The United Negro College Fund said last week that it had been awarded a $42 million grant for a three-year program to assist historically black colleges and universities with construction needs, student financial aid and faculty assistance.
The gift, by the Lilly Endowment Inc. of Indianapolis, is the largest that the philanthropy has ever made to an organization. The 61-year-old Lilly Endowment makes most of its grants to educational institutions in Indiana.
“This is a glory, hallelujah day,” said William H. Gray III, president of the college fund. “What makes it so exciting is both the size and the flexibility of the grant. The particular needs of the schools we embrace may be totally different at a given point in time, and this grant will enable them to set their own priorities based on their individual needs.”
The United Negro College Fund, a nonprofit organization founded 54 years ago, is the oldest organization in the nation assisting minority higher education. The fund administers about 400 programs that give students access to higher education and career opportunities.
Gretchen Wolfram, a spokeswoman for Lilly, said that the $42 million figure was arrived at after the foundation asked the fund to propose “a grant in an amount which would be significant to all of its members.”
The fund then proposed to administer grants averaging $1 million for its 39 members as well as for the four historically black schools that are not presently members.
The Lilly Foundation has supported the fund with grants since 1944. “We support pluralism in higher education,” Wolfram said. “And we are impressed by the number of national leaders and graduates with doctoral degrees that come out of these institutions.”