On January 18th, 2024 Spelman College made history by receiving a historic donation of $100 million from a Spelman trustee, philanthropist and businesswoman Ronda Stryker, and her husband William Johnston. What made this so special, is that the funds are not only the largest in Spelman history, but the donation is the largest individual monetary gift given to an HBCU. For Spelman students, this appeared to be a normal Tuesday morning convocation in Sisters’. However, upon arrival, there were cameras everywhere and the president of trustees gave a presentation, announcing that Spelman had made history, acknowledging the donor. Students then watched our school’s president, Dr. Helene Gayle, on the “CBS Morning News.” During the celebration, the student body was given 100 million shirts to represent the donation, and on the 100th anniversary of Spelman Baptists Seminary becoming Spelman College, students also had the opportunity to take pictures in the photo booth with desserts and pastries following suit.
Many things were brought to the forefront once we received the donation. There was some commotion about how the money will be distributed and to what causes the funds will go. When asking around my college’s campus, I’ve gotten different yet similar opinions on what the student body thinks about the donation and where it should be placed. Neriah Carsen, a freshman at Spelman College, said, “I would like for the money to be put into housing, students need easier access to housing. I’d also like to see the money put back into the student body through scholarships or lowering the increasing tuition.” Sloan Louis, another 2027 student, agreed with Carsen’s sentiment regarding scholarship opportunities, but also shed light on freshman forms, encouraging that an upgrade would be advantageous. Louis said, “I think the most important thing is just making sure the student’s needs are met.” Spelman is an amazing place to network, form a sisterhood, and overall have access to a wide variety of opportunities for your passions. Unfortunately, some students can’t take advantage of such an opportunity, due to circumstances and limited, competitive funding opportunities.
However, Spelman College has acknowledged student questions with a general statement of how the money will be split. Dr. Gayle has said $75 million of the $100 million will go to endowed student scholarships, which will aid in assisting Spelman College in attracting high-achieving students while simultaneously reducing the financial barrier that prevents a lot of qualified students from enrolling or remaining enrolled at Spelman. The other $25 million, is said to improve student housing and provide flexible funding to meet the needs of the student body.
The Spelman student body shared similar feelings about our school making history. We are ecstatic but have questions and needs to be met. As a first-year student at Spelman College, I am hopeful and excited to see change poured into my beautiful HBCU. I would love to see more internship opportunities no matter your major and area of study.
By Journey Powell, First Year, Spelman College
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