144th Founders’ Day features investiture of 7th DU president

Fifteen months after being named Dillard University’s seventh president, Dr. Walter Kimbrough was inaugurated into office Oct. 19, marking the 144th Founder’s Day at DU.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Michael Lomax, the fifth DU president and now president of the United Negro College Fund, were among the standing-room-only crowd to welcome Kimbrough and his family at the investiture ceremony in Lawless Chapel.

Kimbrough described his new presidency as the seventh awakening for Dillard, titling his inaugural address “Ex Fide Fortis,” the phrase from the DU seal. He said he asked several Ivy League expert in Latin about the phrase and received the following responses: “strong or courageous through faith” and “strong from faith, by faith.”

He said one can’t have faith without knowing your history; practicing faith to know strength; and then with strength, act.

Kimbrough said the educational landscape is considerably different from when the school was founded in 1869; there were no community colleges or online programs. The top two producers of African-American graduates today are online schools, followed by Georgia State, Florida A&M and Howard University.

The Great Recession has changed the fundraising landscape and parents’ ability to pay, he said. For example, he said, where Chase once donated $1 million a year to education, it now donates less than $100,000. And high tuition costs, low saving rates and the rise in health-care costs mean families are struggling with education costs, he said.

Even so, he said, “the Dillard way” is in the words of Micah, “to do justly, to love mercy.”

“The Dillard way is the pursuit of perfection,” Kimbrough said.

“In this great awakening, we must be strong from faith, by faith,” he said. “We must close the book on [Hurricane] Katrina and usher in a new era.”

Kieaerra Harris, Student Government Association president, described Kimbrough as a “dynamic and authentic leader.”

Miss Dillard Amber Tramel said, “I couldn’t be more proud of my university; Dr. Kimbrough has done some amazing things on campus. [At] most universities you don’t see your president walking around engaging with the students, but President Kimbrough does, and that’s what I appreciate the most. He supports the students, and we support him.”

The program included a musical tribute from artist Irvin Mayfield and a musical selection from Dillard University Choir, with guest soloist Jonté Thomas singing “For Every Mountain.”