Detroit HBCU Set to Open in 2022

Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is leading the charge to reopen Detroit's only HBCU, Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design. Image: Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation to officially relaunch Michigan’s only HBCU in Detroit, the Detroit News reports.

D’Wayne Edwards, the founder of the Pensole Design Academy in Portland, Oregon, recently announced plans to transform the former Lewis College of Business, the state’s first HBCU, which closed its doors in 2013, into an art, design-focused institution of higher learning.

Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design will open in 2022 on the campus of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

“I am proud to play a part in helping reopen the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design in Detroit,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am committed to expanding educational opportunities for Michiganders across our state to put Michigan first.”

Don Tuski, president of the College for Creative Studies, said that the city of Detroit will continue to be a hub for creative designers with a relaunch of Michigan’s first HBCU.

“Michigan’s creative talent has long been an important part of its economic success,” Tuski said. “This is underscored by the fact that the state boasts the highest concentration of commercial and industrial designers in the country and that Detroit is the only U.S. city recognized as a UNESCO City of Design.”

“I want to thank Governor Whitmer for taking action to support this pipeline of underserved talent alongside the countless partners who have stood up to make this a reality,” he added. “We can create generations of equitable access to the skills that will lead to good-paying jobs and create products and services that can define the future.”

Mayor Mike Duggan lauded the significant accomplishment of his city.

“Detroit now has the first HBCU anywhere to reopen,” Duggan said. “As a predominantly Black city, this helps send a clear message that we are building one city, for everyone with the opportunity for everyone.”

Edwards noted that the school would not grant degrees like a traditional college and would be “majority tuition-free.” Brands would pay for students’ tuition and housing and he hopes the school will be a tribute to the work of Violet T. Lewis, who founded the school in 1939. (The school received its HBCU designation decades later in 1987).

“Our goal is to celebrate Violet T. Lewis’ life’s work; she established in the city of Detroit in 1939,” said Edwards, who will serve as the school’s president. “Today moves us forward to another major step in continuing her legacy with the support of our founding partners the College for Creative Studies, Target, and The Gilbert Family Foundation.

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