Actor, comedian Garrett Morris will deliver the Founders’ Day Address at Dillard University on Oct. 18, at 3 p.m. in Lawless Memorial Chapel. Tracing its history back to its predecessors Straight College and New Orleans University, Dillard is commemorating 146 years as an institution of higher education.
“This Founders’ Day Convocation has added significance because we are celebrating two other milestones at the university,” said Yolanda W. Page, vice president for Academic Affairs. “Along with the storied history of the institution and its founders, we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Theatre Program and the 60th anniversary of Lawless Memorial Chapel,” she said.
As a native of New Orleans and 1958 graduate of Dillard, Morris was an “obvious choice” for the 2015 convocation speaker and provides the opportunity to give special recognition for the oldest historically black university theatre program in the country.
Morris, was raised by his grandfather, a strict Baptist minister. He began singing in the church choir at the age of five. After graduating from Dillard, Morris traveled to New York to begin a career on stage while also studying at the Julliard School of Music. He was an original cast member of Saturday Night Live and had a more than decade-long stint as a soloist and arranger with the Harry Belafonte Singers. A true comedy legend, Morris also spent 10 years as a stage performer and playwright, with numerous Broadway credits under his belt, and has co-starred on television and in film alongside some of America’s most recognizable talents. With a career spanning nearly six decades, Morris can now be seen every Monday night on the CBS hit 2 Broke Girls playing the role of Earl, a 75-year-old former jazz musician and current ladies’ man.
The Founders’ Day Program will also give special recognition to the 80th anniversary of Dillard’s theatre program. In 1935, Randolph Edmonds moved from Morgan College to Dillard University, where he organized the first theatre department at a historically black college and founded the Southern Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts (SADSA). Edmonds' career as a playwright began in 1922, with the one-act folk play Job Hunting, for which he won honorable mention in Opportunity magazine's drama competition. Edmonds accepted the chair of the drama department at Florida A & M in 1948, in which his continuing writing career earned him the title, "Dean of Black Academic Theater."
In conjunction with the theatre program, Lawless Memorial Chapel will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Lawless was erected in 1955 in the southwest corner of the campus as part of former president of Dillard University, Dr. Albert W. Dent’s renovation priorities. In fall of 2009, Lawless Chapel was rededicated during Founder’s Day festivities marking Dillard University’s 140th anniversary and its post-Katrina restoration. In a brief ceremony prior to the program, Dillard’s Chaplain, Rev. Earnest Salsberry, will lead a litany of dedication taken from the 1955 occasion.
For more information on the annual Founders’ Day Convocation, call (504) 816-4800 or visit www.dillard.edu.