UNCF-member institution LeMoyne-Owen College, the only Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Memphis, Tenn., has been named the beneficiary of an endowment of $40 million, one of the largest gifts to any HBCU and the largest for the school in its 158-year history. The endowment was created from assets from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, an organization that works to strengthen the community through philanthropy.
Like other colleges across the country, LeMoyne-Owen College is working to ensure their students, many of whom are first-generation college attendees, return to school following the pandemic. Recent initiatives include partnerships to provide Wi-fi access and electronic devices to students for remote learning, emergency assistance for displaced students and scholarships for students in need.
“Even before the pandemic, there has been transformative work happening at LeMoyne-Owen College,” Bob Fockler, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis president says. “The college offers unique opportunities for African American students, and we are committed to ensuring that work continues to benefit students and their families for years to come.”
The endowment fund is a major stepping stone on the path toward advancements in the quality education the college can provide for a larger number students, at a critical time when HBCUs nationally face unique funding challenges and equity issues. LeMoyne-Owen College has the lowest tuition rate of any of the private colleges in the state of Tennessee; nearly 90 percent of students qualify for financial aid or currently receive Federal Pell Grants.
“Many of our students and their families were already struggling, even before COVID-19. Recent demonstrations have heightened our awareness and commitment to do more to address the inequality and racism that has led to their financial challenges and the critical need to create a more equal and just world,” says Dr. Carol Johnson Dean, interim president of LeMoyne-Owen College. “The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has generously and courageously helped LeMoyne-Owen College take a huge step forward in educating our future leaders and providing a stronger financial foundation from which to grow.”
“UNCF expresses sincere gratitude to the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis for this historic gift to LeMoyne-Owen College. In times like the present, it’s encouraging to see philanthropists who continue to recognize the needs of the HBCUs’ vitality, communities they serve and step in to help eliminate financial challenges,” commented UNCF President and CEO, Dr. Michael L. Lomax. “LeMoyne-Owen is a college that generates $40 million annually in economic impact to the Memphis community. Philanthropic investments like these to HBCUs make an enormous difference in not just the lives of the students who are greatly impacted, but to the communities in which they live and work.”
This beneficial gift allows unrestricted use of the funds for purposes determined by LeMoyne-Owen College. The money will be distributed to LeMoyne-Owen College annually in an amount equal to 5% of the average balance of the Fund. Annual distributions will be made as long as the college maintains its active nonprofit status and continues to perform its mission as publicly stated.