Detroit HBCU Reopens After 10 Years

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, left, and students of Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design, right.

Photo courtesy of College for Creative Studies and Pensole Lewis College


The first-ever reopening of an HBCU located in Detroit took place this past spring and it’s celebrating its inaugural class this semester, The Detroit News reported.

Roughly 10 years after the state’s only Black college, Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design, shuttered, the college reopened with a class of 30 students and a new purpose to connect with industries to develop a pipeline of prepared workers and design experts, according to the article.

Isaiah Walker, a 2013 Southfield Lathrup High School graduate, told The Detroit News that after attending Oakland Community College he is one of many in the elite Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design inaugural class. Also, recently he became one of four students to obtain a summer internship with workwear brand Carhartt, which is headquartered in Dearborn, according to the article.

“What I hope to gain from the internship,” Walker, 27, said in the article “is knowledge, better connections inside the industry and hopefully a full-time job with Carhartt.”

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is heading up the college as the founder of Pensole Design Academy in Portland, Oregon (also the controlling stockholder of the previously shuttered HBCU, Lewis College of Business in Detroit).

“The Lewis College of Business was first created in 1928 as a secretarial school for Black women. After relocating to Detroit in 1939, it became a critical source of economic impact for the city’s Black community. GM, Ford, and Michigan Bell hired their first Black office employees from the school. 82 years later, and 14 years since it lost its accreditation as HBCU, I am honored to be resurrecting Violet T. Lewis’s legacy in Detroit,” Edwards said during a fall press conference.  

“As a predominantly Black city, Detroit should have an operating Historically Black College. Not having one has been a hole in our educational landscape for too long,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a press release. To have the first HBCU anywhere to reopen happen in Detroit would be a tremendous demonstration of how our city is coming back as a city of opportunity for people of color.”  

Among the college’s founding supporters are Dan and Jennifer Gilbert via The Gilbert Family Foundation, and leading retailer Target. For each partner, the commitment to launching PLC is part of larger ongoing initiatives supporting the economic future of local and diverse communities.  

The investment from the Gilbert Family Foundation comes as part of the organization’s ongoing, $500 million joint commitment to their hometown of Detroit to drive access to economic and social opportunity and increase equity for residents of Detroit.  

“With a deep history in democratizing design, Target is proud to support Dr. D’Wayne Edwards and aspiring Black designers through the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design,” said Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target and president of the Target Foundation. “This partnership represents an important part of our broader commitment that aims to support the next generation of Black talent, expand the impact of Black-led movements and voices, and create economic opportunity in Black communities across the country.” 

Prior to its official opening and reinstatement, PENSOLE Lewis will operate in partnership with and under the auspices of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. CCS is working with Dr. Edwards to gain the legal and legislative approval needed to establish PENSOLE Lewis, which includes designation as an accredited educational program. An agreement is being drafted to establish a joint venture between CCS and PLC to allow PLC to offer accredited educational programs.  

 Read the full story here.

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