June 14, 2024

Spelman College receives historic $100 million donation, the largest single gift to any HBCU – CBS News

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One of the country’s leading educational institutions for Black women in science, technology, engineering and math just became the recipient of the largest single donation ever given to a historically Black college or university, or HBCU, in the United States. 
Spelman College, a liberal arts school for women in Atlanta that is ranked first among HBCUs by U.S. News World & Report, accepted a historic $100 million contribution that will help fund student life and scholarships for years to come.
“I’m just feeling overjoyed,” said Helene Gayle, the president of Spelman College, on “CBS Mornings” Thursday. “This is such a historic moment, and it will mean so much not only to the girls who are at Spelman now, but for young women far into the future. It’s just amazing.”
The vast majority of the donation will go toward endowed scholarships, Gayle said, which should allow the college to support students who are currently enrolled at Spelman and provide aid to others hoping to attend in the future. 
Lovette Russell, chair of Spelman’s board of trustees, shared in an announcement on campus just how valuable that opportunity is for promising undergraduates and prospective undergraduates who deal with financial challenges that could thwart their path to a degree.
“As a student, I experienced the power of this historic institution and how it transforms the futures of talented young women,” said Russell, addressing a crowd of buzzing students gathered on campus. “I know that some of the brightest young women who dream about coming to Spelman are facing financial hardships and barriers toward higher education. What I am sharing with you today is a major step to ensure more young women can achieve their dreams.”
The remaining 25% of Spelman’s new donation will help fund housing and other critical projects at the school. Gayle described the gift as “transformative,” and noted that it opens doors to a wide range of exciting possibilities for a college where students and staff already “do so much with so little.”
“We have this incredible group of young women,” Gayle said. “They go on to be doctors, lawyers and scientists.”
The National Science Foundation has ranked Spelman among the top U.S. higher education institutions whose students go on to earn their Ph.D., and has ranked it specifically as the leading producer of Black women who subsequently earn their doctorates in STEM fields, according to the college.
Spelman’s historic donation came from Ronda Stryker, the billionaire businessperson who has for several decades helmed her family’s namesake medical equipment company. Stryker is also one of the longest-serving board members at Spelman, and she and her husband, William Johnston, have given significant donations to the college before, with this latest one being the largest.
Gayle told “CBS Mornings” that she believes Stryker chose to donate to Spelman because her long tenure on the board has given her a chance to witness the impact of the college on young women who study there. The president also said she hopes the gift will inspire others to invest in HBCUs more broadly.
“When I talk to women who graduate from Spelman, they say, ‘We developed such a sense of ourselves, such a sense of confidence that we know we can go anywhere, that when we’re in a room, we belong there,'” said Gayle. “And that’s the power of what Spelman and a Spelman education can do. And that’s what Ronda Stryker has had the opportunity to see, up close and personal.”
Emily Mae Czachor is a reporter and news editor at CBSNews.com. She covers breaking news, often focusing on crime and extreme weather. Emily Mae has previously written for outlets including the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed and Newsweek.
First published on January 18, 2024 / 11:18 AM EST
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Copyright ©2024 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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