For Chris Paul, studying at an HBCU was a ‘natural’ fit

Author: Yuvi December 15, 2022 For Chris Paul, studying at an HBCU was a 'natural' fit

Dennis Felder has been teaching sports management at Winston-Salem State University for 38 years, and his rules apply to all of his students, even the 12-time NBA All-Star.

So when Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul introduced himself as Chris, Felder told him not to use nicknames.

“I said, ‘No, no,'” Felder recalled in a phone interview this week. “‘no no no.'”

The roll sheet said Christopher, so that’s what he would be called.

Class started at 7 a.m. Eastern Time, which meant that Paul often dragged himself out of bed at 4 a.m. in Phoenix.

“Dr. Felder,” said Paul, “he doesn’t play.”

On Friday, Paul, 37, will graduate from Winston-Salem State. The Suns will have an off day after completing a four-game road trip, so they will fly to North Carolina to walk in the ceremony wearing a cap and gown.

Paul began pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest University in 2003, but he left for the NBA after two years. To complete his degree, he chose nearby Winston-Salem State—a historically black university that both his parents attended. It is part of his quest to bring attention and resources to historically black colleges and universities.

“I grew up in the backyard of all the HBCUs,” Paul said. “So, it was natural for me.”

During the 2011 NBA lockout, he arranged an actual all-star game at Winston-Salem State that featured stars including LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and donated $25,000 to the school. But it wasn’t until 2017 that he really started thinking about helping HBCUs.

That year, Paul attended his cousin’s convocation at North Carolina A&T, an HBCU in Greensboro. Speaker, Laila Ali, former boxer who is the daughter of Muhammad Ali, spoke about the legacy of HBCUs and the financial challenges they face. Many were closing or losing their accreditation due to falling enrollment or lack of funding.

Her speech prompted Paul to think more deeply about how he could help those institutions. Among distinguished alumni of the schools that provided higher education for black people during segregation are civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Vice President Kamala Harris; sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois; Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; and author Toni Morrison.

“Black colleges need all the positive and interesting public relations they can get,” said Derrick White, professor of history and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky. “I think one of the challenges about Black colleges being chronically underrepresented by the state, both in the public and private sectors, is that if you are unfamiliar with Black colleges, you may not know they exist.”

In the last few years, HBCUs have attracted more attention as well as more funding from private donations, such as the hundreds of millions of dollars donated last year by billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott. This month, Durant gave $500,000 to Bowie State, a historically black university in Maryland. Recently, HBCUs have seen renewed interest from students attracted by their atmosphere, historical significance, and increasing visibility.

Paul said, ‘A lot of positive things happened. “I think we all have to look at ourselves and see what else we can do.”

HBCUs, or historically black colleges and universities, have long fostered excellence, and a sense of pride and belonging among students.

Paul has donated to HBCUs and provided tuition assistance to their students. They have urged the NBA to include an HBCU showcase during the league’s All-Star Game and have hosted virtual graduation events for HBCU students during the COVID-related shutdown, according to their representatives.

He also found ways to influence the curriculum. In 2016, Paul and his brother CJ took classes at Harvard Business School on the business of entertainment, media and sports.

“All I could think was, this is one of the worst classes I’ve ever taken – where else is this offered?” Paul said. “And that also took me down a rabbit hole and diving into HBCUs what classes do they offer at this school? That school?”

Paul worked with Anita Albers, who taught the course at Harvard Business School, to bring it to HBCUs, starting with an introductory session at North Carolina A&T in 2018. Albers taught about one case based on Paul’s experiences, and another related to Walt Disney. company.

“He’s a good friend of Bob Iger,” Albers said, referring to the Disney chief executive. “And so he was able to look in depth and also behind-the-scenes, ‘Hey, here’s what I learned from Bob Iger, here’s how he approaches challenges as a CEO'”

It is an accredited course at North Carolina A&T since 2019, and will be introduced in the 2023 spring semester at Southern University in Louisiana. Paul has paid $1.5 million over five years to bring the class to five different HBCUs, said Carmen Green-Wilson, chief of staff at CP3 LLC, which handles his off-court efforts.

When the NBA finished its 2019-20 season at Walt Disney World, Paul promoted HBCUs with his pregame wardrobe choices. This year, he became the only athlete named to President Biden’s advisory board on HBCUs. His production company has also produced three documentary series about HBCU programs to highlight the impact they have on their communities and the challenges they face.

In the fall of 2020, Paul enrolled at Winston-Salem State to complete his degree with interests in mass communication and sports management.

“When you start something, you want to see it through; You want to get over it,” Paul said. “And even though I was blessed and lucky to go to the NBA, I still wanted to graduate.”

All classes were then conducted remotely, and he stayed up to date on assignments through the learning platform Canvas.

Paul said, “For the first time, we have to send an email to one of our classmates and tell them what our name is and what we do.” “I’d get some classmates who would hit me back and start putting messages in my mailbox: ‘Are you who I think you are?'”

He is proud of his student ID card, which he said he carries with him at all times. However, this time, being in orbit feels different.

“I wasn’t the best student when I was coming through school,” Paul said of his time as an undergraduate nearly 20 years ago. “But I have a greater appreciation for a lot of this stuff now.”

After Paul registered for Felder’s class, Felder received a call from Paul’s mother, who had taken one of his classes years earlier, the professor said. He told her to make sure Paul was on time.

“He’s a very respected young man,” said 71-year-old Felder. “‘Yes. Yes sir.’ The whole gamut. Never had a problem with him. So you can tell he’s had an upbringing and he still respects his parents and persons. Except when you get on the basketball court. It’s totally different out there It’s a ballgame.

Felder said that Paul occasionally spoke to students as a guest speaker, drawing on his experience as an NBA player with business and executive experience. His class presentations became events.

This fall, Paul took a course in organization and administration and gave two presentations on videoconferencing; One was on his tenure as president of the NBA players’ union. Most of the students’ presentations only lasted about 10 minutes, but Paul took so many questions that it took up the entire class period.

“We also had like the next class that comes after us, then they come in and they’re asking them questions too,” said Nisha Douglas, who teaches the course.

Paul, who will graduate with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, is opening accounts with $100 for each of his 350 classmates using the banking platform Greenwood, which seeks to support financial development for Black and Latino customers.

A fan of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team in his youth, Paul remembers in 2001 when Vince Carter, who played at the school, left the Toronto Raptors in the middle of a playoff series to attend his graduation ceremony. .

Paul said, “Even though he’s in the NBA, he still took the time to finish what he started.” “And so that was inspirational to me.”

As soon as Paul learned his graduation date, he checked it against Sun’s schedule. When he saw that they were on leave that day, he decided, “I want to do whatever it takes to be there.”

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

15 December, 2022, 3:30 pm

News Cinema on twitter News Cinema on facebook share newscinema latest news on whatsapp

Thursday, 15th December 2022

Latest Web Stories

More Stories