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Million-Dollar Black College Donors Honored

Million-Dollar Black College Donors Honored


Four prominent African American alumni of historically Black colleges and universities were honored for their generous gifts to their alma maters last month during a ceremony at the Coca-Cola Company headquarters in Atlanta.

Dr. Wendell Cox of Detroit, James E. Silcott of Los Angeles, Dr. Velma Speight-Buford of Greensboro, N.C., and Leo P. Sam Jr., of Tallahassee, Fla., were presented special awards for outstanding philanthropy as part of the Kresge HBCU Initiative’s annual Learning Institute.

“As an educator who came out of North Carolina A&T University in 1953 and never made mega-bucks, I found a way to give,” said Speight-Buford as she received her award. “It’s what you value.”

“Tonight’s honorees have demonstrated a different path to institutional advancement — the path of African American philanthropy,” said Robert Storey, trustee of the Kresge Foundation.

The gathering of some 300 HBCU presidents, trustees, advancement professionals and Atlanta-area supporters praised the generous benefactors in the spirit of strengthening fund raising at all HBCUs.

Cox, who is a retired dentist and prominent entrepreneur from Detroit, was honored for his recent gift of $1.5 million to Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tenn. Cox earned a degree in dental surgery from Meharry and has been a major benefactor of the college for years. He was one of the first members of the Meharry Royal Society, whose supporters pledged $100,000 each to the college. In 2002, Cox was bestowed the Meharry Salt Wagon Award, the college’s most prestigious non-academic award for “Acts of Grace.” His gift of $1.5 million was an epic moment in Meharry’s history, the largest sum ever contributed to the institution by an alumnus.

Silcott earned a degree in architecture from Howard University and built an impressive career in architecture and public service. Silcott’s recent gift of $2.2 million reflects his deep ties to Howard, and his ongoing commitment to its students. In March 2002, Howard University announced the James E. Silcott Endowed Chair and named and dedicated the Howard University School of Architecture and Design Exhibit and Gallery after the late T. George Silcott, Silcott’s father.

Speight-Buford, a retired educator from Greensboro, N.C., began her career as a high school teacher, and received promotions and appointments to high-level positions including specialist in Civil Rights, state supervisor of guidance and assistant state superintendent, all with the Maryland Department of Education. She returned to North Carolina A&T in 1993 as the director of alumni affairs until her retirement in 1997. She made a planned gift to her alma mater of $1 million and donated eight acres of property and financial cash contributions totaling over $100,000 to the university.

A graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana, Sam was honored for his recent gift of $1 million to his alma mater. Sam has distinguished himself as a leader in business, education and international development. He has served in several administrative positions in higher education, including executive director of the Florida A&M University Cluster, an association of FAMU corporate and business partners.

The Kresge HBCU Initiative pays tribute to African American donors who make generous contributions to historically Black colleges and universities.

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