A Brief History of Dillard University




Samuel DuBois Cook, former president of Dillard UniversitySamuel DuBois Cook’s hiring brought attention to Dillard as he had made history as the first African American faculty member at Duke University. He would later serve on Duke’s board of trustees, be awarded a Doctor of Laws and have the university’s center on social equity named after him. Cook had also been a Morehouse College classmate and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., and he had served as chair of Atlanta University’s political science department. 


Recognizing that students required preparation for an increasingly competitive international and multicultural marketplace, Cook set out to expand Dillard’s offerings. In 1989, Cook created the Dillard University National Conference on Black-Jewish Relations from which sprang the Dillard University National Center for Black-Jewish Relations. He added the Japanese studies program in 1990 to prepare students for business and international relations opportunities. The Japanese studies would be the first of its kind at an HBCU and Dillard University National Conference on Black-Jewish Relations was the only one of its kind.


The Cook years saw other significant gains. The number  and percentage of faculty members holding doctoral degrees increased. Cook also raised the requirements for admission, increased student enrollment by 50 percent, raised significant funds to improve the campus and facilities and expanded student services. In the process, alumni engagement grew and he increased the endowment from $5 million to more than $40 million. 


Cook’s mark remains at Dillard in other ways. He served as the chair of the Presidents of the United Negro College Fund during his time at Dillard. He named the historic Avenue of the Oaks for longtime trustee and racial equality advocate Rosa Keller Freeman, who served from 1955 to 1998. Later, the communications and fine arts center was named after Cook. and the honors program was later partially named in his honor. 



Michael Lomax, former president of Dillard UniversityOn July 1, 1997, Dr. Michael L. Lomax was named the fifth president of Dillard University. A noted scholar, administrator, political leader and entrepreneur, Lomax undertook the challenge to transform Dillard University into one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the nation. Lomax’s background included serving for 20 years as an elected member of the Board of Commissioners in Fulton County, Georgia. He also founded the National Black Arts Festival as well as the Amistad Corporation. Lomax also played a key role in attracting the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta. Most notably, the Morehouse alumnus taught literature at his alma mater, Spelman College, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia. He also served as president of The National Faculty.


Lomax led an aggressive campaign to renovate and modernize campus facilities and to also improve the University’s profile. He led a $60 million campus renovation program to focus on students’ living and learning environments, and Lomax added the Dillard University International Center for Economic Freedom (DUICEF, now known as Michael and Shaun Jones Hall or Jones Hall) to the campus landscape in 2004. Enrollment increased 49 percent, reaching more than 2,200 students from the U.S., the Caribbean and Africa. Having also tripled alumni, individual, corporate and foundation giving, Lomax helped Dillard reach a U.S. News & World Report ranking of 20th in the top tier of colleges and universities in the South by 2002.


In 2004, Lomax decided that it was time to move on to a new assignment. He accepted the position of chief executive officer and president of the United Negro College Fund. Dr. Bettye Parker Smith served as the interim president until the arrival of a leader who would be called on to shepherd Dillard through its most challenging period since opening the doors of the Gentilly campus.




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



2601 Gentilly Boulevard
New Orleans, Louisiana 70122

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