Students lounge in the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

Honoring a Legacy, Envisioning a Future

Reginaldo Howard Leadership Program deepens commitment to accessibility, belonging and excellence

The revised program will expand the support provided by the Reginaldo “Reggie” Howard Scholarship Fund to students on their academic journeys through Duke.

The Reggie, as it’s fondly known, has supported between four and five students a year, a total of 234 since 1979. It was awarded to students before they enrolled at Duke, without regard to financial need. It was created to support Black undergraduate students who excelled academically and demonstrated a commitment to leadership and social justice. Howard was the first Black student to be elected president of the university’s undergraduate student government but was killed in a car accident before his tenure could begin.

The new program will provide financial aid grants based on need to students who are leaders and who undertake research and service that enhances Black communities.

Duke has graduated thousands of Black alumni in its history. The reimagined program will expand the impact of the fund to many more students while honoring Howard’s legacy by supporting Black academic excellence, intellectual community and leadership on campus.

“This scholarship has been a constant reminder of Reggie Howard’s voice and his values,” Provost Alec Gallimore said. “We are committed to a campus where every person feels a strong sense of belonging, and this transition honors Reggie Howard’s legacy by supporting Black excellence, intellectual community and leadership at Duke.”

Entering its Centennial year, Duke recognized the changing legal landscape in higher education as an invitation to innovate by refreshing and expanding various programs to meet the contemporary needs of all students – all while honoring the intent of programs with decades-long legacies.

Current Reggie Scholars will continue to receive the benefits of their scholarship throughout their undergraduate experience at Duke, while the scholarship transitions to providing need-based financial aid for students who embody the legacy of Reggie Howard.

“Students in the new Reggie program will advance the rich tradition established by past and present Reggie scholars,” Smith said. “The new program will elevate the experience of participants by enriching their connections with faculty, funding internships and research, strengthening community ties, and developing scholarly programming that highlights Black excellence through the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.”

The Mary Lou Williams Center, which returned to a renovated West Campus home this month, will partner with the Office of University Scholars and Fellows to administer the program. The opportunities will include funding to support students to take part in otherwise unpaid or underpaid summer internships, research focused on issues related to Black communities, and networking opportunities with Black alumni.

The faculty director, along with Reggie Scholars, Reggie alumni, and other leaders on campus, will curate a program focused on Black academic excellence and leadership, open to students across the Duke community.

“We’re excited the program will enable us to add internships and research support to our student enrichment opportunities,” said Stacia Solomon, director of the Mary Lou Williams Center. “The new Mary Lou is better prepared than ever to develop our students’ intellectual capital, preparing young minds to impact the world at large in a positive way.”

Wilton Alston, a 1981 Duke grad and Reggie Scholar, said he plans to engage in the program’s development and hopes other donors and foundations will do the same.

“I believe Duke will continue to find ways to not only reward, but also encourage, celebrate and undergird those who attend,” Alston said. “That’s what the Reggie Howard Scholarship was really about.”

The new program reflects the university’s commitment to expand access to a Duke education, and to support students throughout their educational journey at Duke. In the past year, Duke has announced a new financial aid initiative for students from the Carolinas, as well as support to help graduates from HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions in our region attend Duke’s graduate and professional programs.

“While our strategies will evolve and adapt,” Gallimore said, “our commitment to advancing racial and social equity has not wavered.”