San Jacinto College was one of several hundred organizations across the United States to receive a monetary donation from MacKenzie Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Scott and San Jac announced June 15.
Scott and her husband Dan Jewett gave $30 million to the college, which is the largest private gift in San Jac’s history, according to a June 15 San Jac press release.
The college’s new 21Forward Scholarship, which provides free tuition to recent graduates from six ISDs within the San Jac taxing district, is derived from the Scott donation, Amanda Fenwick, San Jac’s vice president of marketing and public relations, told Community Impact Newspaper.
San Jac announced the creation of the scholarship earlier in June; when the donation was received, the college did not know where it came from, but was able to use it to create the 21Forward program, Fenwick said via email. The college is working on plans for the remainder of the funds, she said.
“We weren’t expecting it, and it came at just the right time so we could put programs like 21Forward in place to help the students in East Harris County who made it through their senior year,” San Jac Chancellor Brenda Hellyer said of the donation in the press release. “These students were impacted by COVID[-19], yet they persisted and graduated. We are honored to be able to use a portion of this gift to help students stay on their higher education pathway.”
Scott announced her $2.7 billion worth of donations in a June 15 blog post, where she detailed how she, her husband and “a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.” A total 286 institutions received funding, including nine other colleges and universities in Texas.
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for [two- and four-year] institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in the post.
In December, Prairie View A&M University received $50 million from Scott to be used at the discretion of the PVAMU president, according to a PVAMU media release. Administrators chose, like at San Jacinto, to use the money for a financial assistance program: $10 million of the total was designated to create the Panther Success Grant Program, an effort to assist juniors and seniors with unpaid balances created by the financial challenges posed by the pandemic, per the release.