LeMoyne-Owen College aims to increase visibility

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — In 2003-05, when Bonzi Wells played for the Memphis Grizzlies, he knew about the University of Memphis and its basketball history. And because the NBA team sometimes practiced at Rhodes College, he also learned quite a bit about that school.

“I didn’t realize we had an HBCU in Memphis,” Wells said.

Now Wells is in his second season as a men’s basketball head coach at LeMoyne-Owen College, one of the nation’s historically black colleges or universities established before the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

When he accepted the coaching job, he said, “I realized the school was about 2 miles from FedExForum, and that was crazy for me.”

This is just one example of LeMoyne-Owen having reduced visibility – not just at the national or regional level, but sometimes at the local level as well. However, this is changing on several fronts: the introduction of a new cybersecurity program in 2016 attracted new students; there are plans for an on-campus expansion that includes a new health and wellness center; and the school is devoting more resources to athletics, hiring Wells, for example, and Olympic gold medalist Rochelle Stevens to coach the men’s and women’s athletics programs.

“There are still people in Memphis who don’t know about LeMoyne-Owen College,” said Vernell Bennett-Fairs, who began her term as LOC’s 13th president Jan. 5, 2021.

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