With a substantial increase in philanthropic giving, enrollment and student retention, along with an improved bottom line for its hospital, Howard University’s (HU) financial standing has improved, which President Wayne A.I. Frederick said continues to pave the way for expansion and advancement.
On Friday, Frederick delved into various aspects of HU operations during a State of the University (SOTU) address that attracted legions of HU students and alumni who flooded campus for homecoming.
For nearly an hour, Frederick outlined ongoing development projects, the influx of federal grants and alumni gifts received, and research awards given to students and faculty.
Frederick also addressed concerns about what he described as misconceptions about the sale of campus buildings.
In his presentation, Frederick said that long-term leases of Meridian Hall, Slowe Hall, Carver Hall and other buildings allowed the university to tap into outside funds for building upgrades. They’ve also put HU officials in a position to purchase said buildings in the future, a situation Frederick said he’s willing to explore.
“There’s a dialogue to be had,” Frederick said on Friday in the auditorium of HU’s business school.
“We have a real estate committee. The ownership of long-term leases is still with us and we can obtain buildings that were modernized that we couldn’t modernize on our own. It’s a robust discussion that must be had but one I don’t shy away from.”
Frederick’s SOTU address, one of his last as HU president, happened on the day university officials announced surpassing their milestone $100 million for research contracts and grants. It also took place amid engagement sessions with students, faculty and staff, alumni and community members about Frederick’s successor.
In months past, Frederick alluded to the possibility of a woman taking his place shortly after the launch of a campaign centered on that goal. Before starting his SOTU address, Frederick recognized Dr. Lori L. Wilson, a Black female cancer surgeon at HU Hospital who died recently.
He later painted a picture of campus life in which nearly three out of four students are women and 61 percent of students graduate within four years. These figures, he said, have been inching closer toward the goals outlined in HU’s strategic plan.
To meet those goals, advisors flag at-risk students and scaffold the awarding of degrees in situations where students have enrolled in dual-degree programs.
In regard to university expansion, HU will take $785 million of real estate investments to construct a multidisciplinary academic building for students in communications, fine arts and health sciences. Other construction projects include a new HU Hospital and a bevy of residential halls to be turned into apartment-style dwellings.
In the future, students will most likely be able to converge on a newly renovated Greene Stadium that’s able to host track meets.
Meanwhile, HU has achieved new milestones in philanthropy with more than $171 million collected during the last fiscal year. This happened at a time when the university received 20,000 alumni gifts. The $40 million gift from MacKenzie Scott has been allocated toward endowments named for Toni Morrison and George Floyd, as well as grants for students.
Anthea Francis, class of 1985 HU graduate and current HU employee, applauded Frederick for his transparency, clarity and focus on answering alumni questions.
“President Frederick needs more of these [so] people are able to hear.. the reasoning and justification behind decisions,” said Francis, who works in the Office of Continuing Education in HU College of Pharmacy.
“It filled me up with pride of addressing where we are and where we want to be. The strategy of how we’re going to get there is a story to be told.”
In the afternoon, hundreds of students and alumni converged on University Yard for Yardfest. The smell of Caribbean and Southern cuisine filled the air as alumni reunited with longtime friends. Younger alumni and students bopped their heads and danced to the music of up-and-coming musicians and a DJ.
Peter Lashley, a 2000 HU graduate and graphic designer, took in these moments while sipping sorrel. He said attending homecoming took him back to his undergraduate experience as an artist finding his calling. Lashley went on to wish current students blessings in achieving that feat.
“I want students to understand that this is a rite of passage and [when they graduate] they must urge people to support HBCUs and be good citizens,” said Lashley, a New York resident.
“It’s good to see how things are still processing. Howard is still paving the way for people to come through and see what it means to experience Black excellence, even if it’s for four years.”
HU alumna Patricia France relished in the sights and sounds of homecoming with her husband, an HU alumnus. She also marveled at the developments on a campus she hasn’t visited for several years.
“It feels good to see the expansion and modern advancements,” said France, a 1986 HU graduate who lives in New Jersey.
“They’re bringing the best resources to see the university grow. I hope that students feel connected to the university and its mission to understand their role as leaders so they’re connected to HU and the bigger community.”