Footwear designer Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is on a mission to create opportunities for Black designers in the industry through higher education. Edwards is looking to reopen Lewis College of Business and make it the only HBCU (Historically Black College And University) in Michigan, as well as the only HBCU to focus on design. According to a press release, the institution has officially proposed draft legislation for state authorization to become the first re-opened HBCU in the country and plans to reopen as the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC).
“As a predominantly Black city, Detroit should have an operating Historically Black College. Not having one has been a hole in our educational landscape for too long,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“To have the first HBCU anywhere to reopen happen in Detroit would be a tremendous demonstration of how our city is coming back as a city of opportunity for people of color…The partnership between PENSOLE and CCS seems like a perfect match, and I fully support Dr. Edwards in his efforts to have the Michigan Legislature designate PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design as Michigan and Detroit’s only HBCU.”
“As a teenager, I heard the words ‘No black kid from Inglewood will ever become a footwear designer,” Dr. Edwards wrote, sharing the news on Instagram on Wednesday (Oct. 13). “In January 1989, I started my journey into the footwear industry as one of very few Black footwear designers. In June 2010, I set out to create a footwear design academy. In 11 short years, PENSOLE has become the academy I dreamed it would.”
He continued, “Today, we embark on our next chapter. Today is the day PENSOLE becomes a college.”
PLC will officially open in March 2022 and host programs geared toward Black creatives, designers, engineers, and business leaders. Founding supporters for the landmark college include Dan and Jennifer Gilbert via The Gilbert Family Foundation, and Target. The investment from the Gilbert Family Foundation is a part of a larger commitment from the organization to Detroit.
“Dan and I are committed to investing in and developing programs that build wealth and create equitable access to opportunity for Detroiters,” says Jennifer Gilbert, entrepreneur and co-founder of The Gilbert Family Foundation, “ We are proud to contribute to the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design and know that this historic institution will once again cultivate a diverse talent pipeline and further cement Detroit’s legacy of innovation.”
Target’s investment is an extension of the Racial Equity Action and Change (REACH) strategy, established in 2020 to advance racial equity among Target’s workforce, and a five-year, $100 million commitment to Black communities.
“With a deep history in democratizing design, Target is proud to support Dr. D’Wayne Edwards and aspiring Black designers through the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design,” said Amanda Nusz, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at Target and president of the Target Foundation. “This partnership represents an important part of our broader commitment that aims to support the next generation of Black talent, expand the impact of Black-led movements and voices, and create economic opportunity in Black communities across the country.”
Lewis College of Business was originally founded in 1928 by Violet T. Lewis at the beginning of the Great Depression. She opened the school with a $50 loan and since its establishment, over 2,500 students have graduated from Lewis College, and close to 27,000 students have attended this institution. The school was forced to close in 2013.
“The Lewis College of Business was first created in 1928 as a secretarial school for Black women. After relocating to Detroit in 1939, it became a critical source of economic impact for the city’s Black community. GM, Ford, and Michigan Bell hired their first Black office employees from the school. 82 years later, and 14 years since it lost its accreditation as HBCU, I am honored to be resurrecting Violet T. Lewis’s legacy in Detroit,” said Dr. Edwards.
Throughout his 32-year career, Dr. Edwards has earned numerous design awards from Red Dot to Mercedes Benz Fashion, has been voted one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. He holds more than 40 patents and has designed more than 500 styles for athletes including Carmelo Anthony and Michael Jordan. The acclaimed designer has taught and lectured at the ArtCenter, Parsons, MIT, Harvard, and speaker at the Clinton Global Conference and was awarded the President Volunteer of Service Award from former President Barack Obama in 2016.
In 2019, ArtCenter college of design recognized Dr. Edwards’s career as a designer and educator and awarded him an honorary Doctrine making him the 4th person in the college’s 90-year history to receive the honor.
Watch a video introduction to PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design above.