dillard university student reading at gala
Stories from the Oaks

Black Philanthropy: Dillard’s Silent Hero

The month of August is observed as Black Philanthropy Month (BPM), a celebration and campaign created to push charitable efforts within the Black race. Developed by Dr. Jackie Bouvier Copeland and the Pan-African Women’s Philanthropy Network, BPM was launched in 2011 to commemorate the United Nations Year and Decade of People of African Descent. Valaida Fullwood and Tracey Webb joined the effort in 2013. According to the BPM website, the month is characterized by a wave of high-impact events, media stories, proclamations and service projects online and in communities throughout August, with local and global dimensions. This year, the theme was Foresight 20/20 and to bolster philanthropic leadership as a way to strengthen Black communities and organizations.

Journalist Soledad O’Brien and political commentator/author Bakari Sellers served as the speakers for BPM’s virtual summit launch. “Black people have long recognized and demonstrated that philanthropy is deeper than your pockets,” said Fullwood. “Our traditions of giving, in all its forms, illuminate the human impulses to progress, to see fairness, to connect, to show compassion and to love. We have always been philanthropists. This moment and the next generation will be shaped by how generously we share and act on that wisdom.”

These sentiments ring true for Dillard alumni and University supporters who have helped with the institution’s sustainability. In 2015, Jimmie Edwards ‘70 gifted the University $1 million; he believed it was important to sow back into the University that opened doors for him, a Mobile, Alabama native who grew up in the projects. Alongside Edwards, there have been countless alums who have made donations to the University without hesitation. Jatavian Williams ’06, awarded Dillard University’s Pre-Law Program with $10,000 on behalf of his law firm, Glago Williams LLC. Pamela Francois ‘79 spearheaded fundraising efforts for Dillard’s Delta Sigma Theta sorority chapter, Beta Gamma. The sorority chapter has raised $61,282 to date. 

But it is not just about alumni who pour big dollars into Dillard. President Walter Kimbrough consistently recognizes how alumni come together. Whenever he gets the chance, President Kimbrough makes it known, “When we need our alumni, they come running.”

One of the recent big displays of community generosity was the Dillard 150th Anniversary Gala. According to Urban Wire, “Black communities have some of the oldest and most deeply entrenched identity-based funds that are created, led, and supported by community members.” Attendees of the gala and sponsors gifted the University $1.1 million which went to the Student Assistance for Financial Emergencies (SAFE) Fund. The SAFE Fund was established in 2013 to help students pay their outstanding balances so that they can continue their education or graduate. 

While Dillard benefits from diverse philanthropic activity, Black Philanthropy Month serves as a reminder that the University’s core community’s giving is driven by their gratitude for their days Gentilly Boulevard.

“I felt like I owed a debt of gratitude and a debt of repayment, because I had gone to Dillard on a full scholarship,” Edwards said in his 2015 interview with L. Kasimu Harris. “Dillard provided me with the key to my future.”