Dillard Receives $1M from the Ray Charles Foundation

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Chef Therese Nelson (center) and Zella Palmer (right), director and endowed chair for the Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture, pose with a Dillard student in 2019.

NEW ORLEANS – The Ray Charles Foundation has donated $1 million to support Dillard University’s Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture

“We are humbled and honored to receive a generous grant from the Ray Charles Foundation to continue to build on Ray Charles’ vision and mission to celebrate, preserve and document African-American material culture,” said Zella Palmer, the program’s director and endowed chair, in a press release. “A portion of the grant will also help us to provide scholarships to students enrolled in our new food studies minor.” 

Marc Barnes, vice president for institutional advancement at Dillard, said the Ray Charles Foundation has granted $4 million to the school since 2003.

The Ray Charles Program has become well-known for its “DU Cooks” series, which has hosted Chef Elle Simone from “America’s Test Kitchen” and other culinary leaders.

Food studies is a degree-seeking minor that focuses on the “governance, planning, history, design, business and implementation of food systems within urban and rural environments.” There are currently 50 students enrolled in the program.

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