Friday, February 23

Spelman, a Historically Black Women’s College, Receives $100 Million Gift

Spelman College, the women’s school in Atlanta, announced on Thursday that it had received a $100 million donation, which its officials called the largest-ever single gift to a historically Black college.

The gift comes from Ronda E. Stryker, a trustee of Spelman, and her husband, William D. Johnston, chairman of the wealth management company Greenleaf Trust. Ms. Stryker serves as director of the medical equipment company Stryker Corporation, which was founded by her grandfather.

In an announcement, Spelman College said that $75 million of the gift had been earmarked for scholarships, and that the remaining money would go toward improving student housing and developing an academic focus on public policy and democracy.

In a statement, Spelman’s president, Helene Gayle, said the college was “invigorated and inspired” by the couple’s generosity, adding, “This gift is a critical step in our school’s mission to eliminate financial barriers to starting and finishing a Spelman education.”

Billionaires known for their education philanthropy, Ms. Stryker and her husband had previously donated $30 million to the college.

Along with her husband, Ms. Stryker, a former special education teacher in Kalamazoo, Mich., also endowed a medical school at Western Michigan University, a school that the couple attended, and made a major gift to Harvard. Ms. Stryker has served as a trustee of Spelman College since 1997.

Ms. Stryker could not be reached for comment. But in a statement, she said: “It’s important to me that all women be provided an opportunity to explore their talents, challenge their self-doubts and realize the power of achieving individual success.”

Spelman is one of only two all women, historically Black colleges and universities.

Philanthropists have increasingly focused on H.B.C.U.s and other Black nonprofit organizations after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which ignited a national reckoning on race.

Last week, the United Negro College Fund announced that it had received a $100 million grant from the Lilly Endowment that would be used to fund 37 Black colleges, including Spelman and its companion men’s school, Morehouse College.

The two colleges were also among those that had received major gifts from the philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who has donated more than $500 million to H.B.C.U.s in recent years. In 2020, Reed Hastings, co-founder of Netflix, and his wife, Patty Quillin, also donated $120 million to Spelman, Morehouse and the United Negro College Fund.

Spelman and Morehouse are among the better-known and most prestigious of the about 100 American colleges regarded as historically Black, a designation meaning that the schools were formed to educate Black students before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when many colleges and universities barred their admission.