Struggling HBCUs just got a much-needed monetary boost from none other than MacKenzie Scott, an author, philanthropist and former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man.
When Scott and Bezos divorced, she received billions of dollars as part of her 2019 settlement. Scott has a net worth of $36 billion, according to Forbes. They were married 25 years. As part of the divorce settlement, Bezos transferred 25 percent of his Amazon stake — 4 percent of the company — to Scott.
She later promised to give away half or more of her assets in her lifetime or will. It seems she is living up to her promise. In a Medium post published on July 28, Scott listed the organizations that will receive these funds. Scott also revealed that she has donated $1.7 billion to charitable causes over the past year.
This month, she announced that she changed her last name from Bezos to Scott.
Among the HBCUs on Scott’s gift recipients list are Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Tuskegee University, and Xavier University of Louisiana.
Tuskegee University received a $20-million gift, making it the largest single gift in the university’s nearly 140-year history, according to university president Dr. Lily D. McNair.
“The gift will allow us to become the Tuskegee of the 21st Century – a university that integrates knowledge, leadership and service to solve the problems of a global, modern society,” McNair told HBCU Buzz. “We will focus on student scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, interdisciplinary programs, and campus infrastructure improvements.”
Howard University received a $40-million gift from Scott, who was a former pupil of Howard alumna Toni Morrison.
Scott’s gift marks the largest gift from a single donor in Howard’s history.
“I would like to thank Mackenzie Scott for her investment into Howard University and our 153-year mission of serving a diverse community of dynamic scholars who come here for an education and leave here with purpose to serve the world,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick.
Howard plans to use the gift in areas of need including helping students graduate on time, retaining faculty, supporting academic innovation and entrepreneurship, and enhancing campus infrastructure including improved technology and essential renovation to the steam plant system, according to a press release from Howard.
Howard will also develop a program focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship to further enhance Howard’s outreach to instill the importance of financial wellness in the campus community.
Additionally, the Scott gift will help underwrite a portion of one of Howard’s signature retention programs, the Graduation & Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant. This need-based program provides a 100 percent match for students who receive the maximum Federal Pell Grant and provides additional funding to students with an expected family contribution of zero.
“Thanks to Scott’s gift, and the accompanying positive publicity, we hope that other donors will follow her example to lift the financial burden off of deserving students and help make ends meet so they can focus on graduating on time,” Frederick said. “With this unrestricted donation, we now have the opportunity to expedite our efforts and fund the initiatives in a way that will reap benefits for generations to come.”
Meanwhile, Xavier University got a $20-million gift, the largest in the school’s history, from an anonymous donor. It is believed to be from Scott.
“This is a remarkable demonstration of support and encouragement for Xavier and its mission, and a reminder that what we do is important, not only at the University, but also within our global community,” Xavier President Reynold Verret said in a statement.
Verret said the university will use at least a portion of the money to invest in its endowment and to expand need-based scholarships for students who otherwise would not be able to attend Xavier or other private institutions.
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Founded in 1925, Xavier is the only Catholic HBCU in the U.S. It has a focus on science and human health.
The school is ranked first in the nation for the number of African-American graduates who go on to complete medical school, according to 2019 data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. It is also the first in the U.S. in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Black students in the biological and biomedical sciences, the physical sciences and physics, Nola reported.
While the gifts are impactful. some are questioning why the smaller, lesser-known HBCUs such as Clark University and Bennett College weren’t considered, especially since they too are burdened with debt.
Mrs. Ubbe Lothbrok (@brittaluscious) tweeted, “Only 6 HBCU’s were chosen. SIX. The elite of the elite. Mackenzie donated her money to Tuskegee, Hampton, Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, and Xavier. All of these colleges are known as Black Ivy Leagues.”
A novelist, Scott has served as the executive director of Bystander Revolution, an anti-bullying organization she founded, since 2014.