Surprise! MacMacKenzie Scott Announces $50 Million Gift to Prairie View A&M University

Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU)

Writer and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has given $50 million to Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) to be used at the discretion of the President to support the needs of the University.  Ruth J. Simmons, President of Prairie View, commented, “This is a historic gift for Prairie View, coming at a time when the University had already decided and begun to invest heavily in key areas to strengthen its academic programs and improve student success. The timing of this gift could, therefore, not be better.”

Ms. Scott notified Simmons of the intent to donate the gift several weeks earlier but had imposed limits on how much could be disclosed about the gift.  In particular, the gift was to be anonymous, and the specific amount was not to be disclosed.  The recent announcement by the donor released the University from those conditions.

University administrators chose to designate $10 million of the total to create the Panther Success Grant Program, an effort to assist juniors and seniors with unpaid balances created by the financial challenges posed by Covid-19.  Those funds remain designated for financial aid and will continue to be disbursed to students over the next several years, supplementing other forms of financial aid. The University plans to allocate remaining funds to the University endowment to support high priority academic needs, including endowed faculty positions, faculty recruitment and faculty development, improvements in academic areas, undergraduate scholarships, and graduate fellowships.  With this substantial addition of funds, the University’s $95 million endowment will increase nearly 40 percent to almost $130 million, making it one of the largest endowments at a Historically Black College or University.

While many at the University, including the President, were surprised by the source and amount of the gift, Simmons had been in communication with the donor about a matter not involving Prairie View.  Over the course of those communications, the donor had given no hint that she was considering a gift to Prairie View until an unexpected telephone call from an assistant revealed this intention.  “I was stunned and, for a time, speechless,” said Simmons.  “At first I thought I had surely misheard the amount, and I asked them to repeat it; they clarified that it would be ‘$50 (five zero) million.’”

Prairie View has had a number of high profile gifts in recent months:  $1 million for the Center for Race and Justice from HEB Chairman Charles Butt; $1.5 million from the Mellon Foundation for Afro-American Studies and faculty development; $1.5 million from Houston Endowment for the College of Education; $1 million from Bank of America for career services; $850,000 from Vistra, Inc., to improve educational opportunities for students, $2 million from community leader Shari Griswold for scholarships; and many more.

Founded in 1876 and located in Prairie View, Texas, Prairie View A&M University is a land grant university and a member of the Texas A&M University System.  Known for educating African American engineers, nurses, architects, and scientists, the university offers a range of academic programs through its School of Architecture and its Colleges of Agriculture and Human Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Business, Juvenile Justice and Psychology, Engineering, and Nursing.

  • Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU)