Notre Dame panel to shine light on current and historical significance of HBCUs

Author: Jessica Sieff

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When the University of Notre Dame hosts Tennessee State University (TSU) this weekend (Sept. 2), it will be the first time in program history the Irish will take to the field with a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).

Several campus and community events are scheduled to commemorate the historic matchup — beginning with “The Historical and Current Significance of HBCUs,” a panel discussion highlighting the vital role HBCUs have and continue to play in higher education in the United States.

The panel will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 31) at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Patricia George Decio Theatre. The event is free (but ticketed) and open to the public. (Ticket information is below. To reserve tickets now click here.)

“Historically, HBCUs were formed to educate the sons and daughters of former slaves and to give African Americans an opportunity to gain an education and then build a career and a life,” said Eric Love, event host and organizer and director of staff diversity and inclusion for Notre Dame’s Office of Human Resources. “Today, these schools are still underfunded compared to white contemporary institutions but play a significant role in better serving the African American population — and are doing more with less.”

Earlier this year, a report by ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities and Candid, a nonprofit research group that focuses on nonprofits, foundations and grants, found that funding to HBCUs from large foundations in the U.S. has declined from 2002 to 2019.

According to the report, “The average Ivy League institution received 178 times more foundation funding than the average HBCU.”

Thursday’s panel will begin with a keynote by Charlie Nelms, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University — an HBCU — and professor emeritus at Indiana University (IU). Nelms received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, also an HBCU, and a master’s degree and doctorate in education from Indiana University. He was the first African American chancellor of an IU campus when appointed to chancellor of IU East in Richmond, Indiana, in 1987. He would serve in the role until 1994. In 2019, the Indiana University Press published his book “From Cotton Fields to University Leadership: All Eyes on Charlie, A Memoir.”

Nelms has been “intricately involved” in HBCUs throughout his career, training future leaders, advocating on their behalf and fundraising, Love said. “It’s monumental that we have someone with his experience to give our keynote.”

Members of the panel include Charles H. Galbreath Jr., president of the TSU National Alumni Association and a senior consultant in the field of juvenile justice; Rev. Hugh Page Jr., vice president for institutional transformation and advisor to the president at Notre Dame; Nyrée McDonald, associate dean, graduate enrollment management in the Graduate School; and Cidni Sanders, executive director of diversity communications in Notre Dame’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications.

Panelists will share personal stories and experiences of their time attending HBCUs. Love said he hopes the discussion will educate staff on the enduring relevance of HBCUs, including how graduates contribute to the greater good as leaders in their respective fields.

With so many events scheduled over the weekend, Love said students, faculty, staff and the South Bend community will have a unique opportunity to explore the impact and influence of HBCUs beyond the game.

“The goal is to learn, expand our knowledge, build camaraderie with other institutions and with each other as well,” Love said.

[See the list of campus events here.]

“This weekend is about more than just a sporting event,” Love said. “It’s an educational experience. It’s a cultural experience. It’s giving reverence to HBCUs and the important work they’ve done from their inception.”

Tickets may be reserved at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center online or by calling the ticket office at 574-631-2800. Tickets will be available for pickup at the ticket office one hour prior to performance. A reception will follow.

To guarantee your seat, pick up your tickets at least 15 minutes prior to the show. In the event of a sellout, unclaimed tickets will be used to seat patrons waiting on standby.


Contact: Jessica Sieff, associate director, media relations, 574-631-3933,

Originally published by Jessica Sieff at on August 28, 2023.