Albert Walter Dent was an academic administrator who served initially as business administrator of Flint-Goodridge Hospital and later as president of Dillard University (1941–1969), a predominately black liberal arts college in New Orleans, Louisiana. In these roles, he was a community leader who improved education and health care for African-Americans and impoverished people in the Deep South.
Early life and education
Dent was born on September 25, 1904, in Atlanta, Georgia, of African-American heritage. His father was a day laborer, and he died shortly before his son Albert’s birth. His mother worked as a domestic servant to support Albert and his two sisters. The Dents had a family friend who mentored young Albert, important in a fatherless family. In 1926 Dent graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a degree in accounting. While matriculating at Morehouse College, Dent was extensively involved in campus activities and student affairs while also working at the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Upon graduation, Dent took a job as a branch office auditor for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
Shortly thereafter, Dent became vice president of the Safety Construction Company in Houston, Texas, where he worked for four years. However, he was subsequently recruited by John Hope, then president of Morehouse College, to return to Atlanta to serve in fundraising and alumni relations roles at the college. During his tenure at Morehouse College, Dent met Will W. Alexander who was serving as acting president of Dillard University in New Orleans. Dillard University already had a relationship with Flint-Goodridge Hospital in New Orleans, and financial backers of both Dillard University and Flint-Goodridge Hospital were constructing a new campus and hospital building in 1932. Flint-Goodridge Hospital hired Dent to be superintendent of the new, well-equipped hospital facility, which Dent accepted despite the hardship created by the $700 annual pay-cut that the position entailed. During this time of Jim Crow Laws in the Southern United States, this hospital and its administration were particularly important to African-Americans in southeast Louisiana.