Dan and Jennifer Gilbert
Dan and Jennifer Gilbert (Gilbert Family Foundation)

Pending state legislation and government redesignation, PLC will become the first HBCU in the country to focus on design.

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) hosted a historic announcement for the city of Detroit today. CCS, the Gilbert Family Foundation, Target and the city of Detroit have announced a new Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and higher education program, resurrecting Detroit’s formerly closed Lewis College of Business.

In the announcement, the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design (PLC) has proposed draft legislation for state authorization to be recognized as Michigan’s single HBCU with the intention to become the nation’s first-ever reopened HBCU. PLC is the “dream school-made-reality” by Dr. D’Wayne Edwards, founder of the PENSOLE Design Academy in Portland, Ore.

Partnering with CCS, PLC will open in March 2022 and serve aspiring Black creatives, designers, engineers and business leaders.

Among the college’s founding supporters are Dan and Jennifer Gilbert via the Gilbert Family Foundation. For each supporter, the commitment to launching PLC is part of larger ongoing initiatives supporting the economic future of local and diverse communities.

The investment from the Gilbert Family Foundation comes as part of the organization’s ongoing, $500 million joint commitment over the next 10 years to its hometown of Detroit to drive access to economic and social opportunity and increase equity for residents of Detroit.

“Dan and I are committed to investing in and developing programs that build wealth and create equitable access to opportunity for Detroiters,” says Jennifer Gilbert, entrepreneur and co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation. “We are proud to contribute to the PENSOLE Lewis College of Business and Design and know that this historic institution will once again cultivate a diverse talent pipeline and further cement Detroit’s legacy of innovation.”

Separately, through its Detroit Tax Relief Fund, the Gilbert Family Foundation announced last month it expects to pay off the back property taxes of 5,000 residents by the end of the year.

“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,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “To have the first HBCU anywhere to reopen happen in Detroit would be a tremendous demonstration of how our city is coming back as a city of opportunity for people of color.”

As part of the reinstatement process, PENSOLE Lewis will request authorization from the Michigan Department of Education to operate as an educational corporation and through draft legislation will invite the Michigan State Legislature to recognize PLC as an HBCU in the state of Michigan.

Prior to its official opening and reinstatement, PENSOLE Lewis will operate in partnership with and under the auspices of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. CCS is working with Edwards to gain the legal and legislative approval needed to establish PENSOLE Lewis, which includes designation as an accredited educational program.

An agreement is being drafted to establish a joint venture between CCS and PLC to allow PLC to offer accredited educational programs.

PLC will be located in CCS’ A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education until its permanent home in Detroit is selected and developed. Enrollment for PENSOLE Lewis’ program is expected to open December 2021.

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