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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Pensole Lewis College returns to its roots

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D’wayne Edwards brought Pensole Lewis College (PLC), previously known as Lewis Business College, to Indianapolis during All-Star week. Edwards hosted multiple workshops, returning a piece of the school to its roots for the week.

Edwards officially reopened the HBCU in 2022 under its new name as a design school. Dedicated to teaching the practical tools, the school’s focus is to prepare graduates to enter the workforce and perform at a high level. PLC began as Lewis Business College, founded in Indianapolis in 1928 by Violet T. Lewis.

“I’m excited that I’m going to the origins of where this college started,” Edwards said of his visit to the city. “I want to spend time retracing her history in Indianapolis just so I can feel more connected to her and the college. With the workshops, I see that as an opportunity for us to bring the college back to Indianapolis and to help educate folks on the fact that Indianapolis was the birthplace of a historically black college.”

The college first opened with a goal reflective of its current mission: to give Black youth the tools to thrive in the business world.

“There is change, but the basic foundation is the same, and it fits. He honors my grandmother in everything he does, and it’s put a new spin on it,” said Violet Ponders, the granddaughter of Lewis, on the work Edwards has done reopening the school.

Lewis graduated from Wilberforce University, America’s oldest private HBCU, where she enrolled in the secretarial program. Soon after, she worked as the secretary to the president of Selma University. While there, she noticed the absence of secretarial classes and began working to change that.

Lewis then founded Lewis Business College in Indianapolis with a $50 loan. She used the funds to buy used typewriters to teach Black women the secretarial skills needed to work in the business sector. Some of her first graduates worked for well-known companies such as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.

Edwards decided to reopen the school after hearing about the original school and being captivated by its accomplishments and Lewis’ work. After learning more about her, he contacted her family about reopening the school.

Today, the school is in Detroit, and Edwards is preparing design students to walk into offices ready to work.

Edwards says it is important for students entering college to know what they want to gain, thinking of it almost as a job, because they will have a lot of financial responsibilities after graduating.

Edwards said he wants to help students understand what they want to do as a career and give them tools to succeed in that career, because that is what education is about.

With these goals, Edwards is honoring the original soul of Lewis Business College while adding his creativity and insight.

“There is nothing about him that is not the real him. He gives you the same thing all the time, everywhere, and my grandmother was that way. But he does it slightly differently. She was ahead of her time, but so is he,” Ponders said.

Contact Racial Justice Reporter Garrett Simms at 317-762-7847

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