Lehman College, Manhattan CUNY school receive $60 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Lehman College Hosts 51st Commencement|Lehman College Hosts 51st Commencement
Photo courtesy of Lehman College|Photo courtesy of Lehman College

By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

The Bronx’s Lehman College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) were each given a $30 million gift from author and philanthropist Mackenzie Scott.

Over the last four months, Scott has donated a total of $4,158,500,000 to 384 nonprofits and educational institutions which would directly help those being negatively affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Scott, who is the ex-wife of the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos, is the third-richest woman in the world with an estimated net worth of $55.1 billion, according to Forbes.

The enormous donations come during a precarious time for CUNY. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the city public university system reported a 5.1 % drop in enrollment, Gotham Gazette reported. Earlier this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo also chose to withhold 20% of CUNY’s $2 billion state funding worsening the system’s already tight budget. In order to ease budget woes, CUNY administration decided to lay off 2,800 adjunct professors and part-time staffers.

“They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital,” Scott wrote in a Medium post listing all 384 gift recipients.

“These 384 carefully selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day,” the post continues. “They help by delivering vital services, and also through the profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued, and trusted by another human being.”

The donations are the single largest gifts in either college’s history and one of the largest gifts ever given to the City University of New York (CUNY). Lehman College leaders will work with the Lehman College Foundation, the Office of Institutional Advancement and college stakeholders to work out details and timing of the gift, President Daniel Lemons in a statement. 

At BMCC the donation will be used to create the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation which will accelerate current efforts and create new models to address race, equity and inclusion; gender equity and related issues; economic mobility; innovation in education; the impact and effects of the pandemic; social responsibility and the college’s strategic plan and priorities, according to a statement.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of Ms. MacKenzie Scott and profoundly grateful she has chosen to put her faith in the abilities of Lehman College and CUNY to help realize her vision to make a difference in the lives of New Yorkers impacted by the pandemic,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez.

“This ground-breaking gift will greatly expand ongoing efforts by Lehman and the University to extend much-needed relief to our resilient students by creating educational pathways and career opportunities to help them regain their footing and bring them closer to fulfilling their educational goals. A gift of this size at the end of a year as challenging as 2020 brings us renewed hope for the possibilities. “

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