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Howard Alumna Named Eighth Dillard University President

Dr. Rochelle Ford, an alumna of Howard University and a former professor in the Department of Journalism, was named the eighth President of Dillard University. Image courtesy of ALY Media Relations.

For what people have deemed diligent and transformative leadership, Howard University alumna and former professor Dr. Rochelle L. Ford was recently inaugurated as the eighth president of Dillard University in New Orleans.

Ford, who previously served as dean of the Elon University School of Communications, succeeds Walter Kimbrough, who led the institution from 2012-2022. According to Dillard, Ford exemplifies Dillard’s mission to ‘cultivate leaders who live ethically’ and was hired to carry on the legacy of past leadership of the university, by making the world a better place, uplifting others through a high sense of self, and offering students a greater sense of belonging.

The private liberal arts and faith-based university held events between Jan. 27-29 under the theme “Activating Our Commitment: Continuing a Legacy of Leadership” to commemorate the beginning of Ford’s tenure. Ford called the inaugural events a “celebration of our past,” primarily, the 150-year history of Dillard University. 

“I’m excited to be around so many of my mentors (and) my friends,” she said. 

Ford’s appointment comes amid women’s continued international struggle for respect and equity in society and equal benefits in the workforce, which makes her appointment all the more significant to many. Yanick Lamb, a journalist, author and professor of journalism in Howard’s School of Communications who worked alongside Ford, while she taught here, acknowledged this as she attended the inauguration. 

“There are still too few women in top positions in academia and other disciplines. President Ford’s appointment demonstrates that we’re qualified to succeed in any arena,” Lamb said.

“I saw firsthand how much she has already inspired women at Dillard — students as well as faculty and staff,” Lamb continued. 

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Also in attendance for Ford’s installation as president was Dr. Barbara Hines,  Professor Emerita of Journalism, former journalism department director and the founding chair of Howard’s Communication, Culture & Media Studies program. Hines, who was Ford’s thesis advisor during her undergraduate days, cited the incredible work ethic and achievement of Ford–including this as reasoning for her recent appointment.

“We met in fall of 1989 when she came to my office to introduce herself and to get involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). She was a writer for The Hilltop too, and a member of the Annenberg Honors Program in the School of Communications … . In her senior year, she received the national award for outstanding student in public relations, the Betsy Plank award, from PRSSA, and was the first student of color or from an HBCU to win the award,” Hines said.

“Dillard was looking for a president who was a visionary, scholar, teacher and who could be a good brand ambassador for the university. They found all those talents in Dr. Ford, who developed them after continually having to prove herself, which is not something male administrators are always challenged to do,” Hines concluded.

Ford’s appointment has stirred up excitement in her sorors of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., as well. Brooklyn King, a junior English major and spring 2022 initiate of the Alpha chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., expressed her happiness for Ford’s appointment.

“I absolutely love the fact that Dr. Rochelle L. Ford was appointed as Dillard’s new President! Not only is Dr. Ford an HU grad, but she is also my soror and a fellow initiate of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated’s quintessential Alpha chapter,” King said.

“As an education student, it is inspiring to see Black women be successful in their pursuits. Every day we don’t see Black women obtaining these kinds of roles, so it’s wonderful to witness,” King said.

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Dr. Jannette Dates was also thrilled to attend Ford’s inauguration, joining many others from Howard who traveled to Louisiana to celebrate with Ford and her family. The Dean Emerita of Howard University’s School of Communications, Dates, hired Ford as a Howard professor. 

“I met Dr. Ford when she was one of the talented, strong students in the school of journalism here at HU. Later, I supported the department chairs in appointing Dr. Ford as a faculty member, and eventually I appointed her as our associate dean,” Dates said.   

“She was always a very talented, hard working person, who set goals for herself and others. It was always apparent that she would do well in whatever field she chose,” Dates continued.

Created from the union of Straight College and New Orleans University, Dillard’s campus remains in its original location, and has the distinction of being the first HBCU with a comprehensive architectural plan. Ford’s vision includes improving Dillard’s campus facilities, enhancing faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and increasing fundraisers to support student degree completion.  She is also seeking to leverage Dillard’s academic programs and centers to address health disparities.

“You’re going to see an inclusive community…acting on our commitment to cultivate leaders,” Ford said.

In addition to years of service to the HBCU community, Ford is a 2021 recipient of the Arthur W. Page Society’s Distinguished Service Award for her service to the public relations profession, and a 2019 recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Outstanding Educator Award. 

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Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee

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