Two Historically Black Colleges and United Negro College Fund to Share $120-Million Gift from Co-Founder of Netflix!

Patricia Ann Quillin and Reed Hastings

Dear Commons Community,

At a time when Covid-19 has ravaged the finances of many of their students and depleted their own budgets, two of the nation’s most prominent historically Black colleges will each receive $40 million for student scholarships, officials at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, in Atlanta, announced yesterday.

Each, by itself, was a record-setting investment in educating Black students, but they were joined by a third $40-million gift to the United Negro College fund, a major supplier of student scholarships and supporter of Black colleges.

Reed Hastings, co-founder and chief executive of the video-streaming service Netflix, and his wife, Patricia Ann Quillin, said they wanted to make the kind of donation that would spur others to act.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Generally, white capital flows to predominantly white institutions, perpetuating capital isolation. We hope this additional $120 million donation will help more Black students follow their dreams.”

Morehouse, the nation’s only historically Black college focused on educating men, and Spelman, often described as a sister HBCU for educating women, are in the city that in recent weeks has seen some of the most heated protests against racial discrimination. Like other historically Black colleges, Morehouse and Spelman are heavily dependent on tuition and have worried about the potential for steep enrollment declines in the fall, especially given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black families.

The gifts will provide full scholarships for at least 200 Morehouse students, said David A. Thomas, the college’s president. He said Hastings directed that the scholarships be named for Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive of the UNCF and a Morehouse graduate.

“We’ll use the money to allow a select group of students from high-need families to graduate debt free,” Thomas said in an interview. This will allow them to take jobs that fuel their passions, and don’t just provide a paycheck, he said.

Hastings, who co-founded Netflix in 1997, is a former member of the California State Board of Education and an advocate for education reform. Hastings and Quillin said in a statement that supporting the education of young Black people is one of the best ways ways to invest in America’s future.

“Both of us had the privilege of a great education, and we want to help more students — in particular students of color — get the same start in life,” they said. “HBCUs have a tremendous record, yet are disadvantaged when it comes to giving. Generally, white capital flows to predominantly white institutions, perpetuating capital isolation. We hope this additional $120 million donation will help more Black students follow their dreams and also encourage more people to support these institutions — helping to reverse generations of inequity in our country.”

The gift is the largest in Morehouse’s 153-year history and brings to $105 million the amount the college will have raised in one year, according to a college spokeswoman.

In an interview Wednesday on CBS This Morning, Spelman’s president, Mary Schmidt Campbell, said she “just about fainted” when she learned of the contribution. 

“This gift is such an affirmation of all of those gifted, hardworking students who want to come to places like Spelman and Morehouse,” she said. “Now we have the resources to support 200 students each over the next 10 years. That’s a game-changer.”

Hastings said Lomax, whom he’s known for about 15 years, offered to introduce the couple to HBCUs after learning about a program Hastings had helped set up at his alma mater, Bowdoin College.

“This year with the tragedy in America and everyone feeling hopeless, we realized this is the time to do something bigger and to really try to bring the HBCU story front and center,”  Hastings said during the CBS interview.

Lomax said he told the donors that great education happens at historically black colleges, “but we need great philanthropists to step up and invest.”

We meed more people like Hastings and Quillin!


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