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Lottery-winning Alumnus Donates $10 Million to South Carolina HBCU

Not sure whether he was dreaming or not, the Rev. Solomon Jackson Jr. was careful to confirm each number — 14, 24, 31, 43, 51, and, finally, 27 — with a lawyer friend after purchasing a Powerball lottery ticket at a South Carolina gas station in August.


Jackson’s $2 investment reaped $260 million worth of blessings for the retired state employee, who pastors the New Shiloh Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C.


Hoping to spread the joy, Jackson donated $10 million of his “good fortune” — as he called it — to his alma mater, Morris College, a historically Black college in Sumter, S.C. It is the largest one-time individual donation in the school’s history, officials said.


“When I was aspiring to be a minister, I studied here at Morris College,” Jackson said, who was a student in the 1970s in the School of Religion. “The experience helped mold me. I thank God for the training I received here.”


The donation will go to fund capital improvement projects — such as a new administration building and dormitory among others — the college had planned for the long term, said public relations director NiCole Williams. About $2.5 million will bolster the school’s athletic and freshman scholarships as well as, she said, augment the general endowment, which now exceeds $8.9 million.


“This is one of the four greatest milestones in the 100 years of existence for Morris College,” said President Luns C. Richardson, during a school assembly.


The college, which has been owned and operated by the Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina since 1908, has enjoyed financial security amid chaotic economic times, Williams said. 


“We have been fortunate that we have not had any setbacks. We have always been mindful of fiscal responsibility, and it has really paid off because we have not had furloughs, layoffs, and even had a pay raise,” Williams said, adding that the school has an active alumni organization that donates regularly. “The money won’t add to our operational budget. It will be for capital improvement. It’s for the endowing of scholarships or the construction of new buildings.”


Jackson Jr. requested that the scholarship money and new maintenance building be named in honor of his father, Solomon Jackson Sr., a custodian.


At the private HBCU, about 35 percent of its students benefit from scholarships. The school enrolls about 1,000 students each year and is known for preparing its students for Christian ministry and training teachers.


Since the announcement, Williams said Morris’ phones are buzzing with inquiries.


“It has definitely sparked an interest in people,” she said. “They are able to see the importance of investing in future generations, and knowing the value of giving on any level has its rightful place.”


Morris College is a member of the United Negro College Fund, which raises support for its 39 institutions through joint campaigns. Jackson’s “extraordinary” gift is matched only by donations from recognized celebrities like Oprah and Bill Cosby, said Maurice Jenkins, UNCF’s senior vice president of southern field operations.


“It’s a very unique gift for an alumnus to give to an institution that much money,” Jenkins said. “I would say only a handful of our members have received a gift of $10 million or more.”


Although UNCF does not solicit alumni directly for individual schools, the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building’s HBCU institutional advancement program provides multi-year grants for technical assistance and professional development aid to improve their operation and bring in more donations.


“We are helping institutions put in place those programs and systems that can create strong annual giving programs, “ said Linda Curiel, program director of the UNCF HBCU institutional advancement program.


For the four schools that are near program completion, Curiel said they saw an average increase of 78 percent in alumni giving and a 68-percent increase in participation from 2007-08 to 2008-09.


Jackson is keeping a low-profile for now but plans to continue his generosity by establishing the Solomon Jackson Jr. Scholarship Foundation, his attorney, I.S. Leevy Johnson, told the State newspaper.


How Morris College, a 102-year-old historically Back college in Sumter, plans to spend the $10 million donation from Powerball winner Solomon Jackson Jr. 


– $3 million for a new dorm


– $2.5 million for a new administration building


– $1 million to the college’s general endowment


– $1 million to endow athletic scholarships


– $747,000 for a new maintenance building and vehicle shed


– $500,000 for freshman scholarships


– $450,000 for a coach bus


– $435,000 for a new roof for an existing dorm


SOURCE: Morris College


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