January 7, 2022

Maintaining Duckett Hall at Benedict College: Q&A with Leandra Hayes-Burgess

The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative derived from a need to cultivate and uplift historic Black colleges and universities across the nation. This work is in tandem with the standard set by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to protect and restore places where significant Black history happened and highlight the key roles they have played in American society.

This year, eight HBCUs were awarded more than $650,000 in funding to develop cultural heritage stewardship plans for their campuses and historic sites. The sole goal of this initiative is to partner with HBCUs to empower and preserve the legacies of the campuses and ensure that the stories of their foundations are upheld to educate and inspire future generations of students to pay it forward. As part of this work, we conducted a Q&A with each grant recipient to learn about the history and work at each of these significant institutions.

Benedict Institute was founded by abolitionist Bathsheba A. Barber Benedict with the mission to educate newly emancipated Black people as teachers, preachers, and to prepare them to be “powers for good in society.” With proceeds from the estate of her husband and working with the American Baptist Home Mission Society, Benedict purchased what was a former plantation in Columbia, South Carolina, and opened the new school in 1870 with 10 students.

Over time Benedict Institute grew into Benedict College (1894), a four-year institution which became one of the fastest growing schools dedicated to educating Black people, it had numerous buildings erected to accommodate student growth, and new curriculums to match. Benedict's earliest building remains a critical part of its educational experience and make up the core of the Benedict College National Register Historic District. In this Q&A Leandra Hayes-Burgess, vice president of institutional advancement at Benedict College, discusses the preservation of Duckett Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus.

Exterior view of a 1925 building on the Benedict College campus. A brick edifice with multiple stories.

photo by: AJ Sjorter Photographer

Exterior view of Duckett Hall, built in 1925.

Why is it important to preserve and maintain Duckett Hall? What impact do you envision the structure having on the campus today?

Benedict College believes in the importance of preserving and maintaining Duckett Hall. Duckett Hall, erected in 1925, is the College’s third-oldest building and one of five structures in the College’s Historic District. Named in honor of a distinguished professor, Dr. Thomas Duckett, the structure has transcended notable times in the College’s history such as the development of academic programs, the Civil Rights Movement, and most recently, the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Benedict College students have always been proponents of excellence whereby they have been fostered to be leaders and change agents in the world upholding the institution’s founding principle to be “powers for good in society” to exemplifying today’s mission of being #TheBESTofBC. Ensuring the viability of Duckett Hall is of utmost importance. Close to a third of the student population walks its halls daily.

Today, the historic structure houses the Tyronne A. Burroughs School of Business & Entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it is one of the first buildings seen as you enter the campus. Its impact today is that it is a representation of student growth at Benedict College. The building has served two stellar academic programs that have witnessed the progression of the institution as it has achieved accreditations by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.

What opportunities will students have in the future by preserving the historic structures and stories of Duckett Hall?

The HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation will help to guide Benedict College’s efforts in properly developing a plan not only for Duckett Hall but for the entire Historic District.

In recent years, there has been in an increase in students interested in archiving and historic preservation activities. Students under the tutelage of Meeghan Kane, instructor of history in the School of Arts & Sciences, have participated in actively researching and documenting the history of the College.

This academic year includes the launch of the Student Library Organization in which participating students will gain an understanding of library activities that includes working hands-on with the College’s archives. It is expected that, through the Duckett Hall project, Benedict students will work closely with the preservation consultant to learn the steps in researching and developing a plan to guide the institution’s future rehabilitation and maintenance efforts. This will provide a segue for the institution to collaborate with students throughout the development of additional buildings plan for the Historic District.

Exterior side view of a 1925 building on the Benedict College campus. A brick edifice with multiple stories.

photo by: AJ Sjorter Photographer

Side view of Duckett Hall.

How does the inclusion of preservation and maintenance of Duckett Hall impact future campus plans for Benedict College?

Preservation has been a top priority of President Roslyn Artis whereby the upkeep and maintenance of the Benedict College Historic District is central to the College’s five-year strategic plan, The BEST Plan.

For many years, the College’s Historic District has been threatened by deferred maintenance. Strategically devising a building plan for Duckett Hall will allow the structure to continue having a positive impact on campus. The grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation will assist Benedict College as it strategically plans for the maintenance of the Historic District and it will inform the campus-wide master plan.

Unfortunately, historic preservation was not considered in the development of the current plan. This opportunity will serve as a catalyst for the development of preservation for the Historic District as well as other significant buildings on campus such as Antisdel House formerly known as the President’s House.

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Monique Robinson is a graduate student in architecture and historic preservation at the University of Pennsylvania. In the Summer of 2021 she was an intern with the National Trust's HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative.

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