The Zeitgeist of Delgado Community College at Age 90
The German word Zeitgeist can be translated into English as "the spirit of the times," a state of being revealed by the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era. Zeitgeist is a reflection of the human spirit at a particular place and time.
Since about the middle of 2011, the 90th anniversary year of Delgado Community College, a group of writers has been researching and sharing information about the history of Delgado. The primary vehicle for conveying their stories is this blog. The stories are organized in three ways: by decade, starting in the 1920s and ending in the 2000s; by topic, such as the World War II Liberty ship named the SS Isaac Delgado; and alphabetically, starting with Allied Health for "A" and continuing through Yearbook for "Y," and ending at the letter "Z."
As the Delgado 90th anniversary history bloggers were considering ideas for a final post, the possibility of examining the Zeitgeist of Delgado Community College at age 90 intrigued the writing team. How does knowing all this information about the origin and evolution of Delgado make you feel about the institution? Has the experience of sharing the story of Delgado fostered any kind of special awareness in you as a chronicler who is living in the present?
Here are the individual reflections of the history bloggers on the topic of Delgado's Zeitgeist.
Last year, we began telling a story…chapter by chapter of Delgado’s 90 year history. The story began with a Jamaican immigrant who settled in New Orleans to make a name for himself in the sugar industry. He began sharing his amassed wealth around the city, making his name known even though he didn’t like to be in the spotlight. His last gift would seal his legacy, “to teach a boy a trade.” Who would have believed that 90 years later, “Delgado” would be a household name, synonymous with the state’s second largest college, an immigrant’s dream that now educates nearly 20,000 students each semester.
As a third generation member of the Delgado “family” and a Delgado alumnus, it’s been very interesting for me to learn so much more about a place that has been such a big part of my life, as well as the lives of so many fellow New Orleanians. Our crew has done an amazing job telling Delgado’s story, not just Isaac’s but the entire College community’s journey over the past 90 years. From trade school to junior college to community college, the school’s mission is ever-evolving to meet the needs of its students. It’s an honor to help share Delgado’s story and deepen everyone’s understanding of what an amazing place this really is. Hopefully, we’ve spread a little Delgado pride along the way, a pride that future Dolphins can carry on for decades to come.
The material that was gathered together for the 90th anniversary celebration reveals that Delgado has a rich, fascinating history. In the process of doing a small amount of research and meeting with folks to discuss the origin and development of this institution it has become clear that many more stories about Delgado remain to be told.
Even though I personally only played a small role in helping to gather material for the 90th anniversary celebration, it still had a significant impact on my attitude towards the institution in general. As is the case with many things in life, especially collaborative undertakings, the more one involves oneself here at Delgado right now, the more one will likely get out of the relationship for many years to come.
Delgado and the Test of Time
Few human beings achieve the age of 90, and fewer achieve age 100 or higher. Institutions, however, frequently are able to withstand the test of time and thrive well past the century mark.
Longevity does not mean that an institution has done something or another correctly for a long time. Rather, it means that, like an aged human being, it has adapted to changes in ways that keep it viable. This process of adaptation to changing conditions is akin to the truest definition of "life" itself: not simply existing, but having a meaningful, worthwhile existence.
In much the same way that humans inhabit their ever-changing bodies from birth into youth and adulthood, Delgado Community College, 90-plus years after its establishment as the Isaac Delgado Central Trades School for boys, still occupies its original building at 615 City Park Avenue in New Orleans. Any 90-year-old man who studied at the school might pass by the building today and recognize it instantly, so little has its appearance changed. Yet, within the tan brick walls that have presented themselves to passersby since 1921, the activity happening today bears little resemblance to what happened within those walls 50, 70, or 90 years ago.
|Isaac Delgado Hall|
Obviously, the Delgado institution on City Park Avenue is not the same as it was in the past. From its birthplace, the institution has grown dramatically, reaching locations on both sides of the Mississippi River and across Lake Pontchartrain, inhabiting additional structures on all its locations and attracting a larger, broader selection of students, faculty members, and staff.
Delgado, the College, has grown far beyond the inspired vision of Delgado, the man, who wanted to "give a boy a trade." His trades school succeeded admirably in teaching boys and young men how to earn a living through skilled labor and handiwork. As the years passed, women were allowed to learn, African Americans and people of other races were included, the curriculum expanded from trades to professions and college-level courses in arts and sciences and humanities. Always, the mission of the institution remained the same: provide education that prepares the student for success in the workplace, community, and home.
If I, an individual who very recently became associated with the institution called Delgado, may comment on my perceptions about what Delgado was, is, and may yet become, I would say this: Time does, and will, tell. For about a year and a half, beginning in May 2011, I have helped to create and share a compelling narrative about this institution. This has been a two-way educational process: I teach, and I learn. More than many other people whose experience with Delgado has lasted longer than mine—far longer, in some cases—I know how Delgado Community College began, developed, survived, grew, and prospered. I know many of the ways Delgado has changed over the decades. And I know quite a bit about what Delgado is doing for students and the community at the present time. I even know a few details about plans for the immediate future. In my role as storyteller, all this is part of the narrative.
What I do not know for a fact, but still feel confident that I know just the same, is that Delgado is going to endure and keep growing because the people of New Orleans and nearby parishes need it to do what it has always done so well: educate them for jobs and better lives. The nature of the city and region and the people will change over time, and their needs will change. Delgado will change along with them. Adapting to the new is nothing new for Delgado, the institution. Adapting to the new is what has sustained Delgado for 90-plus years.
When I, and you, and every former Delgado student, faculty member, or staff person has lived the extent of earthly existence and disappeared from view, the institution that brought us all together will still be here, doing good, doing well. That is the best thing about working for a humane institution founded on service and dedicated to continuing to serve the people. When we are gone, it remains. Part of us—the legacy of our experiences and the changes we have helped create while going about our work here—will remain with Delgado as long as it exists. And that, I predict, will be far longer than the 90 years already past.
The 90th anniversary campaign has been a tremendous, unprecedented effort to collect, connect, and present historical information about Delgado Community College—not only to celebrate the 90th anniversary, but also to recapture information and items lost in Hurricane Katrina.
As a nearly five-year employee of the institution, my whole perception of Delgado Community College has changed for the better. Before working here, I knew very little about the College. I only had a hazy impression that Delgado was just a school for underachievers and misguided souls who couldn’t make it anywhere else.
How wrong I was.
Five years later, I am still amazed at Delgado’s large offering of programs and career training. Delgado employs the most dedicated, hardworking group of faculty members around. Many graduates have secured very lucrative careers with great advancement potential. Business and industry leaders in this region seek Delgado grads because they know Delgado is a great place to start in order to build on one’s education and career pathway.
|Isaac Delgado Hall at night|
From its roots to the present, Delgado Community College has had such far reaching influence upon the New Orleans area. I now have a greater knowledge of New Orleans history and a greater sense of pride in the city. I feel that I have a responsibility to continue to spread the word about the great things that are happening here as the result of New Orleans’ rich culture, history, and contributions of philanthropists, artists, and visionaries of the past.
And we must keep discovering Delgado’s past, and documenting the growth still to come.
In the fall of 2011, Delgado Community College began celebrating its 90th anniversary. Generations of students have and continue to attend our College, and many of our students even eventually turn into employees. Before the anniversary I was just a supporter of the institution, but today I am an advocate because of the history lessons I received throughout the past year.
Several writers, including myself, conducted interviews, did research, and took or found pictures that showcased the last 90 years using different forms of media. The form that impressed me the most was the 90th anniversary blog. The blog provided a platform that actually documented stories that we already knew, and in other cases revealed tons of historical information that most of us didn’t know at all. For instance, before the 90th anniversary blog was published, did you know when the first woman attended the College? Isn’t it amazing that when the school opened in 1921 it was a school for boys, but now women outnumber men in enrollment? As a result of this celebration, we have our history at our fingertips, in one of the oldest types of record keeping: writing.
|Norma Tonglet Brown, first female graduate|
It was an honor for me to work with this amazing team and capture the spirit of the last 90 years of the College. I am completely confident that Delgado has another 90 years to go and I look forward to celebrating the centennial
The Zeitgeist in Delgado History
During the process of researching the College’s history we realized how much we didn’t know about Isaac Delgado, which made me also wonder why so little exists about him at our College and elsewhere. We were uncovering an inspiring and impressive story to be retold again and again. I thought our work would help re-establish the reputation of the once prominent businessman and community leader Isaac Delgado. Our undertaking was not only for our own purposes of educating our internal constituents and building a sense of pride, but also for the benefit of the entire New Orleans community. Michael Crichton said “if you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know it is part of a tree. ” And so, we set about seeking our tree and ended up climbing and exploring a giant oak that is the history of Delgado with its deep roots in community and our lives. The 90th anniversary bloggers and other committee members volunteered hundreds of hours researching and gathering facts and photos, uncovering a reserved, little known man, with few hazy images that hardly tell the whole story of Isaac Delgado and his bequest. The journey continuously uncovered a wealth of fascinating storylines and outcomes that came alive. We realized Delgado history lives and breathes affecting us still.
I saw, through our research, that Isaac Delgado’s zeitgeist was an intention to improve lives, spanning decades and withstanding the test of time. Uncovering this man of few words there was intrigue, mystery, and a lot of imagination about what he must have wanted for us, why he contributed as he did. Isaac Delgado’s philanthropic activities provided New Orleans with pillars of our civilization and advancement: culture (New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1911), health care (Delgado Memorial Hospital, founded in 1918), and education (Delgado Community College, founded in 1921). I wondered (and wonder still) why he is not widely recognized, respected, and celebrated, and why is it that the College that bears his name is not more revered? I hoped to create a groundswell of awareness about Isaac Delgado’s importance to New Orleans… our past, present, and future.
Historian David McCullough talked with Morley Safer during a recent 60 Minutes interview about our country’s founders and great inventors. McCullough described how trips to Paris by our forefathers influenced the creation of Morse code, innovations in architecture, and an appreciation and sharing of art and culture. He described the “ripple effect” of influence and the how we’ve benefited from those individuals’ exposure to progress and ingenuity. In comparison, it is impressive to see how Isaac Delgado changed our community through his own exposure to opportunity. I feel fortunate to be a part of his legacy, and to continue the ripple effect he started. Celebration and tradition are integral to our continuing story, not only marking the passage of time but also in commemorating our achievements, perhaps to inspire others to perform good works, accomplish, and contribute something more than themselves, like Isaac did. His vision continues to serve us well, and it is worthy that we explore, document, share, and commit to memory Delgado’s many significant, ongoing contributions to the world.
When I was a student at UNO in the early 90s, I thought Delgado was a place for students who were not “smart enough” to get into a four-year college. I knew there was a campus by City Park and one on the West Bank. That was about it.
A little over a year ago I started working here and was asked if I would like to write for the 90th blog. The campaign had already started and I was a little nervous about writing about subject matter I knew very little about. But I looked at the task as a way for me to “get to know” Delgado and to learn about the people who work here and the history of the school. Seven blog posts later, I’ve come to appreciate how much of an asset this school is for the local community. I’ve written blog posts about programs that have been at that school for almost 90 years, blogs about programs that are nationally recognized and win national awards by beating out four-year universities, and blogs about faculty and staff members who have devoted their lives to this College and have generations of family members who have worked here.
In the short time I have worked here, I already feel like I am a part of something special. Delgado feels like that uncle you know by name and maybe heard a few stories about him, but once you get the chance to finally meet him, it feels like he always been there and you just never took the time to get to know him and learn how great a person he is. And that is what Delgado is. Family. A long lasting connection that many people in this community will always cherish.
|Isaac Delgado Hall|
The Zeitgeist in Education
The spirit of our age (zeitgeist) is rapidly bringing about the democratization of education. The free academy of New Orleans native Salman Khan (handsomely funded by Bill Gates), the Facebook-like Unishared.com website that promises to let students studying miles apart share notes ("note-taking made social" is their description), the support from elite schools like Harvard, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) will change the face of education as least as much as the demographic profile of the US is changing. Start-ups like Coursera.com allow virtually anyone to participate in college courses at no charge online. Some of the professors are even putting their textbooks online for free viewing.
This is a fresh approach to education that the Jamaican immigrant Isaac Delgado would have liked. He arrived in New Orleans with little more than the change in his pocket, and if he could have studied bookkeeping online for free to help him get that first clerking job with a steamship company, he would have.
All traditional institutions of learning and instruction will have to creatively adapt to this iPoding of education if they are to survive, and those that do adapt will be performing their job better than ever before. Futurists like R. Buckminster Fuller in his Education Automation predicted some of these changes four decades ago, and finally the predictions are coming true.
An Award Winning Effort
The National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) District 2 (Southern region) honored the Office of Public Relations and Marketing at Delgado Community College with three Gold Medallion awards for work commemorating the college’s 90th Anniversary in 2011-12.
The awards were presented during the NCMPR District 2 conference held October 22 – 24, 2012, in Hilton Head Island, SC.
Delgado Community College won three Gold Medallion awards:
Promotional Video - Delgado Community College, Celebrating 90 Years video documentary.
Brochure/Flier - Delgado Community College, Celebrating 90 Years brochure.
Judges’ Choice Award - for Delgado’s year-long celebration campaign comprising publicity, collateral, social media, blog and website marketing, internal communications, video short subjects and documentary, special events, and visual identity.
Judges' comments about the brochure said it was “perfect in every way, from its design consistency to the inclusion of the video on DVD in the back.” The documentary was called “an excellent example of comprehensive storytelling, sharing the emotional connection this institution has with its community.” And, the overall anniversary campaign garnered praise as “the best example we’ve seen in a long time of a highly effective, fully integrated, multi-faceted public relations campaign.”
“It is a fantastic honor for our team to be recognized for this outstanding work and I am very, very proud of the team members and the work they did to earn these awards,” said Carol Gniady, executive director of Public Relations and Marketing at Delgado.
There are 64 NCMPR District 2 member colleges and the 2012 Medallion Awards competition included more than 440 entries. NCMPR is supports marketing and public relations for two-year colleges exclusively.