Monday, 11 February 2013


Many people dream of attending college or university, but simply cannot afford it. This has been an issue since colleges and universities have existed.  The case has been no different with the establishment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In fact, the need for funding assistance has been, and still is, sometimes greater.
Frederick Douglass Patterson, president of what is now HBCU, Tuskegee University, recognized that need; so, in 1943, he called a meeting of the heads of all of the major, predominantly Black institutions of higher education – including Mary McLeod Bethune, Civil Rights Leader, Educator and Head of HBCU, Bethune-Cookman University.

Frederick Douglass Patterson

Mary McLeod Bethune

The purpose of the meeting was to plan a joint fundraising venture. The result was the organization of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), of which Frederick was elected president. Originally twenty-seven institutions joined the organization. Within one year, the group had grown to thirty-two member schools; and by 1947, UNCF was raising more than one million dollars, annually.  There are currently 40 member schools, all within the United States, except Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

Frederick had a pretty tough start in life. He was born in 1901 in Washington, DC, and sadly orphaned when he was two-years-old. However, he was able to pursue an excellent education by earning a DVM Degree in Veterinary Medicine and a Master’s of Science Degree, from Iowa State University, in the 1920s; and earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University, in 1933.

Two years later, Dr. Patterson was appointed as the third president of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now Tuskegee University), where his tenure lasted for almost 20 years. He was also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Dr. Patterson w/George Washington Carver

UNCF grew from strength to strength, each year. In 1972, the UNCF adopted the maxim, "A mind is a TERRIBLE thing to waste." This maxim has become one of the most widely recognized slogans in advertising history. The motto, which has been used in numerous, award-winning, UNCF ad campaigns, was created by Forest Long, from ad agency Young & Rubicam, in partnership with The Ad Council.

One of the first print ads

The Fund is maintained through individual, charitable donations, as well as large, annual fundraisers. One of the more high profile donations made was by former U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, who donated the money from the Pulitzer Prize, for his book, Profiles in Courage. However, the largest-ever, single donation to UNCF was $50 million, made in 1990 by Walter Annenberg, who was a publisher, philanthropist and US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, during The Nixon Administration.

Walter Annenberg

Beginning in 1980, singer, Lou Rawls began the Lou Rawls Parade of Stars telethon to benefit the UNCF. The annual event, now known as An Evening of Stars, consists of stories of successful African-American students who have graduated or benefited from one of the many HBCUs and who received support from the UNCF; as well as featured comedy and musical performances. The event has raised over $200 million. In recent years, UNCF An Evening Of Stars has featured amazing, celebrated talent, including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Chaka Khan, Ne-Yo, Nancy Wilson, Beyoncé, Anita Baker, Jill Scott, Whoopi Goldberg, Fantasia, Joss Stone, Jennifer Hudson, Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Hall and Oates, Ziggy Marley, Maroon 5, Usher, and many others.

Usher at the 2013 "An Evening of Stars"

In January 2004, Lou Rawls was honored by the UNCF for his more than 25 years of charity work with the organization. Click here to see a 3-minute clip as part of his tribute.   Lou died in 2006, and the torch was passed onto other celebrities to host. Last month, the 2013 UNCF An Evening of Stars was hosted by actor and comedian, Anthony Anderson.

In addition to the telethon, there are a number of other fundraising activities, including: the Walk for Education, held annually in Los Angeles, California, which includes a five kilometer walk/run; and in Houston, Texas, the Cypresswood Golf Club hosts an annual golf tournament in April.

UNCF Golf Tournament

Raised funds pay for:
·      Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which supports students from undergraduate through to doctoral studies and whose students have graduation rates of 80-90 percent
·      UNCF/Merck Science Initiative, which offers students bioscience and biotechnology research fellowships, cultivating their potential with financial support, hands-on training, close mentoring relationships and institutional support
·      Corporate Scholars Program supports hundreds of students with scholarships and internships at major Fortune 500 corporations

Additionally, in 1996, The UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute was established. Its focus is on the educational status of African-Americans of all ages from pre-school through adulthood. The Institute seeks to understand and expand the multiple pathways leading to educational attainment. Using varied research methods, the Institute serves to positively impact public policy and improve local education practice.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan awarded Dr. Patterson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 1988, he was awarded the Springarm Medal, by the NAACP. That same year, Dr. Patterson passed away. At the time of his death, Dr. Patterson had left a lasting legacy.

President Reagan and Dr. Patterson

Though established to address the inequities that African-Americans face(d) to fund their education, African-Americans, the UNCF-administered scholarships are open to all ethnicities. However, the great majority of recipients are still African-American. UNCF provides scholarships to students, in need, attending its member colleges as well as to those matriculating to other colleges and universities.

Today, a significant number of UNCF students still come from low- to-moderate-income families, and 94% qualify for financial aid. By 2005, the UNCF had supported approximately 65,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities with approximately $113 million in grants and scholarships. About 60% of these students are the first in their families to attend college, and 62% have annual family incomes of less than $25,000. UNCF also administers over 450 named scholarships.

Graduates of UNCF scholarships have included many African-Americans in the fields of business, politics, health care and the arts.  Some prominent UNCF alumni include Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Alexis Herman, former US Secretary of Labor; film director, Spike Lee; actor, Samuel L. Jackson; General Chappie James, the US Air Force’s first African-American four-star-general; opera singer, Leontyne Price; and Dr. David Satcher, a former US Surgeon General and director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Alexis Herman
Samuel L. Jackson

General Chappie James

Dr. Satcher w/President Clinton

The UNCF will always be needed and be relevant. Tens of thousand of minds can be thankful for the vision of Dr. Patterson; and the domino-effect, of their educations made possible, will last forever.

Sources: Wikipedia, UNCF, Google Images, YouTube

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