Mackenzie Scott, Ex-Wife To Jeff Bezos, Gives Howard, Other HBCUs Their Largest-Ever Single Donor Donations
“This pure act of benevolence is clearly a game changer and it could not have come at a better time,” the president of Hampton University said.
July 29, 2020 at 5:22 pm
Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, has distributed $1.7 billion of her fortune to a number of organizations that service marginalized communities. Among those are four HBCUs that say her donations are the largest single donor contributions they've received in their histories.
In a Medium blog post, Scott, who changed her name after the divorce, said she pledged to donate a majority of her wealth to social causes last year.
“There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others,” the 50-year-old mother of one wrote on Medium.
The philanthropist hopes her donations can help those who typically get left out of opportunities due to race, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“Last fall, I asked a team of non-profit advisors with key representation from historically marginalized race, gender, and sexual identity groups to help me find and assess organizations having major impact on a variety of causes,” she said.
In the letter, Scott lists the amount of money she has donated thus far, categorizing the recipients by areas they service, including organizations that address racial equity, gender equity, public health, climate change and economic mobility. Scott said she has focused on groups that have diverse leadership. Her contributions have totaled $1.7 billion.
Howard University, Hampton University, Tuskegee University and Xavier University of Louisiana each said Scott’s donation is the largest single donor donation in each of their histories.
The president of Howard, which received $40 million from Scott, thanked her for the contribution.
“Thanks to Ms. 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," President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement on the HBCU's website. "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."
The money will be distributed among four areas within the institution, including on-campus infrastructure projects, an educational development plan for faculty, social innovation and entrepreneurship and the need-basis Graduation & Retention Access to Continued Excellence Grant.
Hampton, which received $30 million, said Scott's donation is the largest contribution from a single donor in the school’s history.
“This pure act of benevolence is clearly a game changer and it could not have come at a better time,” Hampton President Dr. William R. Harvey said in a statement. “I speak for the entire Hampton University community when I say we are grateful to Ms. MacKenzie Scott, who has chosen to support us during this unprecedented period of uncertainty.”
Harvey will ultimately determine how the money will be allocated, but he has met with the university's Board of Trustees, deans and administrators to help with the decision.
According to Tuskegee's newsroom, the HBCU received $20 million from Scott, which will go toward scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, campus infrastructure and interdisciplinary programs.
Xavier received $20 million as well but said the donor chose to remain anonymous. However, the school is listed in Scott’s Medium post. The institution said the money will go toward expanding scholarships, endowing faculty positions and making sustainable investments.
“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,” President Reynold Verret said. “This gift will enhance the university's capacity to educate in the medical sciences, pharmacy, law, the arts, and the social sciences.”
Scott has also donated to Morehouse College, Spelman College, the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black college community, according to its website.
According to Forbes, Scott is the 15th richest American with a reported $36.1 billion fortune.