Jacksonville’s only HBCU will now be known as Edward Waters University

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s first Historically Black College can now officially call itself a university.

Dr. A. Zachary Faison, the President and CEO of Edward Waters College, made the announcement during a special press conference on campus, Wednesday afternoon.

“We are Edward Waters University!” Faison said.

As he made the statement from behind the podium, streamers flew into the air, balloons dropped and the room filled with excitement-- and plenty of clapping -- inside the gymnasium at the Adam-Jenkins Sports and Music Complex.

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Brianna Pendergrass, a Senior and Miss Edward Waters University, is especially proud today to rock her purple and orange.

“We are a part of history in the making!” Pendergrass said.

The biology major says she plans to get a PhD in biomedical science, something she says Edward Waters helped to nurture.

“To have faculty looking out for our best interest, it means a lot,” said Pendergrass.

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Founded in 1866, Edward Waters College was the first independent institution of higher learning for African-American students.

“Edward Waters was one of only six of 37 UNCF private HBCUs in this country to experience enrollment growth this past year -- even in the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic,” Dr. Faison explained.

Now 155 years later, Dr. Faison, the nation’s youngest sitting president and CEO of an HBCU, is able to proudly announce Edward Waters College has now become Edward Waters University.

“It’s exhilarating for our entire academic community. Our faculty, our staff, our students, our alumni. This has been a long time coming,” Faison said, proudly sporting his new, white EWU hat.

Edward Waters University remains fully accredited, offering three new undergraduate programs, along with a Masters of Business Administration, which students can begin this August.

The creation of the graduate degree in business allows the college to change its status to university.

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Last July, Edward Waters received $3.5 million from the state -- which Dr. Faison said is recurring.

“What this has enabled Edward Waters University to do is to be able to keep our students continuing their programs of study, so they don’t have to drop out or “stop out” because of lack of finances,” Faison said.

Faison says their student body is unique, because 90% of the students who attend, are in financial need.

But he’s looking forward to welcoming all of the new students this fall.

“It’s an exciting time to be at Edward Waters University. Come and check us out!”

“Go Edward Waters University!” Pendergrass exclaimed.