Atlanta, Georgia – Spelman College just got a $100 million donation, the biggest ever for a historically Black college or university (HBCU). This comes as Spelman marks its 100th anniversary since it got its current name in 1924.
“Let me share with you that this $100 million gift is the largest in Spelman’s history. It is also the largest single donation to any HBCU. Honestly, it’s a transformational gift to any institution, period. We are so grateful, proud, and inspired by this phenomenal gift,” Lovette Russell, Spelman Board Chair said about the donation.
Ronda Stryker, a long-time supporter of Spelman, and her husband, William Johnston, are behind this historic gift. They had already donated $30 million to Spelman in 2018. Established in 1881 as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, Spelman is one of just two historically black colleges for women. It’s top-ranked among HBCUs.
Most of this donation, 75%, will go into scholarships. This means bright students can study at Spelman without worrying about money. The college is helping build a more diverse and fair future by supporting talented young Black women.
The rest, $25 million, will be spent on making campus life better. Plans include creating new ways for students to learn and grow, especially in public policy and democracy. Some of the money will also go towards fixing up dorms and making the campus safer.
“We are invigorated and inspired by this incredible act of generosity. This gift is a critical step in our school’s mission to eliminate financial barriers to starting and finishing a Spelman education. We can’t thank Ronda Stryker enough for her selflessness and support as both a trustee and friend. There’s no doubt that Spelman College is better because of her,” Dr. Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College said of the importance of the donation.
Recently, the United Negro Fund (UNCF), which supports HBCUs and gives scholarships to students, got a $100 million donation from Lilly Endowment Inc. This is the biggest private donation the fund has ever received without restrictions. UNCF is using this money to build an endowment for its 37 member colleges, including Spelman.
About the funding of historically Black colleges or universities
Historically, HBCUs in the U.S. have received less funding than other universities. A 2022 report showed that for every $100 a predominantly white college gets, an HBCU only gets $1. Endowments, or large funds that schools invest, are a major source of income for many colleges, but public funding is important too.
In September last year, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote to 16 state governors. They asked them to address the issue of HBCUs getting less funding in their states.
“Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished Historically Black Colleges and Universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services,” Cardona noted around the time.