Hawkins announced at student body convocation last week that the college has set a new record for enrollment, 1,202, up from 701 last fall. That’s higher than the previous record of 1,004 students in 1993.
That was before cuts in programs led to a precipitous drop in enrollment that threatened the school’s very existence in the early 2000s. When the Hawkins administration arrived on campus, enrollment was down to around 300.
This fall, Hawkins welcomed the largest class of freshmen in the school’s history at the convocation — 533 students. College officials said the previous largest freshman class at Talladega was 330.
For Hawkins, it’s history repeating itself. The 20th president at Talladega College, he was also the 20th president at Texas College from 2000-2007, another historically black college that had fallen on hard times. He went to work there rebuilding athletic and academic programs, with an 82 percent gain in enrollment in just 10 months. At the school’s Tyler, Texas, campus, he proved to be an effective fundraiser and builder. Three new buildings were constructed and several others were remodeled as the campus was improved to benefit the growing student body there.
He’s accomplished some of those same things in Talladega, bringing back sports programs that had been closed and adding new ones for a total of seven teams, and this year the school added a marching band with about 150 members — even though Talladega College doesn’t have a football team. The band’s role will be to participate in parades and other events as ambassadors of the college.
The Tornadoes’ basketball teams have won three national championships in four years, two for the men’s team and one for the women.
The administration has also had the Amistad murals restored and launched them on a three-year national tour, another effort to attract the interest of potential students and potential philanthropists.
Renovations on campus have already improved several buildings. The college’s gym and dining hall, Swayne Hall, and the library clock tower have all been renovated. The exterior of the 1869 Foster Hall dormitory has had a million dollar makeover, and Hawkins hopes to have the interior refinished before next fall.
Meanwhile the college has contracted for hotel rooms in the area to accommodate the student body’s explosive growth. Thursday’s convocation had to be held in the gymnasium instead of DeForest Chapel because the chapel is no longer large enough to seat everyone.
The college is proud of its history, and it’s exciting to see history being made during its revitalization.
And Hawkins said he isn’t through yet — he told the Talladega City Council recently his next goal is to change the name to Talladega University.
We won’t be surprised to see it happen.