On October 7th, Oprah Winfrey announced a new $13 million donation to Morehouse College in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of her already-established Oprah Winfrey Scholars endowment fund, which began as a $1 million gift in 1989, and has since accumulated $12 million over the past three decades. The fund has helped nearly 600 students receive a quality education at one of America’s top institutions.
Thanks to her most recent commitment, the total endowed gift now stands at $25 million, crowning Winfrey as the largest contributor to a scholarship fund in Morehouse history. When asked what motivated her to continue investing in the lives of young Black men through her scholarship program, Winfrey stated in a press release shared by Morehouse that “[Black] men are an endangered species. They are so misunderstood. They are so marginalized.”
“Where and when I can lend support to try to change that image, I do,” she continued. “That is what Morehouse is doing.” She went on to explain how proud she was to support Morehouse’s “mission to develop servant leaders focused on excellence.”
Morehouse President David A. Thomas shared with Atlanta’s WXIA 11 Alive his appreciation for this historic gift and urged others to follow suit.
“I’m grateful to Oprah Winfrey for her generosity. I am also feeling hopeful for Morehouse and what it has garnered in terms of philanthropic support with gifts like Oprah’s and Robert Smith’s. I am hopeful that this will also get others to step up with their support of Morehouse, but even more broadly, historically black colleges and universities.”
Indeed, historically Black colleges and universities need continued support. Philanthropic celebrities and businesspersons like Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith have supported these institutions for as long as they have been in existence. And while the average individual won’t have millions of dollars to spare, there are ways to support students struggling to meet unpaid tuition balances.
Atlanta’s popular Slutty Vegan restaurant founder Pinky Cole, for example, is a proud graduate of Clark Atlanta University (an HBCU whose campus neighbors fellow, Black-centered institutions Morehouse and Spelman). She and fellow alumna Stacey Lee made headlines after partnering to pay the balances of 30 CAU seniors, clearing the financial hurdles that would keep them from graduating.
As the cost of college attendance continues to rise and the wealth gap continues to widen, Black families face an even greater challenge in financing their child’s education. Historically Black institutions continue to seek other funding sources such as state, federal, and grant funds while also finding ways to keep the practice alive of influential Black leaders generously supporting bright young students in their scholastic endeavors.
To thank Winfrey for her longstanding commitment, 47 Morehouse students (who she affectionately dubbed her “sons”) hosted a special tribute ceremony on October 7th where she was presented with roses, serenaded with a special song, and witnessed the unveiling of an oil portrait commissioned to memorialize her impact.