PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — Stunned and speechless.
Those are the words President Ruth J. Simmons of Prairie View A&M University used to describe the phone call she received recently. She had been talking with writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott on a non-university related matter and said she had no idea Scott was preparing to donate money to the university.
Scott's assistant called President Simmons and gave her the good news. Scott was gifting Prairie View A&M University $50 million that would be used at her discretion to support the needs of the university. It is the largest gift in the university's 144-year history.
"I was stunned and, for a time, speechless," Simmons said. "At first, I thought I had surely misheard the amount and I asked them to repeat it. They clarified it would be 50. Five-zero million."
According to a press release from Prairie View A&M, $10 million will be used to create the Panther Success Grant Program. This program is designed to help juniors and seniors who are financially strapped due to COVID-19. The money will also be used for financial aid over the next several years, to work in conjunction with other financial aid for students.
"This is a historic gift for Prairie View, coming at a time when the University had already decided and begun to invest heavily in key areas to strengthen its academic programs and improve student success," Simmons said.
The rest of the funds will be added to the university's endowment to aid with academic needs and faculty positions, recruitment, development and improve undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships. The university's $95 million endowment will increase to almost $130 million, making it one of the largest endowments at a Historically Black College or University, according to the press release.