Historically Black colleges and universities across the country have had banner years in terms of financial support and Howard University is the latest HBCU to receive a historic donation. The Washington, D.C.-based institution announced it was gifted a $5 million endowment from alumni couple Eddie C. Brown and C. Sylvia Brown.
The multi-million dollar donation marks the largest alumni gift the school has received in its 154-year history. For the Browns—who share a deep passion for philanthropy—Howard University is embedded in the fabric of their union and individual journeys. As a teenager, pursuing a college degree didn’t seem attainable for Eddie but he was inspired by his 10th grade English teacher—who was a Howard alumna—to further his education at the HBCU. He enrolled at the age of 16 on a scholarship and studied at the school’s College of Engineering. Sylvia studied at Howard’s College of Liberal Arts. They met on Howard’s campus 64 years ago.
The funds will go towards the advancement of the Graduation Retention Access to Continued Excellence (GRACE) Grant program; an initiative designed to eliminate financial barriers for underserved scholars. Sylvia says the couple was inspired to pay it forward because they understand how difficult it can be to navigate financial obstacles while pursuing a degree. “We were very fortunate to be able to go to Howard,” she said in a statement. “I had student loans, and I know how hard that is. Being from a family of four, my parents did the best they could, but that was never enough to pay for all the fees. And that’s been our mantra, to give to others and help them at least be able to get an undergraduate degree so they have a good foundation.” Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, President of Howard University, says he hopes the couple’s journey will serve as inspiration for students and alumni. “We are extremely grateful to Eddie and Sylvia for making this historic gift to Howard University,” he said. “My hope is that students will be inspired by their story and generosity and that others in our alumni community will consider the many ways they, too, can impact current and future generations of Howard students.”