Christmas came early for Delaware State University, and Santa was wearing a dress.
MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced today that she is giving Delaware’s historically black college and university $20 million to use as it pleases.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with her gift,” DSU President Tony Allen said in a news conference today, earlier referring to the school offering as “a good investment with a sound return.”
“This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” Scott wrote in a post on Medium. “Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty.”
Scott said that she has decided to accelerate her 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis.
“The result over the last four months has been $4,158,500,000 in gifts to 384 organizations across all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.,” she wrote.
The YMCA of Delaware was also one of the 384 recipients, receiving $10 million, its biggest ever.
MacKenzie’s donation is also the biggest in Delaware State’s 130-year history.
“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,” Allen said in a statement. “This gift will allow us to invest strategically to continue and expand that historic mission.”
Devona Williams, chair of the university’s board of trustees, called the gift “transformational” for the Dover school.
Scott’s largesse is notable not only for its size, but its intentions. Most big donors have very specific goals for how, why and why their donations can be used. She did not.
DSU plans to use the money in four ways. They are:
- Funding the Global Institute for Equity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, which will include the Center for Neighborhood Revitalization Research, the Center for Global Africa, the Academy of Trauma Healing Research and the University Center for Economic Development & International Trade.
- Increasing resources available to Academic Affairs, which will include the creation of several endowed chairs.
- Supporting the acquisition of Wesley College, keeping the university’s pledge that such funds will not be taken from the university’s annual operating budget.
- Increasing the university’s endowment.
When asked about the acquisition of Wesley, Allen said that he has hopes for a health sciences program in downtown Dover.
Scott’s gift comes amidst a lot of other great news. DSU recently received a $1 million grant from J.P. Morgan Chase to fund an academic program that pays interns on the job; and $1.5 million from the Rockefeller Foundation for the COVID Testing/Human Genome Research Lab on Kirkwood Highway, which already has a $5 million grant from New Castle County.
Scott, who is worth an estimated $60-plus billion, signed “The Giving Pledge,” a commitment shared by a growing number of philanthropists — including Melinda and Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerman and Priscilla Chan, and Richard Branson — who promise to donate at least 50% of their wealth to charity.
She gave $1.7 billion away in July to organizations that included about 10 HBCUs.
For this round, Scott said that her advisers looked at 6,490 organizations to select the latest 384 beneficiaries.
“If you’re craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country,” she ended her post. “Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.”