Oprah donates $13 million to Morehouse College

Oprah Winfrey announced a donation of $13 million to continue the scholarship program she started at Morehouse College.

Winfrey made the announcement on October 7 while visiting the college for the 30th anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Scholars Program, Morehouse said in a news release. Her latest gift to the college raised her total contribution to $25 million, the “largest endowment in the College’s history.”

The college shared a video of the announcement, which caused an outburst of cheers from the staff, faculty, and students attending the anniversary celebration.

“Seeing you young Oprah Winfrey scholars here today has moved me deeply. I am so proud of you. I am proud of everybody in attendance at this school who is seeking to know more clearly who you are, the value you hold, and how you will share that value with the rest of the world,” Winfrey said.

“I was really surprised to learn that it has been 30 years since I made that $12 million donation to Morehouse, and today, I would like to add $13 million to that.”

At the event, Winfrey said she donated to Morehouse back in 1989 because “the College has a ‘moral core’ and mission to develop servant leaders focused on excellence,” according to the news release.

“I felt that the very first time I came here,” Winfrey said in a statement. “The money was an offering to support that in these young men."

"I understand that African American men are an endangered species. They are so misunderstood. They are so marginalized. Where and when I can lend support to try to change that image, I do. That is what Morehouse is doing. It is saying ‘This is who we really are.’”

During the celebration, 47 scholars from the program honored Winfrey with a rose ceremony and a song. The college also unveiled a watercolor portrait of the philanthropist to acknowledge her support.

“Spent a day marinating in Black excellence with these gorgeous, promising, young men at @Morehouse. They honored me with roses, a song, and a portrait for a scholarship fund I set up 30 years ago. Can’t wait to see what they do with their future,” Winfrey tweeted on October 8.

Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said Winfrey’s scholarship program has funded the education of almost 600 scholars since 1989. Thomas said he was “grateful” for Winfrey’s generous donation.

“I’m grateful to Oprah Winfrey for her generosity,” said 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 donation comes almost a month after billionaire investor Robert F. Smith donated $34 million to the new Morehouse College Student Success Program to help pay off the student loan debt for the college’s class of 2019 and the loan debt of the students’ parents.

Smith vowed to settle the student loan debt for nearly 400 spring graduates during his commencement speech back in May.

“Robert F. Smith, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, and his family have donated $34 million to the new Morehouse College Student Success Program to pay off the loans that students and parents of the Class of 2019 accumulated to fund a Morehouse education,” the college wrote in the news release.

During his speech, Smith told the all-male graduating class that he is sure they will pay it forward one day.

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” he said at the time. “We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”

Thomas called Smith’s donation a “life-changing” gift for the students at the college and their families.

“This liberation gift from Robert Smith — the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education — will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families,” Thomas said in a previous statement.

“It is our hope that our graduates will use their newfound financial freedom to pursue their career goals, to lead and serve the community, and to remember the spirit of the gift given to them by paying it forward to support the education of future classes of Morehouse Men.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.