Historic $100 Million Gift Elevates Spelman College and Breaks Records for HBCUsBy Joy Liwanag
In a groundbreaking move, Spelman College, a renowned historically Black women's college in Atlanta, has received a historic $100 million gift - the largest single donation ever made to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).
Businesswoman and philanthropist Ronda Stryker, along with her husband William Johnston, Chairman of Greenleaf Trust and a member of Spelman's Board of Trustees since 1997, orchestrated this transformative contribution. The generous gift is poised to reshape the trajectory of Spelman College and serve as a beacon for financial empowerment within the HBCU community.
A Pioneering Donation
The $100 million gift from Ronda Stryker and William Johnston marks an unprecedented milestone for Spelman College and HBCUs at large. The historic nature of the donation not only reflects the donors' commitment to education but also emphasizes the pivotal role that philanthropy plays in ensuring equitable access to quality education for underrepresented communities.
Helene Gayle, President of Spelman College, expressed her enthusiasm in a press release, stating that the institution is "invigorated and inspired by this incredible act of generosity." She views this transformative donation as a critical first step in Spelman's mission to eliminate financial barriers hindering students from commencing and completing their education at the college.
Allocation of Funds
Out of the $100 million, Spelman plans to allocate $75 million towards endowed scholarships for future students. This strategic investment aligns with the college's commitment to fostering an inclusive and accessible educational environment. The remaining funds will be utilized to enhance campus housing facilities, develop academic programs focusing on democracy and public policy, and address various infrastructure and institutional needs.
Historic Gifts to HBCUs
Stryker and Johnston's donation follows a recent trend of historic gifts to HBCUs. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), representing private HBCUs, received a monumental $100 million from the Lilly Endowment Inc. earlier this month. This unrestricted private grant, the largest in UNCF's history, will establish a pooled endowment benefiting 37 HBCUs. Blue Meridian Partners, a national philanthropy group, also contributed $124 million last year to the HBCU Transformation Project, a collaborative effort involving UNCF, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the Partnership for Education Advancement.
Challenges Faced by HBCUs
HBCUs, in general, grapple with smaller endowments compared to predominantly white institutions. A 2021 report from the Century Foundation reveals that endowments per full-time student at public non-HBCUs are three times larger, on average, than those at public HBCUs. Private non-HBCUs boast endowments per full-time student that are seven times the size of their HBCU counterparts. This financial gap underscores the significance of transformative donations, such as the one received by Spelman, in leveling the playing field for HBCUs.
Philanthropy as a Catalyst for Change
The transformative impact of philanthropy on HBCUs cannot be overstated. Donors like Ronda Stryker and William Johnston are instrumental in creating a more equitable landscape for higher education. Their commitment to fostering scholarship opportunities, improving campus facilities, and advancing academic programs resonates as a beacon of hope for the entire HBCU community.
The historic $100 million gift to Spelman College serves as a testament to the power of philanthropy in driving positive change within the realm of higher education. As Spelman embarks on its mission to eliminate financial barriers, this transformative donation sets a precedent for fostering inclusivity and excellence within HBCUs. Ronda Stryker and William Johnston's generosity not only elevates Spelman but also inspires a broader conversation about the vital role philanthropy plays in ensuring equitable access to education for all.