A- Z: Business

by: Hilton Guidry

Isaac Delgado was one of the most successful local businessman and entrepreneurs of his time. He enjoyed providing help and guidance to young men who were looking to start their own careers. By donating a great deal of his wealth after his death, the building of the Delgado Central Trades School in 1921 made it possible for him to provide an education to generations of young New Orleanians. In the early days of the school, young men learned trades such as carpentry, tailoring, drafting, welding, electrical and machine work.

Although Delgado was intended to be a school for men, it was the women of New Orleans who looked to Delgado to further their careers in the 1960s. In fact, the first woman graduate of Delgado, Mrs. Doris M. Guthrie in 1964, received a degree in Secretarial Studies. By the 1960s, Delgado started offering two-year associate degree programs and the business program in three areas: basic business studies, computer technology and secretarial science. With more women entering into the workforce and with businesses needing training for their secretaries, the school expanded the program and started developing a broader curriculum that included accounting, bookkeeping, word processing and business law. The computer technology program was not quite what it is today. The early days of computer programming classes were on bulky IBM punch card machines.

Mrs. Doris Guthrie was the first woman to earn a degree in secretarial studies.

Delgado students working on business computer console.
According to Jere Crago, a retired business professor and former department head, by the late 1970s and early 1980s Delgado started offering more courses in computer technology as businesses started to rely more on the personal computer. Crago said many local employers would send their secretaries to Delgado to take courses such as advanced word processing and other computer related courses. Mr. Crago (whose father taught painting and decorating at Delgado in the 1950s) credits Ruby Holiday and Penny Ferguson with having the vision to lead Delgado into the computer age and to offer courses in business computer technology, which was growing in the 1980s. By the middle of the decade, Microsoft Windows became the main platform for business computers. Former Delgado professor Ernie Fitzgerald recalls the instant change at the school when students went from “typing and shorthand to Wordperfect and Microsoft Word.” Microsoft programs were being used everywhere, so the school started implementing training on programs such as Lotus 123, Microsoft Excel and later on Quickbooks and Peachtree for their accounting students.

Students practicing stenography
Delgado offered online courses through Blackboard way before other larger local universities came on board. In fact, Jere Crago who had been with Delgado for 35 years, was one of the first online instructors. When hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Delgado had no choice but to embrace online courses, as most of the school was flooded and badly damaged. Patrick Conroy, current chair of Delgado’s business programs, said students back then and now are able to complete all three degrees (business administration, accounting and business management) online. With most of the current students working a full or part time job, the flexibility of online courses is very attractive. Mr. Conroy says the College has over 2,600 students in the program, a lot more than they had anticipated.

Students who earn their two-year associate degree often move on to a university to get their four- year degree. However, many students in the business program are now taking job related courses such as retail management, real estate and music business that can help them find careers in a concentrated business field. One of the more popular courses, entrepreneurship, is a class that students from different programs (such as culinary arts) are taking to help them achieve their business goals. Many of these students have an idea or a skill that they want to sell or they are taking over a family business. This course will help them learn marketing basics, coming up with a business plan and how to put together information for a SBA loan.

One of the more popular business courses offered is music business management
Delgado’s business program has been recognized as one of the top 50 associate degrees in business, management, marketing and related support services by Community College Weekly. The program also has won a Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) Regional Competition in 2004. The competition tests educational outreach projects of two-year colleges. More recently, the business department partnered with the Goldman Sachs initiative to help small businesses in the New Orleans area to grow and create jobs.  The initiative provides small business owners with access to coursework, business advising, and other services that will help them grow their firms. With so many local area students who end up staying in the New Orleans area, the business program provides a workforce for the local community who will graduate with the training they need to be successful businessmen and women.

2004 SIFE award-winning team

Delgado business students' impact on the New Orleans Area Gross Domestic Product (from The Greater New Orleans Inc. Regional Economic Alliance)
From the early days as a trade school, to the 1960s and 1970s when women were entering the workforce, to today where small to mid-size businesses make up most the New Orleans business community, students are recognizing the opportunities that are available in business. And thanks to a philanthropic business man some 90 years ago, students now have the tools they need to be a successful entrepreneur, music manager or small business owner.

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