$20M gift is largest in Tuskegee University’s nearly 140-year history

Updated: Jul. 28, 2020 at 8:31 PM CDT
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TUSKEGEE, Ala. (WSFA) - One of the world’s richest women has donated $20 million to Tuskegee University, making it the largest single gift in the university’s nearly 140-year history.

Tuskegee University President Dr. Lily D. McNair accepted the gift Tuesday from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Scott, who was previously married to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, received billions of dollars when the couple divorced in 2019. She later promised to give away half or more of her assets to charity in her lifetime or will.

And, according to CNN Business, she has donated $1.7 billion so far to a variety of organizations and causes.

“This gift comes at an opportune time for us,” said McNair, who has led the institution since July 2018. “We are about to launch a five-year strategic planning effort and, with this investment from Ms. Scott, we will be able to unfold the next phase of our mission in ways we simply could not have considered before.”

The gift, an unrestricted donation, will go toward building the private HBCU’s reputation as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education. McNair said she sees the funds going to support four broads areas. Those include increasing student access, strengthening signature programs, advancing research and innovation, and preserving the university’s legacy.

“We will focus on student scholarships, faculty and curriculum development, interdisciplinary programs, and campus infrastructure improvements,” she said. “The gift will allow us to become the Tuskegee of the 21st century – a university that integrates knowledge, leadership and service to solve the problems of a global, modern society.”

Scott and McNair have never met but both are Princeton University alumnae. McNair earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the institution while Scott, who has published two novels, studied under Pulitzer Prize author Toni Morrison.

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