Spelman Receives One of the Largest Single Donations to an HBCU in History

Photo: AP

Thanks to a massive $30 million donation from a trustee, Spelman just recorded its largest single gift from a living donor. The donation—among the highest given to any historically black college or university—will go toward the private women’s college’s new Center for Innovation and the Arts.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the donation was made by Ronda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston. Stryker, a Spelman trustee for more than 10 years, heads the Stryker Corp., a Fortune 500 company specializing in medical technologies. Her husband is the chairman of investing banking firm Greenleaf Trust.

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The gift is significant, as the AJC notes, because HBCUs rarely receive the type of large donation that is typical of Ivy League schools and some of the larger, more affluent PWIs.

For perspective, the University of Southern California once received a $200 million donation. Spelman’s largest single donation was $37 million—a gift from the estate of Readers Digest founder DeWitt Wallace.

The difference gets even starker when you look at endowments. Compared to other HBCUs, Spelman’s endowment of $367 million is fairly substantial. Howard’s comes in at around $685 million. Morehouse—Spelman’s brother institution—has a $135 million endowment.

But that number is just a fraction of New York University’s endowment of more than $4 billion. And even comparing Spelman against other historically female colleges, such as Vassar and Wellesley, that number still pales. Both of the latter schools boast endowments of just over $1 billion.

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Given historic issues with funding, these large donations are especially important to HBCUs. As Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell told the AJC, Stryker’s gift is “transformational.”

“Her contribution ensures that Spelman students will be prepared to tackle the challenges of our changing world through innovation, creativity and the dynamic intersection of science, technology, engineering, arts and math,” she said.

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According to the AJC, the new center, expected to cost about $86 million, will house “all of Spelman’s arts programs – art, art history, curatorial studies, dance, digital media, documentary filmmaking, photography, music and theater.”

This includes a number of venues and services the school hopes will draw in the Westside Atlanta community in which the college is nestled. This includes an expanded Museum of Fine Art, a digital theater, technology events, and a cafe, reports the AJC.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?