IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Spelman College to receive $100 million, largest single donation to an HBCU

Billionaires Ronda Stryker and William Johnston will donate $100 million to the women’s college.
Students at the Spelman College campus
Students at the Spelman College campus in Atlanta on Oct. 13, 2023.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Spelman College in Atlanta will receive the largest single financial donation ever made to a historically Black college or university, the school announced on Thursday. 

Billionaires Ronda Stryker and William Johnston will donate $100 million to the women’s college. Stryker is a member of Harvard Medical School’s board of fellows and a member of the college’s board of trustees. She is also the granddaughter of the founder of Stryker Corp., a medical device company. Her husband, Johnston, is the founder and board chairman of Greenleaf Trust, a wealth management firm in Michigan. 

The college is both “invigorated and inspired” by the generous donation, Spelman College’s President Dr. Helene Gayle said in a statement.

“This gift is a critical step in our school’s mission to eliminate financial barriers to starting and finishing a Spelman education,” Gayle added. “We can’t thank Ronda Stryker enough for her selflessness and support as both a trustee and friend. There’s no doubt that Spelman College is better because of her.”

Spelman is a private liberal arts college. The college has received other significantly large donations in the past, including a $10 million donation last February from Rosemary K. and John W. Brown to support the construction of its Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., Center for Innovation & the Arts, which is scheduled to open this fall.

Most of Stryker and Johnston’s donation, $75 million, will fund endowed scholarships for future students, while the remaining $25 will be used to “develop an academic focus on public policy and democracy, improve student housing and provide flexible funding to meet critical strategic needs,” according to a statement. 

Stryker said she cares deeply for the sisterhood the college has created and that education is powerful and transformational for women.

“I have seen first-hand the enormous impact financial investment has generated for Spelman’s highly talented students,” Stryker said in a statement shared with NBC News. “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.”

Several Spelman students and alumni shared their excitement about the historic donation on social media.

“Congrats to my beloved Spelman College on a $100 million dollar donation!,” one student tweeted. “Incredible!”

“THY NAME WE PRAISE BECAUSE ,” one Spelman alumna tweeted.

HBCUs have small endowments compared with other colleges, but have seen an increase in donations since the racial justice protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Spelman, which has about 2,400 students, has been relatively well-funded though, reporting an endowment of $571 million in 2021.

Stryker has been a Spelman trustee since 1997. She and Johnston gave Spelman $30 million in 2018. They also gave $100 million in 2011 to create the Homer Stryker medical school at Western Michigan University.

The Spelman donation comes a week after the United Negro College Fund announced a donation of $100 million from the Lilly Endowment Inc. That gift will go toward a pooled endowment for the 37 historically Black colleges and universities that form UNCF’s membership, including Spelman, with the goal of boosting the schools’ long-term financial stability. The fund is trying to raise $370 million for a shared endowment.

Other big donations to HBCUs in recent years include the $560 million MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave in 2020 to 22 Black colleges, the UNCF and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, another fundraising arm. Netflix founder Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, split $120 million among the United Negro College Fund, Spelman and Morehouse College. Former New York mayor and entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg pledged $100 million for student aid at the four historically Black medical schools.

For more from NBC BLK, sign up for our weekly newsletter.