CCS & PENSOLE Quick FAQs
What is an HBCU?
HBCU stands for Historically Black College and University. They are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African American community. Howard University in D.C., Spellman College in Atlanta, Morehouse, Florida A&M, Tuskegee, Bethune Cookman are all examples of 100+ HBCUs nationwide. Some notable HBCU graduates include: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Oprah Winfrey, Kamala Harris, Thurgood Marshall, Spike Lee, W.E.B. Du Bois, Samuel L. Jackson, Langston Hughes, and countless others.
Who is Dr. D’Wayne Edwards?
Dr. D’Wayne Edwards is the most prominent Black designer in the footwear industry. With a 32+ year
career, including over three decades from L.A. Gear, Nike and Jordan, Dr. Edwards is credited with paving the way for young Black design talent to have a career in the sneaker industry. Dr. Edwards is the founder of PENSOLE Design Academy in Portland, OR, but he started in the industry after graduating from Inglewood High School, working in accounts payable at LA Gear. Through sheer will and perseverance (and 180, pencil-drawn sneaker sketches), he landed a role as a full-time designer with the popular lifestyle brand. His career ballooned from there, and he went on to work as Nike’s footwear design director from 2001 to 2011 where he designed sneakers for the Jordan brand. Collectively he has 50+ design patents and designed over 500+ styles with his designs having sold over $2 billion worldwide.
In 2010, Edwards founded PENSOLE, the first academy in the U.S. dedicated to footwear design, to
provide talented young design students, regardless of socioeconomic background, an opportunity to
learn from the industry’s best.
PENSOLE has quickly become the preeminent footwear design school in the world specializing in
footwear, functional apparel and accessories, color theory, materials, prototyping, and concept making. PENSOLE provides a hybrid model – part vocational school, part apprenticeship. It operates as a popular feeder school for some of the industry’s top footwear brands and retailers, and has placed more than 500+ former PENSOLE alums in positions working professionally for some of today’s top brands: Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, New Balance, Brooks, Vans, Puma, Timberland, JORDAN, and others globally.
Dr. Edwards founded PENSOLE in part because of how difficult it was for him to come through the
industry and get started. Today, roughly 95% of PENSOLE’s student body comes from diverse or
multicultural backgrounds. As an educator Dr. Edwards has taught and lectured at some of the premiere schools in the world, including ArtCenter, Parsons, MIT, and Harvard, and has spoken at the Clinton Global Conference.
President Barack Obama awarded him the President’s Volunteer of Service Award in 2016.
In 2019, ArtCenter College of Design recognized Dr. Edwards’ career as a designer and educator by
awarding him an honorary doctorate, making him the fourth person in the college’s 90-year history to
receive this honor.
Who is Violet T. Lewis?
Dr. Violet Temple Lewis was a pioneer in the development of Black secretaries in the Midwest. She was born in 1897 in Lima, Ohio and attended an HBCU, Wilberforce University in Ohio. After graduating in 1917, she worked at Selma University for a year before becoming a bookkeeper at the Madame CJ Walker Company. She worked for the Indianapolis Recorder from 1920 to 1927. Throughout her career, she observed the lack of Black women secretaries and after securing a $50 loan from a local bank opened up the Lewis Business College in 1928 in Indianapolis. The school’s mission was to provide Black women with the same secretarial skills she had acquired in college. In 1938, Lewis opened a branch of the school in Detroit, MI which would go on to outgrow the original school in Indiana.
In 1987, Lewis College of Business (LCB) in Detroit was designated as an HBCU – only the 3rd black
woman to found an HBCU and only the fourth HBCU in the Midwest, and the only in the state of
Michigan. GM, Ford, and Michigan Bell all hired their first Black office employees from the school. LCB enrollment grew 600% in one year showing the demand the college created for Black office employees. Her impact on the city of Detroit was recognized with a memorial highway sign on M-10 in 2021.
How is PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC) the first HBCU to be reopened?
There are 101 HBCUs in the United States today, left from the 121 institutions that existed during the
1930s. Of the 20 that have closed, none have ever reopened.
Last year, Dr. D’Wayne Edwards became the majority stakeholder in the Lewis College of Business, an HBCU in Detroit that was shuttered in 2015. On October 7, 2021, he submitted a Certificate of Assumed Name to the State of Michigan to allow the Lewis College of Business to operate under a new name: PENSOLE-Lewis College of Business and Design.
What is the process for re-opening?
Legislation will be introduced in the Michigan State Legislature to establish the process to reopen LCB and recognize PENCOLE Lewis College of Business and Design as the only HBCU in the state of Michigan. The legislation, which is expected to have bipartisan support, will be introduced sometime in October. This kicks off the official process for PLC to be recognized by the Michigan State Legislature as an HBCU in the state of Michigan. Upon redesignation, PLC will be the first HBCU to ever reopen in the United States.
The goal of state authorization is to receive authorization at the state level to operate as an educational corporation. Following state authorization, PLC will seek federal authorization and request its recertification from the U.S. Department of Education to be qualified as an HBCU, which would entitle the school to certain federal funding.
PLC will operate under College for Creative Studies’ accreditation once the legal structure of the college is established by PENSOLE and CCS.
Why did the Lewis College of Business close?
During a difficult economic time in Detroit, Lewis College began experiencing a steep decline in
enrollment. In 2007, the school lost its accreditation, officially closing in 2015.
Why did Dr. Edwards choose to reopen Lewis College vs. another HBCU?
Dr. Edwards was made aware of Lewis College of Business in late 2020 through conversation with Detroit business leaders. With an increased interest in diversity from his corporate partners, the idea of reopening an HBCU in the only UNESCO City of Design in the United States, and one of the largest cities with an African American population, immediately became a goal.
Of the existing 101 HBCUs in the United States, the majority are located in the south with only four
HBCUs in the Midwest. All together, these factors made reopening Lewis College of Business in a city
with such rich culture and creativity an obvious choice.
Why is Dr. Edwards working with CCS?
The College for Creative Studies is an ideal partner for PENSOLE, given CCS’s long history of providing talent to the footwear industry. A lengthy list of CCS alumni have been mentored by Dr. Edwards, who says he is “100% sure that CCS has graduated the most black footwear designers in our industry of any school.” CCS alumni are well represented at some of the biggest names in the footwear industry, like Nike, Jordan, New Balance, Adidas, and Converse.
Amongst AICAD schools, CCS has one of the highest Black/African American enrollment in terms of
percentage of the student body (CCS has 13% Black/African American students). Thirty-eight percent of CCS’s student body is non-white. In addition, 34% of CCS students receive Pell grants, which means that the federal government has determined that they are high-need students.
The partnership between CCS and PLC is mutually beneficial. For CCS, it increases the school’s
accessibility to a broader range of talent, and an even stronger pipeline of diverse students, underscoring its ongoing commitment to becoming an even greater resource for Detroit and its residents. The partnership will also allow CCS to develop richer outcomes for its student body, including more experiential learning opportunities, better career pathways for its students, and greater access to relevant industry mentors. For PLC, CCS’s history in Detroit as an established, reputable academic and operational infrastructure is one that can support the re-opening of the school.
What is CCS’s involvement?
The launch of PENSOLE Lewis would not be possible without the operational support from the College for Creative Studies. Through this joint venture, CCS and PLC will help meet the demand from industry partners in the design community for an increasingly diverse workforce.
CCS and PENSOLE are working together to develop the legal and operational structure of PENSOLE Lewis, which will be a joint venture between the two entities. CCS has provided the professional and legal support necessary to introduce the reauthorizing legislation in the Michigan legislature and move towards the joint venture. Beginning in 2022, CCS will provide PLC space in its state of the art A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education for classes.
How is PLC being financed?
PLC is a privately funded operation. Expanding upon the success of PENSOLE Design Academy, Dr.
Edwards is introducing a new financial model for higher education, and for HBCUs in particular, aligning with major CSR initiatives from top companies and organizations who’ve demonstrated a vested interest in stable, economic futures for Black communities. Among PLC’s founding supporters are The Gilbert Family Foundation and Target, each of whom are financially supporting the school’s launch and reopening.
The investment from The Gilbert Family Foundation comes as part of the organization’s ongoing, $500 million joint commitment to their hometown of Detroit to drive access to economic and social
opportunity and increase equity for residents of Detroit.
For Target, the collaboration is part of its Racial Equity Action and Change (REACH) strategy, formed in 2020 to accelerate Target’s work to advance racial equity, and its new five-year, $100 million commitment to fuel the economic prosperity of Black communities.
When does PLC open for enrollment?
PLC will open for enrollment in February 2022. For updates, please sign-up for the school’s newsletter.
When is the first day of classes?
PLC’s first classes will take place in May, 2022, and will be located in CCS’s A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education until its permanent home in Detroit is selected and developed.
What courses will be taught at PLC?
PLC is the nation’s first HBCU to focus on design. Specific courses and additional specializations will be announced later this fall.