Shaw Rises After Tornado
On Saturday, April 16, 2011, a tornado touched down on the campus of Shaw University, causing severe damage to the University's student center and residence halls. Twenty-seven buildings on campus suffered roof damage, including historic Estey Hall, the first building to be constructed for the higher education of African American women in the United States. Classes were canceled for the remainder of the semester and students were sent home. Despite the destruction, students and university personnel were not injured in the storm, or in its aftermath. And just three short weeks later, more than 350 students participated in the University's commencement exercises.
The Community Responds
Less than a week and a half after the tornado devastated Shaw's campus, alumni, students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and corporate and foundation partners showed their support by helping to rebuild the University. During "Shaw Clean-Up Day," hundreds of volunteers, including students from St. Augustine's, Duke, Peace, Meredith, NCSU, NC Central and elsewhere, arrived on campus to help clean up the damage and debris from the storm.
Local television stations told Shaw's story to the public, while syndicated radio shows, like the Tom Joyner Morning Show, provided Shaw with a platform to discuss the challenges associated with the storm and the needs that must be fulfilled in order for the recovery progress to continue. BJAC, an architectural firm with offices in Raleigh and Charlotte, rallied their resources and contributed $57,000 worth of pro-bono services. The City of Raleigh delivered a $5,000 check during the Shaw Athletic Appreciation Day to help with the recovery effort and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) installed a temporary mobile kitchen and several modular units to serve as temporary dining facilities while the main cafeteria in the Willie E. Gary Student Center was under repair.
Shaw Reopens and Welcomes Class of 2015
After a successful summer session with an enrollment of over 600 students, Shaw welcomed new students in the Class of 2015 on August 6, 2011. Construction crews worked overnight and into the wee hours to ensure all classrooms and residential facilities were open, leaving little evidence of the wreckage. Estey Hall's copper roof was restored to its original splendor and the building's exterior and interior were repainted. Both the Fleming-Kee and Dimple Newsome Residence Halls were fully repaired and the C.C. Spaulding Gymnasium and Tupper Hall received new roofs. On December 2, 2011, the first floor dining facilities of the Willie E. Gary Student Center reopened, allowing students, once again, to have a permanent cafeteria. By April 2012, all repairs in the student center were completed and an "Open House" celebration was held to commemorate the event.
While the storm proved to be a formidable challenge for Shaw University, its recovery could not be accomplished alone. The University's restoration was made possible through the goodwill and support of its alumni, friends and community.