Campus News

Dillard receives $1 million from the Ray Charles Foundation

NEW ORLEANS — The Ray Charles Foundation is continuing its longstanding relationship with Dillard University with a $1 million grant. The grant will continue to support the University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture which launched a food studies minor in the spring of 2020. Funds will also support scholarships for students participating in the program.

“The Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture is humbled and honored to receive a generous grant from the Ray Charles Foundation to continue to build on Ray Charles’ vision and mission to celebrate, preserve and document African-American material culture. A portion of the grant will also help us to provide scholarships to students enrolled in our new food studies minor,” said Zella Palmer, the program’s director and endowed chair.

“The Ray Charles Foundation has been tremendously supportive of Dillard since 2003, granting $4 million to build the Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture. I am grateful to Ray Charles for his vision to start this program and for the foundation’s president, Valerie Ervin, who has ensured its success for the past 17 years,” said Marc Barnes, vice president for institutional advancement.

“We are pleased to be a long-time supporter of Dillard University and its Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture,” said Valerie Ervin, president of the foundation. “It is heartening to see Mr. Charles’ vision come to fruition at Dillard.”

The Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture was founded in 2003 by the legendary American musician and philanthropist Ray Charles. The Ray Charles Program has become well-known for its “DU Cooks” series which has hosted such culinary luminaries as:  Chef Elle Simone (“America’s Test Kitchen” and James Beard Winner), Julia Turshen (cookbook author and food social justice activist), Adria Kimbrough (one of Dillard’s Mock Trial team coaches) and Stephanie Linus (Nollywood actress and women’s rights activist). The Ray Charles Program is a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Food studies, one of the top growing interests of study at American universities, is a degree-seeking minor which involves the governance, planning, history, design, business and implementation of food systems within urban and rural environments. There are currently 50 students enrolled in the program.