Saturday, March 7, 2009

UNCF Celebrates 65th Anniversary & Launches Emergency Student Aid Campaign

Via Marketwire: UNCF - the United Negro College Fund -- the nation's largest and most effective minority education organization, honored Black Enterprise publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. and education activist Caroline Kennedy as it celebrated its 65th anniversary on March 5th before a crowd of over 1200 people at New York's Sheraton New York Hotel and Tower. UNCF provides more than 8,000 scholarships each year, supports its 39 member historically black colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education. (In photo at left: Earl G. Graves Sr., Caroline Kennedy, Billye S. Aaron and CEO of UNCF Michael L. Lomax)

At the dinner, UNCF launched its "Emergency Student Aid Campaign," a major initiative to provide emergency financial aid for more than 10,000 students at risk of being forced to leave college due to the recession. ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, a member of the UNCF Board of Directors announced at the dinner that his company will be the campaign's first contributor, committing $500,000 immediately and a $500,000 challenge grant. Additionally, UNCF announced an anonymous $7 million contribution toward its annual campaign to support UNCF's students and colleges.

Graves, who founded Black Enterprise, received the Frederick D. Patterson Award for his career of accomplishment, and for his commitment to minority education and philanthropy. An HBCU graduate, he has been a longstanding supporter of UNCF and has strongly advocated that HBCU graduates support their alma maters.

"It's been 65 years since the visionary Tuskegee President Frederick D. Patterson founded UNCF as a means of financing the dream of higher education for gifted African Americans who might otherwise be denied the opportunity," Graves said. "To my mind, there was then -- and is now -- no greater, more noble or more essential task than unleashing the academic potential of a young mind."

Kennedy, who has been active in supporting reform of New York City's public schools, received UNCF's President's Award. An education advocate, attorney, writer, editor and philanthropist, she is vice chair of The Fund for Public Schools, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving New York City's public schools.

UNCF inaugurated a new honor at this year's dinner, the Ones to Watch Award, which pays tribute to recent graduates of UNCF member HBCUs whose careers are marked by both great accomplishment and the potential for decades of further service. Dr. John H. Jackson, president and CEO of The Schott Foundation for Public Education, and Ann Best, deputy superintendent for human talent for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) were the first recipients. Jackson is a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans and Best graduated from Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL.

UNCF's Emergency Student Aid Campaign is an appeal for all concerned Americans to help cover costs to keep kids in college. To make a donation, visit and click on Emergency Student Aid or call 1-800-332-UNCF (8623).

Photo: Wireimage

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