Spelman College, a private women’s college in Atlanta, has just received the largest single donation to any historically Black college in history.
The historic gift comes from businesswoman and Spelman trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston, a chairman of the wealth management fund Greenleaf Trust.
“We are invigorated and inspired by this incredible act of generosity,” said Dr. Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College 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.”
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is one of just two historically Black women’s colleges, the other being Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. It consistently ranks highly on national lists of liberal arts colleges, and has been recognized by The National Science Foundation as the nation’s top producer of Black women who earn PhDs in the sciences. Notable alumni include “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker and business leader Rosalind Brewer.
Stryker, director of medical technology company Stryker Corporation, has served as a trustee of the college since 1997. This is not the first record-breaking check she’s made out to Spelman. In 2018, Stryker and her husband donated $30 million – the largest gift the college had ever received from living donors – to help build an arts center.
“Ronda Stryker has been staunchly committed to the mission and ideals of Spelman College for more than 20 years,” the college’s former president, Mary Schmidt Campbell, said in a statement in 2018. “She has been an unstinting advocate for our students and has supported a wide range of strategic initiatives, critical to Spelman’s long term sustainability and the success of our students.”
The billionaire couple has also funded the expansion of Spelman’s study abroad program, a donation which has allowed the college to send more Black students abroad than any other baccalaureate in the country, according to its website.
Seventy-five percent of the couple’s recent donation will be pumped into scholarships for future students, “helping Spelman College continue to attract the best and brightest students, while working to remove any financial barriers that prevent qualified students from enrolling at Spelman,” according to a press release.
The remaining quarter will go toward student housing improvements, as well as the development of an academic program centered around public policy and democracy.
“We can’t thank Ronda Stryker enough for her selflessness and support as both a trustee and friend,” said Gayle. “There’s no doubt that Spelman College is better because of her.”