Wilberforce University and Ohio’s Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) share firsts. This political assembly of African Americans is the oldest of its kind in the nation. That history is matched by Wilberforce, the nation’s oldest, private, historically black college or university (HBCU). So, it was more than fitting for these two historic institutions to connect.
Three members of the OLBC, Representatives Erica Crawley, Catherine Ingram and Stephanie Howse, spent an autumn afternoon on the campus with Wilberforce president, Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard and the university’s executive leadership team. They were also introduced to Wilberforce Board of Trustees president and alumnus, Mark Wilson, who joined the meeting virtually.
“We realize and we believe there is significant, institutional transformation going on with Wilberforce and part of that discussion today, is informing members of the the Black caucus about that transformation and soliciting their help to renew this institution.” – Dr. Elfred Anthony Pinkard, 22nd president, Wilberforce University
Dr. Pinkard explained that creating a strong path forward is critical to a thriving survival for the university. That includes generating a learning environment and infrastructure that will attract future generations of students.
State Representatives Howse and Ingram are HBCU connected. Howse is a graduate of Florida A & M, Ingram attended Knoxville College in Tennessee. That experience gives the veteran lawmakers insight to the niche in which universities like Wilberforce belong. They are also able to gain a perspective of the value Wilberforce provides as well as the present challenges to attract and support students.
“…As legislators, outside of funding or legislating, we can have meetings with community partners that would be looking for students to fill some positions or get experience.” – Erica Crawley, 26th District, Ohio House of Representatives
Creating strategic connections became a major part of the conversation between the legislators and the WU leadership team. Leveraging state supported resources and pipelines to private donors could also create opportunities for the university. Each side left the conversation tables as comrades for continued strengthening of HBCU education.