Research into Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) tends to be repetitive, anecdotal, and derivative. A need exists for new lines of research into these institutions. One way to facilitate this is by using social scientific mechanisms to develop HBCU-specific theoretical models to describe, explain, and predict the full range of activities, behaviors, and, most importantly, possibilities of these institutions. This study offers a first step toward the emergence of such theories by generating a descriptive archetypal model of HBCU distinctiveness and conducting an initial validation of the model using a real-world case. A model is constructed, complicated, and nuanced using 35 years of HBCU empirical research so that the final product represents the generally anticipated form. Then the model is used to assess Norfolk State University, a 75-year-old HBCU located in Norfolk, Virginia. A triangulation of documents, interviews, and the researcher's participant observations constitute the data, which provide a holistic description of the institution and are analyzed by means of the model. This enables a simultaneous explanation of two phenomena: (a) the proposed distinctiveness model and (b) the alignment between Norfolk State University and the model. Results of the case study validation suggest the model contains promise as a useful research tool. Results also suggest Norfolk State University is in relatively high alignment with the model overall. Specific findings and implications for future research are presented and discussed.