BMCC chosen for a $30 million grant from MacKenzie Scott

Dr. Anthony Munroe, the recently appointed president of BMCC, was in his home office earlier this month when he fielded a rather curious email, followed by an even more mysterious phone call: an anonymous donor was interested in giving a grant to the college, but only if he could promise confidentiality.

“I enthusiastically responded, not knowing who was on the other side, saying of course,” he told me yesterday in what I will say was one of the more thrilling phone calls of the year for me.

The caller continued, saying that the donor was interested in funding programs that focused on race, equity, inclusion, gender equality, food insecurity, housing insecurity — “basically all the things that we at BMCC have been dealing with and addressing for years,” said Munroe.

The caller went on, asking if he knew who MacKenzie Scott was. Munroe said yes, and at this point, he said, he was imagining perhaps a 25, 50, maybe even a $100,000 donation.

“So you can imagine how I reacted when the representative went on to say that Ms. Scott has made the decision — not that she was considering, but that she had already decided — to commit and support BMCC with a $30 million gift.”

“I said, ‘Excuse me?'” he recalled.

“And then I got very emotional — I started crying,” he said, and at this point on our call, I was crying too, with shivers down my spine. “We processed through this together and I was told the next steps and that I would have to keep it confidential until she announced it herself.”

This meant that Munroe had to keep this a secret (!) for a week, until Scott made the announcement on Tuesday in a most unconventional way: in a blog post on Medium. Munroe was at that moment on a Zoom call with his academic chairs. They didn’t believe him at first, so he read the email and the blog post aloud, on Zoom video, “and I got emotional again, as I am getting now,” he said. “They thought I was pulling their leg, but soon thereafter it started spreading around.” CUNY’s Lehman College in the Bronx also received $30 million.

“I can’t even express the gratitude and appreciation enough,” said Munroe. “Through Ms. Scott’s gift, she is sending a very loud message that we are the salt of the earth. We are an open access institution and we help everyone to complete their stated goals, whatever that may be — we are here to help our students in every way possible. That’s why we have a food pantry, we have expanded our advisement and mental health services — we are doing what we can with very limited resources that continue to get cut.”

“She is sending a loud and clear message: We are worth the investment.”

The college has surveyed its 24,000 students over the years and again recently and now know that during the pandemic, 70 percent lost their income in some way. In general, more than half say they have experienced food insecurity and half have experienced housing insecurity, and 20 percent have been homeless at some point in their lives. The student population is majority women, but also women of color, many of whom have children.

Munroe has established the President’s Fund for Excellence and Innovation where staff, faculty and students can submit proposals as long as they are consistent with the college’s mission and focus on issues of race, equality and inclusion and will have a significant impact on the student body. He also plans to invest the funds so the gift continues to serve students for many years to come. And they will continue to fundraise and advocate for the college, which is the biggest in the CUNY system and has a $156 million annual budget.

“We are not going to sit back and say, ‘we’re done’ — the need continues to far exceed what’s available,” Munroe said. “Still, this is a great moment. Often we are overlooked or not thought of for contributions and gifts at this level. If we are serious about the economic recovery of the City of New York, we are it. We will be exceptional stewards of these resources. It will be life changing, and it will be life giving.”

 

2 Comments

  1. I LOVE this story! like a scene from a movie -so heartwarming. Wishing the school and its students a successful future; what a gift for the holiday! so happy to read this…

  2. This is so wonderful.

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