MacKenzie Scott's $2.7 billion donation: At least 8 NY area recipients

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Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Billionaire philanthropist donates $2.7B to at least 8 NY area recipients
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Darla Miles reports on MacKenzie Scott's generous donation.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist known for her impromptu multi-billion dollar donations to charities and racial equity issues, announced Tuesday that she has given $2.7 billion to 286 organizations -- including tens of millions to the New York area.

At least eight organizations in the Tri-State are receiving money from the donation, including Hostos Community College, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Apollo Theatre, El Museo del Barrio, Ballet Hispánico, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

CUNY's Hostos Community College will receive $15 million, the largest donation in the history of the Bronx school.

Hostos was one of 30 colleges and universities identified for support by Scott, her husband Dan Jewett, and a team of researchers.

Announcing the gifts in an essay on Medium, Scott wrote that higher education is a "proven pathway to opportunity," adding that her team was supporting "2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved."

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The gift to Hostos follows Scott's historic donations in December 2020 to two CUNY colleges, Lehman College and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Both schools received $30 million, each gift among the largest in the University's history.

In her essay, titled "Seeding by Ceding," Scott described an evaluation process launched by her team earlier this year to identify "high-impact" groups and institutions in "categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked."

"This is a day to mark and remember at Hostos," interim President Cocco De Filippis said. "We are thrilled and delighted by this most beneficent gift, and it will be used to further the goals of the college's founders. Thanks to Ms. Scott's astounding gift, we will be able to better serve the men and women of the South Bronx who seek the myriad benefits of higher education. This gift will have a transformative impact on the College and it comes to Hostos because for over 50 years, Hostos has been a beacon of hope, a life-transforming institution, living up to the highest ideals of democratic values, equity, inclusion and diversity. Hostos is a home for all who come through our doors in need of the life-changing opportunities brought by quality education delivered with care, hope and understanding."

Wynton Marsalis, managing and artistic director of recipient Jazz at Lincoln Center, said the nonprofit was proud to be included among "esteemed organizations who have been tireless in their dedication to expand the arts, transform education systems, and improve our collective humanity by nourishing communities."

"In a very difficult time, and with uncertainties ahead, we are grateful for this generous and unexpected support," Marsalis said in a statement.

The Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) is receiving $10 million, the single largest donation in company history, which officials are calling an unprecedented commitment to upholding the legacy of Arthur Mitchell and continuing his groundbreaking work in the world of dance that began 52 years ago.

It also comes at a time when the company and others around the world have had to pivot in response to a pandemic that has made live performance all but impossible for more than a year.

"When Arthur Mitchell founded Dance Theatre of Harlem, he invested his own financial resources and sold personal property in order to keep the organization afloat," artistic director Virginia Johnson, executive director Anna Glass, and Board Chairman Ackneil Muldrow III said in a joint statement. "Despite world-wide artistic acclaim, DTH has struggled financially over the years due to a lack of access to resources, highlighting the inequity that exists within philanthropy for organizations that are led by people of color. We are grateful to Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett for this extraordinary and transformative gift that will propel this institution onto a pathway towards financial stability. More importantly, however, we want to thank Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett for recognizing our 52-year history of advancing and leading the conversation of racial equity and social justice in ballet."

Ballet Hispánico did not give the exact amount it had received, other than to say it was the largest donation the organization had ever received.

"Not only the magnitude of the amount, but it is the magnitude of trust and ability and access that she is allowing our city to have," Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro said. "I almost fell off my seat. I mean, I did get super emotional, and that's when I found out...It is the largest gift we've ever received, and it allows us to achieve creative and operational excellence through sustainability and development of our artists, our students, our facility, our dedicated staff and to continue serving BIPOC and marginalized communities that we impact. Only now, in a much larger scale."

El Museo del Barrio received $8 million, marking the largest single gift received in the museum's history.

"This monumental gift represents a significant recognition of the historical and cultural contributions of more than 60 million Latinxs in this country, and of the mission and legacy of El Museo del Barrio," Executive Director Patrick Charpenel said. "For more than 50 years, the museum has been dedicated to this inspiring community, and artists who have made El Museo their home. We are inspired by the generosity of MacKenzie Scott and her team, and honored to continue expanding and advancing the artistic and cultural legacy of Latinxs."

It is the third round of announcements Scott has made regarding her philanthropy, which values quick response and unrestricted donations that as an individual rivals the largest of foundations. In 2020, she made two similar surprise announcements where she donated about $6 billion to COVID relief, gender equity historically Black colleges and universities and other schools.

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Scott, who is also the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, made clear in her announcement Tuesday that she is troubled by the increasing concentration of wealth among a small proportion of individuals. She said she worked with a team of researchers and philanthropy advisors "to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change."

"In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others," she said. "Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change."

The list of her recipients varied, from universities to refugee resettlement groups, to arts and culture organizations that have suffered from a drop in giving as donors focused on more urgent needs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

CLICK HERE to see the full list.

Scott's wealth, estimated by Forbes at roughly $60 billion, has only grown since she divorced from Bezos in 2019 and walked away with a 4% stake in Amazon. Shortly after the split, the 51-year-old signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment developed by Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett to get the world's richest to give a majority of their wealth during their lifetimes or in their wills. Jewett also became a signatory earlier this year.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)


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