Dear Commons Community,
MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist and former wife of billionaire and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced yesterday that she donated another $2.74 billion to charity.
Scott has donated a total of $8.5 billion since July 2020.
“Me, Dan [Jewett, Scott’s new husband], a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors — we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change,” Scott wrote in a Medium post titled ‘Seeding by Ceding’. “In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.”
According to Scott’s post, she and her husband chose 286 “high-impact” organizations in areas and communities that “have been historically underfunded and overlooked.” These included institutions educating children in underserved areas, organizations promoting interfaith community, and arts and cultural institutions
Scott, one of the world’s richest women, noted that they “prioritized organizations with local teams, leaders of color, and a specific focus on empowering women and girls,” along with organizations supporting community engagement.
Among the recipients were 31 colleges and universities.
“It’s not often that we get this kind of news,” said Ellen Treanor, senior vice president for strategic communication at California State University at Fullerton, which received $40 million.
In fact, it is the only time that Fullerton has gotten this kind of news. Treanor said the gift is the largest ever made to the university.
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity,” Scott wrote in a blog post announcing the gifts, “so we looked for two- and four-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved.” In 2020, Scott gave away a total of more than $5.7 billion to 512 organizations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and was the second-largest individual donor in the nation, behind her former husband.
Like many of the colleges on the list of the latest recipients, Fullerton serves a diverse student body. Among the nearly 35,000 undergraduates, 44 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are Asian, and half are from low-income families.
The gifts also went to institutions that are “historically underfunded and overlooked” — in other words, those that typically don’t get a lot of attention, or money, from big-name donors.
Lee College, in Baytown, Tex., received $5 million from Scott, the largest donation in its history. “We are overwhelmed by Ms. Scott’s generosity, and we are thrilled to be recognized for our transformative student-success work,” Lee’s president, Lynda Villanueva, said in a news release.
Significantly, for the recipients, the money comes with no strings attached. “What do we think they might do with more cash on hand than they expected?” Scott wrote. “Buy needed supplies. Find new creative ways to help. Hire a few extra team members they know they can pay for the next five years. Buy chairs for them. Stop having to work every weekend. Get some sleep.”
Sarita E. Brown, president and co-founder of Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Latino/a students succeed in college, said it would use its $10-million gift to further its “Seal of Excelencia” certification program, which provides a framework to improve academic outcomes for students.
“It’s about the most powerful donation,” Brown said, “a nonprofit organization can get.”
Twenty institutions have publicly announced the amounts they received from Scott, totaling $500 million. They are listed here, along with colleges that have not disclosed their gifts:
- Amarillo College — $15 million
- Brazosport College
- Broward College
- California State Polytechnic University at Pomona — $40 million
- California State University-Channel Islands — $15 million
- California State University at Fullerton — $40 million
- California State University at Northridge — $40 million
- Chaffey College — $25 million
- College of the Desert
- El Paso Community College
- Florida International University — $40 million
- Harper College — $18 million
- Hostos Community College of City University of New York
- Kennedy-King College of City Colleges of Chicago — $5 million
- Lee College — $5 million
- Long Beach City College — $30 million
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
- Odessa College
- Pasadena City College — $30 million
- Porterville College — $7 million
- Renton Technical College — $5 million
- San Antonio College — $15 million
- San Jacinto Community College — $30 million
- Santa Barbara City College — $20 million
- Southwest Texas Junior College
- University of California at Merced
- University of Central Florida — $40 million
- University of Illinois at Chicago — $40 million
- University of Texas at San Antonio — $40 million
- University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley
- West Hills College at Lemoore
Ms. Scott is upstaging many of the other heavily-endowed philanthropies such as Gates, Broad, and Walton that make donations with conditions and strings attached.
She is an angel!