Tag Archives: HBCU

The Million Dollar Gift Club: 2018’s Seven Figure Donations To HBCUs Led By Spelman College


An uptick overall, but more importantly a bounce back for HBCUs is how 2018 would be described in the land of the big philanthropy. The Center for Philanthropy reported 497 gifts of $1 million or more to all colleges and universities. After a sluggish few years, HBCUs have seen the most $1 million plus gifts since 2014. In terms of pure dollar amount, this year’s class has bested them all since HBCU Money began tracking the data six years ago with $43 million combined among the HBCUs obtaining gifts.

High-quality donors (who give consistently and over their lifetime will probably give six to seven figures of donations) continue to show up for HBCUs, but still not representative of HBCUs presence in America’s higher education landscape. While HBCUs represent three percent of the country’s colleges, this year only 1.4 percent of the 497 $1m plus donations found their way to an HBCU. Tranformative donors (who can change the paradigm of an entire institution with one donation) continue to elude HBCUs all together, while PWI/HWCUs landed 13 donations of $100 million plus in 2018.

The gap this year between top seven PWI/HWCU gifts totaled $2.94 billion while HBCUs as mentioned totaled $43 million or a $68 to $1 ratio.

1. Ronda E. Stryker & William D. Johnsont (pictured) – $30 million
Recipient: Spelman College
Source of Wealth: Health products

2. Seth & Beth Klarman  – $5 million                                                        Recipient: Spelman College
Source of Wealth: Finance

3. Roland Parrish – $3 million
Recipient: Fisk University
Source of Wealth: Food & beverage

4. Gene & Patsy Ponder – $2 million
Recipient: Wiley College
Source of Wealth: Manufacturing

5. Kenya & Rainbow Barris (tie) – $1 million                                                        Recipient: Clark Atlanta University
Source of Wealth: Entertainment

5. Irvin & Pamela Reid (tie) – $1 million
Recipient: Howard University
Source of Wealth: Education

5. Denzel Washington (tie) – $1 million
Recipient: Wiley College
Source of Wealth: Media & entertainment

 

Source: Chronicle of Philanthropy

 

 

Advertisements

Do HBCU Alumni Associations Need A Big Frying Pan?


This article is a speech given by the late President Emeritus Dr. A.I. Thomas (pictured below) in 2007 to the Prairie View A&M University National Alumni Association. Dr. Thomas was the longest serving president in Prairie View A&M University history and arguably its greatest. The speech has been altered to address all HBCU alumni associations, but at the time was given to the Prairie View A&M National Alumni Association. His vision for the scale and power HBCU alumni associations could wield remains unprecedented – and still unimplemented. Dr. Thomas understood both the power of institutionalism and the importance of Pan-Africanism as a means to empowerment and liberation for African America and the African Diaspora. His speech is the full embodiment of those ideals and values from which he presided, believed, and lived to the fullest during his life. Hopefully, shining light on his words will reignite the flame that needs to and must burn for not only our survival, but our success.

By Dr. A.I. Thomas, President Emeritus – Prairie View A&M University

Since I am speaking to you at a luncheon meeting, it seems appropriate that I ask, “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations Need a Big Frying Pan?”

Surely, you have heard the story of the HBCU Alumni who were fishing on the lake. One of the HBCU Alumni noticed that every time his classmate caught a little fish, he placed it in his take home basket. Whenever his classmate caught a big fish, he threw the big fish back into the lake. After watching his classmate put about twelve little fish in his take home basket and threw about twelve big fish back into the lake, he asked his classmate, “Why do you always throw the big fish back into the lake?” His friend announced with a knowing smile, “Ray, I don’t keep the big fish because I only have a small frying pan.”

Members of HBCU National Alumni Associations, I am sure that you would agree that it may be time for Ray to get a big frying pan or get a big skillet.

  • Yes, it is important to have a dance. It fits a little skillet.
  • Yes, it is important to have a party. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a golf tournament. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have a bus tour. It fits a little frying pan.
  • Yes, it is important to have this luncheon. It fits a little frying pan.

Let me encourage you to consider at least five big fish for your HBCU National Alumni Association.

For these five big fish, HBCU National Alumni Associations will need a big frying pan or a big skillet. Let us quit throwing the big fish back into the lake of opportunity.

The first big fish HBCU National Alumni Associations should place in a big skillet, in the years ahead is the creation of a:

think tank

Within the membership of HBCU National Alumni Associations there are some of the brightest minds in the nation.

There is a need to bring together not more than 50 people and have them “think out” an agenda for the future of HBCU National Alumni Associations.

Tavis Smiley has laid out a: Covenant with Black America.

The Urban League has laid out the State of Black America 2019.

William D. Wright has laid out what he believes in: “Crisis of the Black Intellectual.”

“Think Tank” is a term that has gained popularity since the 1950s.

Each day you hear ideas from more than 25 “Think Tanks” which are mentioned in the mainstream news. These “Think Tanks” have programs which give direction to the ideas of each group.

Conservative “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • American Enterprise Institute
  • Heritage Foundation

Liberal “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • Brookings Institute
  • Economic Policy Institute

Non-Partisan “Think Tanks” lay out their programs and ideas

  • The Cato Institute
  • The Ayn Institute

There are governing “Think Tanks”, Chinese, European, Russian, and other international “Think Tanks.”

Each one of these “Think Tanks” lays out its philosophy, purpose, strategic plan, and road map for the future. A “Think Tank” then gets its supporters behind its programs.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia web site states, “A Think Tank is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research advocacy for a central purpose.”

HBCU National Alumni Associations must create a “Think Tank” to:

  1. Guide its future;
  2. Centralize its philosophy, mission, purpose, goals, and programs;
  3. Develop consensus in its membership;
  4. Influence the power structure to accept its programs; and
  5. Give orderly direction to the growth and development of the HBCU National Alumni Association.

The results of the “Think Tank” would establish a clear direction to foundations, politicians, financial power brokers, legislators, etc.

The Second “Big Fish” recommendation for HBCU National Alumni Associations is

CAPITALISM

We live in a capitalistic society. All of us must understand money. The value of money! The use of money!

Each of you know the value of a little money – over the years, all of you have acquired some money, many of you have acquired “Big Money.” The National Alumni Associations must begin to understand the value of owning, acquisition, and the ability to access “Big Money.”

Consideration should be given to the development of your HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group.

Most of the alumni in this room have at least $10,000 or more conveniently resting in money market accounts at low interest rates. Some of you have $10,000 or more earning less than 1% in checking accounts. Using highly qualified financial counselors or advisors, 100 members of the Alumni Association could be issued $10,000 guaranteed membership certificates in the HBCU National Alumni Association Financial Group. Immediately, the HBCU National Alumni Association would have an equity position of $1,000,000. This million dollar equity position could be leveraged into a $20,000,000 position to: 1) underwrite real estate, 2) owning a pasta factory, 3) venture capital or other financial ventures. If there were not so many hardcore Baptists in the audience, I would recommend a $20,000,000 Wild Turkey Whiskey or Johnny Walker Scotch distributorship. In five  years this $20,000,000 could be leveraged into a $100,000,000 equity position. For this $100,000,000 fish HBCU National Alumni will need a big frying pan.

The second recommendation  for the use of a “big frying pan” is to develop an on-line fund-raising program. Most of you are familiar with what Governor Howard Dean did with on-line fund raising program in the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign. He went after $5 and $10 contributions from the small contributors. Barack Obama is a leader in the current political campaign using on-line fund raising. This on-line fund-raising is driving the current political campaigns into the largest bounty in the history of the United States political fund raising.

A $10,000 investment to construct a high quality alumni web site promoting the value of higher education for African-American youth would reach alumni, ex-students, and individuals interested in helping youth go to college.

Ten thousand alumni plus ten thousand hits from non-alumni would be 20,000 contributors. If these 20,000 contributed an average $100 per donor, HBCU National Alumni Associations would need a frying pan big enough to hold $2,000,000.

Get industry to match the $2,000,000 from individual donors and your HBCU National Alumni Association would need a big frying pan to fry this fish.

Alumni and others interested in the education of  youth and in HBCUs could be encouraged to give a $25 per month bank draft. Ten thousand bank drafts at $25 per person is $25,000 per month or $300,000 per year.

This is Capitalism. This is the American Way. The day of the nickel cup of coffee  is over, never to come again. Starbucks is selling coffee for $1.85 and is making a fortune from a global customer base.

These are only two ideas relating to “Capitalism.” HBCU National Alumni Associations will be able to develop many more and better ideas related to “Capitalism.”

The third “Big Fish” recommendation HBCU National Alumni Associations must consider is

RESPONSIBILITY FOR COMMUNITY

40 years ago, the Kerner Report identified “Two Americas, Separate but Unequal.” 

When Katrina moved the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the below sea level bowl in New Orleans, we saw the two Americas. We saw individuals, families, and communities like the Ninth Ward, made up of blacks, Hispanics, and whites driven from hidden dens of poverty into the depths of despair. We saw city, state, and federal officials fail to respond to the needs of the “unequal” communities.

Dr. Ron Walters, an African American Social Scientist at the University of Maryland published a paper titled, “No. 1 Statistics on Blacks in the United States.” Among his No. 1 conditions are:

  • No. 1 in the poverty rate
  • No. 1 in the rate of incarceration
  • No. 1 in victims of homicide
  • No. 1 in victims of hate crimes
  • No. 1 in mortgage denial rates
  • No. 1 in obesity and diabetes rates
  • No. 1 in teachers in neighborhood classrooms with less than three years experience
  • No. 1 in receiving the death sentence
  • No. 1 in the unemployment line
  • No. 1 in suspensions and expulsions
  • No. 2 in percentage of Americans without health care
  • No. 1 in teenage pregnancy
  • No. 1 in HIV among black women
  • No. 1 in still born deaths

You ask…How can we get to be No. 1 in the positive aspects of community? The response maybe in how we got to be

  • No. 1 in collegiate basketball
  • No. 1 in pro basketball with 20 year old players making millions of dollars
  • No. 1 in pro football
  • No. 1 in Hip Hop music
  • No. 1 in the music industry

Tavis Smiley recently published a New York Times Best Seller, entitled, “The Covenant.” He listed ten key concerns:

  1. Securing the right to health care and well being
  2. Quality education for all children
  3. Correcting the System of Unequal Justice
  4. Fostering Community Policing
  5. Access to Affordable Neighborhoods
  6. Claiming our Democracy
  7. Strengthening Our Roots
  8. Access to Jobs
  9. Environmental Justice
  10. Closing the Racial Divide

Smiley quotes Dr. Cornel West, “You can’t lead our people if you don’t love our people. You can’t save our people if you won’t serve our people.”

The State of Black America 2007, published by The National Urban League, focused on 10 essays on the plight of young men.

With almost 40% of young black men unemployed of incarcerated, where was the focus on the recent debates by the 20 Democrats and Republicans actively running for President in 2008.

Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a “big frying pan” in order to positively impact communities? Can HBCU National Alumni Associations join with each other and other groups, such as the Urban League, NAACP, 100 Black Men, and other interested organizations to deal with this “Big Fish”? Do we expect the Jewish Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Hispanic Community to fry this fish for us? Do we expect the Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Vietnamese Communities to fry this fish for us?

Do we need to get our own big frying pan and begin to fry our own “Big Fish”?

The renowned black labor leader, A. Phillip Randolph once said:

“At the banquet table of life, there are no reserved seats. You get what you can take and keep what you can hold. If you can’t take anything, you won’t get anything. And if you can’t hold anything, you won’t keep anything. And you can’t take anything without organization.”

Randolph was right. Without organizations like HBCU National Alumni Associations, black folk will never able to take, keep, or hold onto anything, much less the hard fought gains that we have struggled to achieve.

The responsibility of HBCU National Alumni Associations must also extend beyond the city, state, and nation. I am sure each one of you has read Thomas Friedman’s book, The World Is Flat. We no longer live in the Houston or Carthage Community, the Texas or California Community, or the United States Community. Each one of us is wearing clothes made outside of the U.S.A. We are eating food imported from the world or from international communities.

Why not get involved in building communities in Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Ghana. Why not the Bahamas? Why not Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, or Haiti?

Examples of the understanding of “Capitalism” and “Responsible for Community” are reflected in the efforts of the Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc., a Houston organization under the leadership of Rev. KirbyJon Caldwell and a membership organization, in Jamaica, New York, led by Dr. Floyd Flake out of Houston’s Acres Homes Area.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. leveraged its funds with local and national banks. Together with corporate gifts, the result was a major shopping center anchored by a Fiesta Grocery Store. The shopping center has grown near twenty smaller store units. They Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. developed The Power Center Building which includes a large banquet hall and professional offices. The group established the Imani School, a Texas Charter School.

The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. also developed one of the largest residential villages consisting of over two hundred housing units, each appraised from $125,000 to $225,000. The Pyramid Community Development Corporation, Inc. had a big frying pan and demonstrated an understanding of capitalism and responsibility to the community.

Dr. Flakes secured a “big frying pan” in Jamaica, New York. Understanding capitalism and the responsibility for empowering community, his group acquired an entire city block of property which was turned into a shopping strip. His group also developed an education academy.

One of the most pressing problems facing our nation is the energy crisis. HBCU National Alumni Associations working with respective HBCUs could develop the HBCU Energy Research Institute. The institute could conduct research in agriculture, water, wind, business, etc. The institute could conduct research anywhere in the world, in Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, or Kenya. The HBCU Energy Research Institute could lease 20,000 acres of land in Louisiana or Brazil and create ethanol from sugar cane. It could grow switch grass in Africa. It could collect algae from the Atlantic Ocean.

It would be truly wonderful to have such a research institute based in Liberia. This would certainly help the economic recovery of Liberia, the nation of our forefathers.

The organizations which make these types of efforts work do not have the little skillets. They have big frying pans. I encourage you to keep the little pans for parties, dances, golf tournaments, conventions, etc. Can we dare to get some big frying pans and during the next twenty years make a “big difference?”

If you truly understand capitalism, you know that HBCU National Alumni Association members would not necessarily be workers in these projects. The HBCU National Alumni Associations would control capital which hires leadership and management talent to execute each project for the Association.

The fourth “Big Fish” we need to catch certainly needs a “big skillet” or “frying pan”.

INCREASING AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSIONALS

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must take on the responsibility for replacing African American professionals.

African American professionals are declining each year due to age and death.

Who is responsible for replacing the African American Educators, namely, University Presidents, Professors, Superintendents, High School Principals, Vice Principals, and teachers?

Qualified professionals are being imported into the United States from countries all around the world: Nurses from the Philippines, Scientist from Europe, and Engineers from India.

HBCU National Alumni Associations should take on the responsibility of increasing:

  1. Health Professionals (Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, and Dentist,) How many podiatrists are in your community? There are less than 40 African American podiatrist in Texas for a Texas population of 23,507,783 (2007).
  2. Lawyers (Corporate, Immigration)
  3. Bankers (Investment Bankers & Owners)
  4. Professional Trained Ministers
  5. Engineers and Architects
  6. City Planners
  7. Biologists
  8. Physicists
  9. Agricultural Scientists
  10. Agricultural Economists
  11. Military Personnel
  12. Diplomats
  13. Other Professionals

I wish to close with a final suggestion for the need of a big skillet or frying pan.

Perpetuation of HBCU National Alumni Associations by recruiting African American students to attend HBCUs and African American Faculty to work at HBCUs. 

HBCU National Alumni Associations should assist their HBCU in recruiting qualified African American faculty. While diversity in ethnic background should be encouraged and maintained. HBCUs must not lose its historical identity. This identity is essential to maintain balance in the democracy. A pluralist balance in society gives strength to the democracy. Ethnic groups maintain loyalty to their own group identity. The University of Texas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from Yale. The University of St. Thomas would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from non-Catholic institutions. Baylor University would lose its identity if the majority of its faculty came from the University of Punjab. HBCUs will lose its identity if the majority of its faculty is no longer African American.

There was a time when HBCUs could not pay competitive salaries. Faculty came to the HBCU because of loyalty to the philosophy of HBCUs. HBCUs are now paying competitive salaries. The demand for qualified African American faculty and administrators must be met by an active recruitment program of African American professionals.

While diversity is important, there is a need for a faculty and administration to carny on the spirit and traditions of HBCUs.

Recruitment has two parts: Faculty and Students

The HBCU National Alumni Associations must have a student recruitment program throughout their states in key cities and throughout the nation and world.

One of the most ciritical national needs is for professional nurses. HBCU Colleges of Nursing has space to graduate thousands of nurses per years, which is double its present graduation rate. HBCU National Alumni Associations ccould place student center recruiter teams in 50 city sites in each state and 40 in the nation and recruit 2 students from each site and the freshmen nursing enrollment would exceed thousands of students.

This model could be duplicated for recruiting:

  1. Engineers
  2. Elementary School Teachers
  3. Science Teachers
  4. Math Teachers
  5. Reading Teachers
  6. Business Majors
  7. Agriculture Majors
  8. Pre-Med Majors
  9. ROTC Graduates
  10. Others

To accomplish this task, the HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big frying pan – because we are talking about big fish.

There are many big fish which are available to HBCU National Alumni Associations in the economic, political, and other rivers, lakes, streams, and other human endeavor. I pray that each one of you and the entire HBCU National Alumni Association will reflect on this message and look forward to answering the question: “Do HBCU National Alumni Associations need a big skillet with a resounding … YES! I close this visit with the Productive People of HBCUs with two of my favorite statements.

I have given you my best thoughts. If perchance I may have offended anyone please forgive me.

If you have heard me and understood what I said, my words are reflected in the thoughts of Robert Frost when he stated.

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves not step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

On your way home at the close of this convention, please get the biggest skillet you can buy. A big skillet will make a big difference in your life and in the life of the HBCU National Alumni Associations.

 

Will Morehouse’s 2019 Class Be The Greatest Donors In HBCU History? After Robert F. Smith’s Donation, They Better Be


“The results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation.” – Mary R. Beard

By now we have all heard the breaking news, on May 19th in the year of our lord 2019, Robert F. Smith, an angel of God descended upon the sacred grounds of the AUC in Atlanta, Georgia and in his commencement speech to an estimated 400 Morehouse College graduates also pledged to ensure that his family would pay off each and every one of their student loans. The grant is estimated to be a gift valued at $40 million making it the second largest donation to the HBCU community, still trailing Bill and Camille Cosby’s gift of $20 million in 1988 to Spelman College, which adjusted for inflation is valued at $43.2 million today. Stating the obvious, there still has yet to be a gift of $100 million or more in HBCU history, while HWCUs received 13 gifts of $100 million or more in 2018 alone. This is not to take away at all from Mr. Smith’s gift as the reality that the return on investment to HBCUs  on gifts of $10 million or more are often worth a multiplier effect because of the size of our schools, how starved we are for donations of any sort especially major ones, and lastly our schools often being so adept at doing more with less that when we get more it often feels like it maybe overwhelming (it is not, please feel free to give any HBCU $100 million, seriously). But what will this gift mean to the HBCU landscape for the coming generation?

You hear it all the time among recent HBCU graduates and alumni when asked what are some of their primary reasons for not giving back. At the top of the list tends to pertain to the burden of their student loan debt. It is no secret that HBCU students bear a serious burden when it comes to student loan debt in comparison to their HWCU counterparts, especially those counterparts who attend an institution that is among the Top 50 in college endowments. In our 2016-2017 HBCU Graduate Student Loan Report, 86 percent of HBCU graduates finish with student loan debt at a median debt load of $34,131 versus 40 percent of Top 50 college endowment graduates who finish with student loan debt at a median debt load of $24,237. This is due to a mixture of factors, most notably HBCU endowments and familial wealth.

The top 30 college endowments in America control over 50 percent of the nation’s $500 billion college endowment value, while 100 plus HBCUs control less than 1 percent. Combine this with the African/European American wealth gap not moving for 50 years, which according to a Forbes article, “African-Americans had a median wealth of $13,460 in 2016 or only 9.5% of the median wealth of $142,180 of whites”. These major pinpoints make it extremely difficult for HBCU graduates to reduce their student debt loads while matriculating and therefore build wealth after college. The result becomes they are either prolonged before they can become donors or never do and the sword of educated poverty is what they and our institutions fall upon decade after decade with no end in sight.

Morehouse College Class of 2019 though sits in a special position to change the trajectory of not only Morehouse College’s endowment, which we have argued has grossly under performed compared with the likes of Hampton, Spelman, and Howard in its fundraising efforts. This despite the help from the likes of another billionaire, Oprah Winfrey, who herself as put hundreds of Morehouse Men through college as well. To what extent her giving to Morehouse has reduced student loan debt for graduates is unknown, but knowing Ms. Winfrey’s giving history, it has been formidable. However, the Class of 2019 may prove to be worth a longitudinal study in HBCU philanthropy. What happens when an HBCU graduate finishes with little or in this case no student loan debt? Do they see it as an opportunity to be more active donors back to their institution and to other HBCUs. Will their donor rate be higher than other classes? It is no secret that despite the Morehouse pride, the alumni giving rate at the institution has been underwhelming at best. If these 400 young men properly build their wealth and give back to Morehouse and other HBCUs, then have we potentially unlocked one of the keys to making our institutions sustainable? We have also long argued what it would look like if African Americans supported HBCUs in a major way, even if they did not attend an HBCU. Giving because a strong African American institution of any sort is a reflection of themselves in society and that our fates are always intertwined. That a people are ultimately only as strong as the institutions that represent their interest.

However, to do what Robert F. Smith did on an institutional level is going to require more than just one billionaire (or even two), but it is definitely a pivotal step in the right direction – hopefully. After all, it has been over three decades since a donation of this size for HBCUs. The lack of multimillion dollar gifts to HBCUs and African American educational institutions in general has been, continues to be, and is problematic systemically. For instance, if we extrapolated the notion of helping HBCU graduates be debt free, endowments at our institutions would have to be exponentially greater than what they are now. Howard University, Spelman College, and Hampton University, the three largest HBCU endowments, which have current endowments of $688 million, $389 million, and $285 million, respectively, would need endowments exceeding $6 billion, $1.7 billion, and $2.5 billion, respectively. In other words, they currently have a combined endowment value of $1.4 billion but need $10.2 billion, which is a margin of $8.8 billion, greater than Robert F. Smith and Oprah Winfrey’s wealth combined, an estimated $7.6 billion. This of course speaks nothing of and to the number of HBCUs who are hanging on for dear financial life and whose endowments if they even exist are paltry at best. Like many small and state colleges, lesser known HBCUs struggle to attract major donors, but the Morehouse 400 does/should know who they are and should take the vanguard in being integral over the next 50-60 years of ensuring that all HBCUs drink from the fountain of opportunity that they have been granted access too. These young men have a chance to alter the trajectory of the HBCU universe and we hope with this great opportunity they have been gifted that they also know comes a great responsibility. Will they become the greatest HBCU donors in HBCU history? Only time will tell.

HBCU Money™ Turns 7 Years Old


By William A. Foster, IV

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

Seven years strong with so much more to do. The past two years have been a test of mettle for HBCU Money and HBCU journalism as a whole. As journalism and media as a whole are becoming an even more complicated business with much of larger media being purchased by a small class of people who can afford to pour resources into it without needing it to make any money, yet leveraging the benefits of shaping public opinion it leaves an industry in flux. This dynamic leaves many smaller imprints with less external resources in a precarious position. Making enough money to keep the doors open, grow, and still able to put some Ramen noodles on the table for our families.

HBCU media ownership has, is, and will continue to be a labor of love certainly, but if we want it to scale to the level of influence we need in our community we need to have real conversations about just how and what needs to happen for that scale to take place. The importance of HBCU owned media can not afford to have all chiefs and no warriors.

At HBCU Money, I am excited for some of the things ahead that have been in the works for quite a few years on the drawing board finally getting off the board. Unfortunately, some of it maybe the leap of faith more than the resources available. Seven years into this though, faith is certainly something never to take for granted. I thank everyone who has restored it when it has been shaken and filled up the bucket when it was running low. There are too many to name, but you are appreciated. It is my hope that HBCU Money can continue to be worthy of your support and faith.

 

A Patent Created Is A Million Earned: HBCUs Are Not Keeping Pace In The Intellectual Property Arms Race Among American Colleges


“Necessity…the mother of invention.” – Plato

How did David beat Goliath, then go on to become a “Goliath” himself? With a rock, pebble, or stone depending on who is telling the story. However, it is truly what that piece of Earth hurling towards his enemy from his cache represented that is often most lost in the story. After all, most stories in the Bible are parables and in this case, while David gets all of the glory, it was truly the slingshot that was the star. The slingshot represented an idea, ingenuity, and research all at the same time. It was a representation of how even the smallest solutions can tackle the biggest problems and for David, the riches represent what is awarded to those who dare go after them.

What is a patent? According to the definition provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization, “A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which is a product or a process that provides, in general, a new way of doing something, or offers a new technical solution to a problem. To get a patent, technical information about the invention must be disclosed to the public in a patent application.”

From 1969 to 2012, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted 75,353 to America’s colleges and universities. However, during that same period HBCUs were granted an apathetic 101 patents, an amount less than one percent (0.13% to be exact) is a telling story of just one of the factors that hold back HBCUs financial sustainability. In the past twenty years alone since the turn of the 21st century, patents to colleges and universities have increased from 1,307 to 5,898, an almost five fold increase. In the same time period, the value of the revenue from those patents has also seen a meteoric rise to the tune of a 1,700 percent increase in value from $130 million annually to a staggering $2.2 billion annually. This does not even factor in the societal relevance that these institutions beget as a result. Can you imagine the financial and social impact that comes with being the college who invented the seat belt (Cornell University) or an even more well known invention, Gatorade (University of Florida)? The latter has earned the University of Florida over $1 billion in royalties alone. Even more to the point of colleges and universities profiting handsomely from intellectual property, according to an article in IP Watchdog in 2017, “a judge ordered Apple to pay the University of Wisconsin $506 million for infringing one of its tech patents. Last year, Carnegie-Mellon University won $750 million in a patent infringement lawsuit against Marvell Technology Group.” Those two settlements alone are worth fifty percent of all HBCU endowments combined. Needless to say, this is an arena that HBCUs need to make inroads into if survival and sustainability are long-term goals for our institutions.

PATENTS BY HBCU (1969-2012)

  1. Howard University – 18
  2. Morehouse School of Medicine – 17
  3. Florida A&M University – 16
  4. North Carolina A&T State University – 12
  5. Hampton University – 10
  6. Spelman College – 6
  7. Jackson State University – 4
  8. North Carolina Central University – 4
  9. Meharry Medical College – 3
  10. Tuskegee University – 2
  11. Alabama A&M University – 1
  12. Alabama A&M University Institute – 1
  13. Alcorn State University – 1
  14. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine – 1
  15. Claflin University – 1
  16. Delaware State University Foundation – 1
  17. Fort Valley State College – 1
  18. Shaw University – 1
  19. Virginia State University – 1
  20. Bowie State University – 1*

For all of the creativity that our culture has and exist on our campuses from faculty to students and more, there is little if any at times from administrations and alumni when it comes to finding creative solutions to our financial issues. Since desegregation took root in our institutions and began to gut them, a financial crisis has been brewing and its presence shows up every time we see another HBCU close its doors and even more starkly today in the amount of student loan debt HBCU graduates finish with as a result of poor endowments. HBCUs have taken on a what has seemingly become a check to check mentality in dealing with its financial viability. Instead of investments in R&D and entrepreneurship (Can HBCUs Produce Billionaires?), which is where the nation’s wealth has truly been generated for colleges and their alumni, we have seen far too many HBCUs and their alumni seemingly double down on being dependent on tuition revenue, make poor investments in athletics with no real return possible, focusing their students on getting jobs not creating them, and at times a feeling of lip service in relation to developing stronger pre-alumni and alumni programs that would strengthen giving.

It begs the question where do we go from here? How do we get administrations to ensure that intellectual property & patent development is a stronger part of its focus and how do we get alumni to give their time and money in a way that compliments and assist HBCUs in the infrastructure needed for said development? And ultimately, how do we turn our campuses into intellectual property machines? Let us examine, just a few points (but certainly not limited too) what HBCUs and their alumni could do to unleash its intellectual prowess:

First and foremost, we have to look at our research, patent development, and the like from a holistic viewpoint, meaning that anyone and any department on campus can be engaged in this process. That means everyone from the traditional route of professors and researchers to students to staff to cafeteria workers or lawn and building maintenance. Everyone must be part of this and everyone must be mentally engaged and present. A patent can come from anywhere and for us it needs too. For example, Paul Quinn a few years ago eliminated salt and pork from its campus, but what if a cafeteria worker created a way to still “salt” a product or their farm created a method by which you could raise a pig that does not adversely impact a human’s health. This would become an extremely valuable intellectual property that could be commercialized into a company that the school had an ownership stake in or licensing it out to major food companies and receiving royalties the way the University of Florida does with Gatorade to this very day.

Second, campuses need an intellectual property czar and department. Yes, create a position whose only job it is to promote, oversee, and help develop intellectual property. Their job would be to help ease the process, especially for the likes of students and staff who may not be as familiar with the process as professors, but even with professors helping ease the burden of the process would go a long way. The czar and department would be charged with identifying potential customers and creating commercial relationships where the intellectual property maybe of value. They would also assist in bringing in intellectual help if an idea is being developed but the technology or expertise to bring it to bear is not available on the campus. Perhaps, a relationship with a local software company or factory lends itself to the completion of the patent or intellectual property. Also finding opportunities where intellectual focus can financially benefit the school. An example of this would be the X Prize Foundation, where in 1996 for instance a businessman and entrepreneur offered a $10 million prize to the first privately financed team that could build and fly a three-passenger vehicle 100 kilometers into space twice within two weeks. Participating in these not only has potential financial benefits, but also raises the profile of the institution.

Thirdly, community and alumni access. Allowing the use of this broadens the probability that ideas and opportunities will come to the schools themselves and serve as a potential repository. Imagine for instance had Tuskegee been setup in such a way that when Lonnie Johnson, the Tuskegee alum who invented the Super Soaker, was able to come back to the school, use some of its resources, get assistance, etc. in exchange for a percentage of future or potential royalties. In 2013, he was awarded almost $75 million alone in royalties from Hasbro. An amount that is well over half of Tuskegee’s assumed endowment. Community access would also include summer camps to engage K-12 children in thinking as problem solvers. In other words, also developing the pipeline of intellectual property creators of tomorrow is integral.

Lastly, alumni must donate to create time for this all to be possible. How many HBCU professors can sit on campus for a semester, not teach, and simply focus on research? Very few, if any. How many students could stay on campus over the summer and experiment? Again, very few, if any. In fact, one of the primary problems that HBCU campuses have over summers is shutting down facilities in an effort to save money instead of opening them up for use to their professors, staff, students, and even the community. Those summer camps for K-12, which can lead to future HBCU students. Again, they need support and funds. Alumni must supply the funds to keep the lights on. Summertime is not a time to shutdown, but a time to have an opportunity to do the out of the box things that perhaps the semester schedules bog down. That can not happen without a targeted focus and strategic giving by alumni.

Patents, intellectual property, and the financial benefits that come with them currently are largely aligned with some of the nation’s largest endowments should come to no surprise to anyone who follows higher education finance. The top five producing patent colleges and universities between 1969-2012 (2018 endowment rank in parentheses), University of California (12) has 7,488 patents, MIT (6) has 4,017 patents, Stanford University (4) has 2,403 patents, CIT (34) has 2,365 patents, and the University of Texas (3) has 2,321 patents. In fact, these five schools have a combined endowment value of $51.5 billion as of 2018. Is there primary revenue from patents? Certainly not, but is the money insignificant? Also, certainly not. For HBCUs though, it could be life saving.

Even the way we engage this process may need to be outside of the normal box. For a lot of schools, even with alumni support, it maybe difficult to implement a program like this. However, one solution could be that the five HBCU conferences take the lead to allow for scale and best use of resources or HBCUs partner with other HBCUs and create a IP consortium and they profit-share. Stronger together. However it has to come together, it must. The financial future of HBCUs is rooted in becoming the problem solvers of today and tomorrow. It is time we focus, harness, and unleash the brilliant minds that constitute our institutions. Our bodies were used to build wealth for others for centuries, it is time to let our minds be the slingshot to our own (financial) freedom.

*Bowie State University was awarded its first patent in 2018.