NEW ORLEANS -President Rochelle L. Ford, Ph.D APR was sworn in as Dillard University’s
eighth president in an investiture ceremony on Jan. 27 before an audience of current and former
students, faculty and staff, sorority and fraternity members, family and friends. She is
succeeding former president Dr. Walter Kimbrough who served from 2012 to 2022 and is the
second woman in Dillard’s history to hold the position.
The investiture ceremony kicked off a weekend-long inaugural celebration with events occurring
from Friday through Sunday. Though the official ceremony didn’t occur until January, Dr. Ford
has held the position of president since July 2022. Since that time, Dr. Ford has been innovating
the campus in preparation for her official inauguration. A notable theme throughout the
inauguration weekend was Dillard’s “legacy in leadership” and Ford plans to expand on that
“Dr. Ford is the definition of a Visionaire,” said Nick Harris, community and church relations
and community resource center director. “She has demonstrated she is a person with strong,
original ideas about how things could be different in the future and how things might be
significantly improved. I am looking forward to working with her as we redefine our
‘communiversity’ focus for Dillard University.”
In her investiture address Ford said, “let’s help our students think about and articulate clearly
how their Dillard and other life experiences have helped cultivate them into leaders who are
ready to enter private and public sectors with innovative spirits.” Ford said she believes
committing further to leadership will aid Dillard in achieving its goals.
The inauguration weekend began on the morning of Jan. 27 with a jazz breakfast in Kearny
Dining Hall. Throughout the day, guests perused the campus grounds on guided tours or attended
lecture-style presentations on subjects ranging from capstone projects to journalistic articles to
creative works in the Professional Schools & Sciences Building (PSB).
The investiture ceremony began at noon. in Lawless Chapel with a selection of songs from
Dillard’s Concert Choir and the National Anthem sang by Jolisa Singletary ‘06. Various speakers
took the stage at the event including student leaders, staff members and a few of Ford’s peers and
A reception was held immediately following the event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Student
Union where guests were offered refreshments. On Saturday, Jan. 28, a parade of student
representatives was led through the Gentilly area in celebration of the weekend’s events. A band
from Young Audiences Charter School performed with the Dillard Diamonds, Dillard
Cheerleaders, and campus mascot, Victor E. Bleu.
Also on Saturday, a community service and health fair was held on the lot near the Student
Union. Community members and health organizations set up tables with flyers and snacks.
School supplies and toiletries were also given away to students. The YACS Marching Band,
Dillard Diamonds, and Dillard cheerleaders performed, and Dillard Dining provided a choice of
hot meals, jambalaya and red beans, for attendees.
Ford has her sights set on painting Gentilly blue. This vision, paired with the growing number of
students on campus, made the groundbreaking ceremony for the new dorm facilities a greater
triumph. The ceremony was held after the health fair at 4141 Norman Mayer Ave. Students were
able to attend the New Orleans Pelicans game that night and sit in a special section for HBCU
Night. Festivities were wrapped the following Sunday, January 29 with a chapel ceremony.
Prior to her arrival at Dillard, Dr. Ford served as dean of Elon University’s School of
Communications. She obtained a master’s degree in journalism, specializing in public relations,
from the University of Maryland College Park, and earned a Ph. D from Southern Illinois
Dillard University professor and inaugural chief marshal, Robert Collins, said he’s eager to see
what Ford can bring to Dillard University. Collins said “as a place that does great things with
mass communication, journalism, and public policy, I think she’s going to really continue to
communicate the brand worldwide.”