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This Day in History – November 4, 1988

Bill and Camille Cosby donate $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

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On this day in 1988, Bill and Camille Cosby donated $20 million to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, making it the largest single donation ever made to a historically black college.

Cosby announced the gift at an inauguration ceremony for the first black woman president of the college, Johnetta B. Cole. Cole stated that the donation was meant to help solve the serious underfunding issue. With $42 million endowment, Spelman is now the second largest historically black college in the country.

Spelman College

“Mrs. Cosby and I did not throw down that gauntlet to show off,” Cole said in a statement released by the college. “I think we all understand that these schools need money, but I think that we’ve accepted that some white people are either going to keep them alive or let them go.”

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Frank Matthews, editor of the magazine Black Issues in Higher Education, announced that nearly 50 percent of the country’s black colleges are “teetering on the brink” due to financial difficulties.

“What’s happening with black colleges reflects what’s happening with black people in general, and that is the widening of the gap,” Matthews said.

Six percent of the Cosbys’ gift went to the creation of the Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Academic Center, with the rest going toward funding for the humanities, social sciences, and the fine arts.

Cole stated after announcing the gift, “Quality in education is surely a process, but Great God Almighty, it sure is wonderful when a couple of folks come in and say, ‘Let this push you along.’ ”

In addition to the Spelman donation, Cosby made a pervious donation of $1 million to Fisk University due to a $5 million deficit the school was suffering from.

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