Delgado in the 80s

By: Dee Shedrick
 During the 1980s, Delgado Community College expanded its academic programs beyond the traditional trades the school offered when its doors opened in 1921. The growing needs of the community and improvements in technology made it necessary to add courses to prepare students with new skills. Delgado still provided training in carpentry, welding, mechanics and construction; however, it added courses like court reporting, computer science, funeral services, radiology and the humanities. Delgado continued to groom its students immediately for the workforce and began to get others ready to attend a university to further their education.
Court reporter who trained at Delgado.  Photo courtesy of Times-Picayune July 6, 1983.
In the January 1980 issue of On The Scene, the college's newsletter at that time, Dr. Frank Wright, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said, "Every effort must be made to strike an equal balance between technology and liberal arts. As industry makes more demands on us to increase our competencies in technology, we must begin to develop the wisdom competent to our curriculum." That same year, the school changed its name to Delgado Community College.
Delgado student studying. Photo courtesy of Times-Picayune December 15, 1984.
The “Eighties” created a more diverse Delgado. Graduates were able to graduate and continue on to a four-year college because of an articulation agreement that guaranteed the transfer of Delgado's credits to other institutions in the state. So students could major in general studies and earn their core curriculum requirements, then transfer to the school of their choice.
In addition to the many changes in the curriculum in the 80s, the City Park campus received a face-lift. Mayor Morial presented a million dollars to the school from the Isaac Delgado-Albania Plantation trust fund to refurbish Building One. In a column written by President Boyer in another issue of On The Scene, he wrote, "For months now the City Park campus has been inconvenienced by construction on Building One and related work. Faculty, staff and students whose routines have been disrupted by these and other changes on the campus are quite naturally becoming discouraged … I recognize that inconveniences will continue for some time, but I hope that a better knowledge of where we are and where we're going will make the inevitable problems more bearable."
Groundbreaking ceremony for the Henry E. Braden, Sr. Vocational Technical Center. Photo courtesy of The Louisiana Weekly 1983.
Other renovations and new construction included an art gallery in 1981, currently known as the Isaac Delgado Fine Arts Gallery; the opening of the uniquely designed octagon-shaped O'Keefe Administration Building in 1982, named after businessman Arthur J. O'Keefe who was mayor of New Orleans from 1926-1930; and the completion of the 32,000 square-foot Henry E. Braden Sr. Vocational Technical Center in 1984.
Delgado also had its share of challenges in the 80s. Athletic Director Tommy Smith, who has worked at the school since 1981, remembers, "The school went through political scrutiny during the 80s, but emerged under new leadership with increased enrollment, a positive image and nationwide recognition."
In spite of the challenging times with its leaders and the transformation of becoming both a vocational and academic college, other exciting events took place throughout the decade. A weekly television show was produced and telecourses were offered on Cox Cable TV. Rod Stewart, Eddie Murphy and Willie Nelson performed at benefit concerts sponsored by the Delgado Foundation. The Dolphin mascot made its debut. And the school was re-accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools between 1986 and 1988.
Cover of On The Scene newsletter. Courtesy of Delgado Community College 1985.
The “Nineteen Eighties” was a pivotal time for education and all community colleges, as a result of the advances in industry and technology. And just as America continued to change, Delgado has and still is consistently meeting the needs and the demands of the New Orleans community.
Works Consulted

Personal interview, Tommy Smith, Delgado employee.

On The Scene Delgado newsletters,1980-1989.

The Times-Picayune/States-Item, February 27, 1982.

Metairie Guide, January 13, 1982.

The Times-Picayune January 22, 1984.

Delgado Community College Catalogs, 1989-1992 and 1996-1997.

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