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Spelman College Receives Record Gift of $37 Million

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Spelman College officials announced last week that they will receive the largest gift ever made to a predominantly black college.

The $37-million gift from the DeWitt Wallace/Spelman College Fund, created in 1981 with a $1-million donation by the founder of Reader's Digest, surpasses the record $20-million gift presented to Spelman three years ago by the actor Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille.

The current endowment of the 111-year-old woman's college in Atlanta is $51 million, and the new gift will be added by the end of the year.

"I keep thinking that this gift has come at a time when it is not so easy [to pay for] higher education,'' said Johnnetta B. Cole, the president of Spelman College. "It's not so easy anymore to say, 'Of course, she's going to college.' ''

Part of the new endowment, $8 million, will be used to revamp the college's honors-program curriculum.

But the bulk of it, $29 million, will be used for a variety of new scholarships:

  • Presidential scholars will receive full, four-year scholarships and must show outstanding academic promise, leadership, and community service in high school.
  • Dean's scholars will receive full or half scholarships for four years and must rank in the top 10 percent of their high-school class.
  • Achievement scholars will allow Spelman students with a 3.5 grade-point average on a scale of 4.0 to apply for full or half scholarships.
  • Merit scholars will receive awards based more on need, although they must also show a strong student record, Ms. Cole said.
  • International scholarships will bring in students from around the world.

Spelman is one of two historically black colleges in the nation that serve women.--M.P.

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