COVID-19 has deeply affected education and the financial stability of many universities. In light of the pandemic and the continued fight for racial equality around the nation, HBCU’s have become the focus of those who have the means to make a difference. This became more apparent when this week, author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott gifted Delaware State University an unrestricted $20 million. Ms. Scott’s donation is the biggest in Delaware State’s 130-year history. Over the past four months, Ms. Scott has given $4,158,500,000 to 384 organizations. As one of the 384 recipients, Delaware State University shares this honor with 15 other Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the YMCA of Delaware.

In a post on Medium, Scott called the pandemic, “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”  Therefore, the gift to Del State and other HBCUs was purposeful.  Ms. Scott carefully selected recipient organizations using “a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.” 

Humbled and grateful for the gift, Delaware State University President Tony Allen stated, “Ms. Scott’s gift is not only a reflection of her enormous generosity but also a clear commitment to a more equitable and just society… The award is a force multiplier for some of the nation’s most important institutions and the many students they have propelled forward to change the world.” 

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While many donors specify how the money is used, as an unrestricted gift, Del State will the money to reach its specific goals. This includes:

  • The recently developed Global Institute for Equity, Inclusion, and Civil Rights, an institute designed to build the capacity toward an inclusive economy;
  • The ongoing acquisition of Wesley College and the creation of an integrated College of Health and Behavioral Sciences focused on preparing the next generation of health care professionals and practitioners;
  • A healthy investment into the University’s endowment will open up additional scholarship opportunities for students while simultaneously increasing the institution’s financial resiliency in the face of future challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Allen, “For 130 years our university has specialized in changing the life trajectories of students from low-resource families who have been locked out of, or under-served by, public education…This gift will allow us to invest strategically to continue and expand that historic mission.”

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The gift is among the more than $32 million raised by Del State in 2020. Bank of America, Laffey-McHugh Foundation, Barclays, Testing for America, JPMorgan Chase, Delmarva Power/Exelon, and many others join Scott in support of the University.