A historically black university in the Mid-South reached a major milestone, 150 years. The once troubled LeMoyne-Owen University has battled back from financial and accreditation crises.
The doors opened in 1862, and since that time the University has always stood strong with a foundation of academic excellence. But, if you look back on the college's history, it's been plagued for years with trying situations including a bout of yellow fever, a major race riot, sit-in's, the Civil War, and even the crime infested neighborhood directly across the street, formerly known as Lemoyne Gardens. Most recently, it was in debt by more than a million dollars. Just 6 years ago LeMoyne-Owen was not only in trouble financially, but was in trouble with its accreditation.
"As with most of the historically black colleges, our college is tuition driven and when the numbers fell off, so did the finances as well, so it became very difficult for us," says Lemoyne-Owen Executive Director Roger Brown.
But, Brown says that he's witnessing a resurgence. The school's in the process of paying down its debt, and even building a new dormitory.
"Our students believed in us. There were students that stayed with us. Following the accreditation process and we got through that, we are seeing record enrollment right now as we celebrate 150 years," says Brown.
He says this school's rich history, with former graduates such as former Memphis City School Superintendent and Mayor Willie Herenton and Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery. The success can also be attributed to alumni and generous supporters.
Brown adds, "We don't have the large endowments to draw from, so we have to depend on our corporate and philanthropic community to help support us with scholarships so were able to recruit the best and brightest students from surrounding colleges and junior colleges and high schools."
Brown says the college's survival is about knowing trouble doesn't always last.