillard’s national and international profile as a liberal arts institution grew. Part of that growth was attracting notable guest speakers as part of his Edwin R. Embree Memorial Lecture Series which saw figures as Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall and Ralph Bunche. Other visitors included Mary McLeod Bethune, Haile Selassie, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes and Matthew Henson.


Dillard came to play a role as one of New Orleans’ critical civic anchors. Behind the scenes, Dent played a part in negotiating race relations throughout the city. He worked with Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison on desegregating New Orleans’ public services while promoting University events that spoke to Black identity and pride. Most notable of those events was Dillard’s 1968 Festival of Afro-American Arts. All told, Dent guided Dillard through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement.



Broadus Butler, former president of Dillard University

Dr. Broadus N. Butler’s appointment as Dillard’s third president marked, for the University, a renewed commitment to the liberal arts. A Southern intellectual, Butler’s most important contribution is considered to be the implementation of the Scholars-Statesman Lecture Series which was housed in the Division of Social Sciences. The series was designed to “bring to the presence of Dillard University students and the New Orleans community a series of men and women who have made distinctive achievements in their own lives and who are themselves living models of the kind of excellence to which our students aspire and which our community should always respect.” The lecture series brought to campus key figures such as Benjamin Elijah Mays, Etta Moten Barnett, Aaron Douglas, Arna Bontemps and A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr.


What posed a threat to Butler’s philosophy and direction was a larger issue that threatened Dillard in addition to other HBCUs. Large research institutions had begun offering Black students financial incentives, therefore, the board of trustees believed that there was a need to transform its curriculum to meet the needs of the University’s changing student body. Such changes clashed with Butler’s ideal of a traditional, classical education, so he resigned in November 1973. Dr. Myron F. Wicke was then selected to serve as acting president until 1974 when Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook became Dillard’s fourth president.




1869-1940 | 1941-1973 | 1974-2004 | 2005-Present


2601 Gentilly Boulevard
New Orleans, Louisiana 70122

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