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Historically Black colleges and universities throughout the country serve as pillars that sit at the intersection of education and culture, and this year a new institution will open in the city of Detroit. According to WXYZ Detroit, a former business school will be transformed into Michigan’s only HBCU.

The school—dubbed the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design—was cultivated for emerging Black designers, engineers, business leaders and creatives. It was previously the Lewis College of Business; a historically Black institution founded nearly 94 years ago. It initially served as a secretarial school for Black women and emerged into a business school; producing Black leaders that would go on to work at companies that included Ford and Michigan Bell. The HBCU functioned in Detroit between 1939 through 2013; shuttering 26 years after receiving its historically Black college accreditation.

Years after the school’s closure, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards—founder of the Portland-based Pensole Design Academy—petitioned to reopen the institution with a vision for it to be the country’s first HBCU that had a strong focus on design. Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation for its reopening. The bills were supported by Rep. Joe Tate and Pamela Hornberger.

Edwards says he wants the reimagined HBCU to pay homage to the legacy of Lewis College of Business founder Violet T. Lewis. “Thank you to Governor Whitmer and all of our partners for helping the grandchildren of Violet T. Lewis, Pensole and College for Creative Studies establish an HBCU in the state of Michigan,” Dr. Edwards said in a statement. “Our goal is to celebrate Violet T. Lewis’ life’s work she established in the city of Detroit in 1939. Today moves us forward to another major step in continuing her legacy with the support of our founding partners College for Creative Studies, Target, and The Gilbert Family Foundation.” The Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design is slated to officially open in March 2022.

Institutions like the Pensole Lewis College of Business and Design are needed as there remains a lack of racial diversity in the design industry.


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