$100 million: The largest single donation in HBCU history goes to Spelman College

"We are invigorated and inspired by this incredible act of generosity," said Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College, in a press release.

This year marks 100 since Spelman Baptist Seminary became Spelman College, the all-women HBCU in the heart of Atlanta, Ga., which we know today. And as of Thursday, Spelman has set another historical milestone centered around the wonderfully round number.

On Thursday, the Atlanta-based liberal arts institutions received a $100 million donation. It is believed to be the single-largest one-time donation ever granted to an HBCU.

It’s a donation that’s large enough to set a new chapter in Spelman’s mission to erase financial barriers and ensure student graduation for historically underrepresented college students, said Helene Gayle, president of Spelman, in a press release. “We are invigorated and inspired by this incredible act of generosity.”

Three-quarters of the donation will go directly toward scholarships. The remaining $25 million will be used flexibly toward student housing infrastructure, academic curriculum and other “critical needs,” the press release added.

Spelman College is just one of the several prestigious HBCUs in Atlanta. It’s part of a consortium of other neighboring private African American colleges and universities, including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Morehouse School of Medicine.

By the numbers: comparing other recent HBCU donations

The United Negro College Fund received a $100 million donation from the Lily Endowment last week. That amount will be spread out across its 37 member institutions. Additionally, this donation rivals that of the $120 donated to Spelman, Morehouse, and the United Negro College Fund by the co-founder of Netflix donated in 2020.

Philanthropist Mackenzie Scott has donated more than $500 million to HBCUs in the last four years, The New York Times reports. Spelman’s recent one-time donation represents a fifth of that amount.

Who are Spelman College’s donors?

This isn’t Ronda Stryker and William Johnston’s first time donating to Spelman College. In 2018, the couple donated $30 million. Stryker is a businesswoman and member of Harvard Medical School’s board of fellows, and Johnston is the head of a money management firm. Forbes lists Stryker’s net worth at $7.4 billion.

Stryker and Johnston are a couple based out of Kalamazoo, Mich., who’ve been donating through their foundation since 1995. Their family foundation disbursed more than $132 million in 2021 and 2022, The Observer reports.

In 2011, the couple’s donation eclipsed that of its current one to create a new medical school at Western Michigan University.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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