A welcomed gift in a time of need

By Matthew Dembicki

Several community colleges benefit from a philanthropist’s gift.

Author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott announced on Tuesday that she is giving away nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations, including about a dozen community colleges, to help communities most in need due to the effects of the pandemic.

Among the recipients is Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) in New York City, which will receive $30 million – the college’s largest gift ever.

“We’re over the moon,” Lynn McGee, BMCC’s communications manager, wrote in an email to CCDaily announcing the gift to the college.

BMCC will use the donation to establish the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation and to support other transformative initiatives at the college.

“Our institution prides itself on altering the lives of our students in ways that will help them obtain career training, obtain their dream of earning a degree and move up the socioeconomic ladder,” BMCC President Anthony Munroe said in a release.

Striving to serve students

Meanwhile, West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) announced it will receive $15 million from Scott – again the largest gift from a single donor in the college’s history. (The gift technically will go to Paducah Junior College, Inc., which is the foundation for WKCTC.)

“MacKenzie Scott exemplifies the incredible and transformative power of philanthropy and long-standing commitment to equity and social justice by providing resources to meet the complex needs of diverse, first-generation, lower socioeconomic and historically marginalized populations,” President Anton Reece said in a release.

Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), congratulated the colleges and their leaders for their work. For example, he noted Reece’s leadership to serve students at WKCTC.

“His active participation in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, including AACC’s Unfinished Business initiative, has been a hallmark of his leadership,” Bumphus said in a WKCTC release after the donations were announced.

Commencement surprise

Indian River State College (IRSC) in Florida will receive $45 million from Scott, which college officials announced at the fall commencement ceremony on Wednesday as the single largest gift in the college’s 60-year history.

“The magnitude of this gift will positively transform lives for generations of IRSC students,” President Timothy Moore said in a release. “It accelerates our ability to redefine our College and reframe the narrative on how American community colleges can better serve all of our constituencies.”

IRSC plans to use the gift to:

  • More quickly expand and grow strategic initiatives that support access and outreach to low-income, first-generation and historically underrepresented populations.
  • Expand essential career training and degree programs that put students into in-demand jobs and encourage entrepreneurism.
  • Embark on capital projects, like the Advanced Workforce Training Complex, that are vital for building workforces.
  • Develop critical partnerships that bring new opportunities and ideas to its region and the nation.

Other AACC-member colleges that will receive a donation from Scott include:

The amounts of the gifts were uncertain at our press time.

Continuing to help

This summer, Scott – the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – donated an initial $1.7 billion to 116 organizations as part of her plan to give away most of her fortune. In her announcement Tuesday on her blog post on Medium.com, Scott said that since July, she asked her advisers to help her accelerate her 2020 giving by supporting people suffering the pandemic’s economic effects.

“They took 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,” she wrote, adding: “We do this research and deeper diligence not only to identify organizations with high potential for impact, but also to pave the way for unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached.”

This article originally appeared in CC Daily.

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