Oprah Winfrey made a surprise announcement to donate $13 million to Morehouse College.
Winfrey visited Morehouse last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program, which she initially funded with $12 million. Now, she has donated an additional $13 million to continue the scholarship fund. Combined, Winfrey’s $25 million gift is the largest endowment in the college’s history.
“I was really surprised to learn that it’s been 30 years since I made that $12 million donation to Morehouse, so today, I’d like to add $13 million to that,” Winfrey said.
Winfrey said she gave to Morehouse in 1989 because she believes that “the College has a ‘moral core’ and mission to develop servant leaders focused on excellence—something that is similar to the teachings she learned as a child.”
Winfrey’s scholarship program has funded the education of almost 600 scholars.
“I’m grateful to Oprah Winfrey for her generosity,” said Morehouse President David Thomas. “I am also feeling hopeful for Morehouse and what it has garnered in terms of philanthropic support with gifts like Oprah’s and Robert Smith’s. I am hopeful that this will also get others to step up with their support of Morehouse, but even more broadly, historically black colleges and universities.”
Winfrey’s gift follows a $34 million gift from billionaire Robert Smith, who announced in May the ultimate graduation gift: a grant to pay off student loan debt for all Morehouse graduates in the Class of 2019. That gift just got bigger because now Smith will also pay for Parent PLUS Loans, which are federal student loans that parents borrow to help fund their children’s higher education. Smith is the founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm focused on software, data and technology.
On average, according to Morehouse, its students graduate with between $35,000 and $40,000 of student loan debt. The student loan debt repayment is expected to be completed by Spring 2020.