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Alcorn State gets generous donation

LORMAN — Alcorn State University announced recently it had received a monetary gift “more than double the size” of the school’s current endowment. 

The $25 million gift — the largest in the school’s 150-year history — is part of $4.1 billion given this year by American novelist and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire index, is the richest woman in the world with an estimated net worth of $60 billion.

“This gift is truly transformational and we are humbled by Ms. Scott’s generosity,” Alcorn President Felecia M. Nave said. “It will more than double the size of our endowment. The gift will allow the university to enhance its academic offerings and make much-needed investments to continue Alcorn’s mission as the nation’s first public, historically black, land-grant university.”

Scott announced her pandemic-era philanthropy Tuesday. She described the coronavirus pandemic as “a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and noted it has been worse for women, people of color and those living in poverty.

“Meanwhile,” she wrote, “it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.”

After donating $1.68 billion to 116 nonprofits, universities, community development groups and legal organizations last July, Scott asked a team of advisers to help her “accelerate” her 2020 giving with immediate help to those financially gutted by the pandemic.

She said the team used a data-driven approach, identifying organizations with strong leadership and results, specifically in communities with high food insecurity, racial inequity and poverty rates, “and low access to philanthropic capital.”

Scott and her team started with 6,490 organizations, researched 822 and put 438 “on hold for now,” waiting for more details about their impact, management and how they treat employees or community members.

In total, 384 organizations in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., will share $4,158,500,000 in gifts, including food banks, emergency relief funds “and support services for those most vulnerable.” Other organizations address “long-term systemic inequities that have been deepened by the crisis,” such as debt relief, employment training, credit and financial services for under-resourced communities and education for historically marginalized and underserved people. The money will also support legal defense funds “that take on institutional discrimination.”

“This extraordinary gift recognizes the institution’s longstanding commitment to providing access to affordable and equitable educational opportunities,” Nave said. “A significant number of Alcorn’s students are the first in their families to attend college and Ms. Scott’s pivotal gift in these uncertain times will help ensure that students have access to a life-changing education.

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