Oregon Footwear Designer Plans to Revive a Historically Black College in Detroit

October 13, 2021, 1:39 PM by  Allan Lengel


D’Wayne Edwards, a footwear designer, hopes to revive Lewis College of Business, a historically Black college in Midtown Detroit that closed in 2013.

Edwards is behind a draft proposal for state authorization to recognize the college as the state's only HBCU. An opening is planned for March 2022.

Edwards founded the Pensole Design Academy in Portland, Ore., in 2010. 

Partnering with the College for Creavtive Studies, the school aims to serve aspiring Black creatives, designers, engineers and business leaders. The school will be called Pensole Lewis College of Business.

Edward's school in Portland has partnerships with institutions that include Parsons -- The New School for Design, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and brands such as Foot Locker, Asics and Adidas.

He is the former design director of Brand Jordan, a subsidiary of Oregon-based Nike.

“The Lewis College of Business was first created in 1928 as a secretarial school for Black women," he said in a statement. "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." 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says of the school:

“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.'

The college will be in the College for Creative Studies' A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education on West Milwaukee Avenue in the New Center area until it finds a permanent home in Detroit. Enrollment is expected to open in December. 

The announcement of school took place Tuesday at the old college building on Ferry Street, off of Woodward, that is now used for administrative offices for the College for Creative Studies. 

The academy's model is to provide free education by contracting with companies who pay for the training that fits their needs. Those wishing to get college diplomas can work with the Center for Creative Studies to get one. 

Financial supporters of the school include Dan and Jennifer Gilbert through The Gilbert Family Foundation and Target.

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