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United Negro College Fund, Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History

uncf program black colleges

8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive
P.O. Box 10444
Fairfax
Virginia
22031-8044
U.S.A.

Company Perspectives

Our mission is to enhance the quality of education by providing financial assistance to deserving students, raising operating funds for member colleges and universities, and increasing access to technology for students and faculty at historically black colleges and universities. Since its inception in 1944, UNCF has grown to become the Nation's oldest and most successful African American higher education assistance organization.

History of United Negro College Fund, Inc.

United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF) provides financial assistance primarily to African Americans for the purposes of higher education. The UNCF is the oldest and largest minority higher education assistance program in the United States, raising over $2 billion and providing support to over 350,000 students since its inception in 1944. In addition to offering scholarships and internships to students at about 900 institutions, the UNCF also provides funds and services for 39 member historically black colleges and universities, as well as faculty and administrative professional training.

Early Roots

The story of United Negro College Fund, Inc. begins long before its incorporation in 1944. In fact, one could say that the first chapters were actually written decades before, when the schools that would later become the UNCF's charter members took the steps necessary to educate former slaves. In the mid- to late 1800s, because few states would support the education of African Americans with public funds, private colleges became necessary for instruction of black students. According to the UNCF, "by 1870, there were three times as many private black colleges as there were public. These schools often served a multitude of purposes, educating young children, college students, and adults just learning to read."

In 1928, a young Frederick D. Patterson began his tenure at Tuskegee University as the head of the veterinary division. Born in 1901 and orphaned at the age of two, Patterson was well-educated, having received two doctorate degrees in veterinary medicine, one from Iowa State College and another from Cornell University, and a master's degree in science from Iowa State College. In 1935, Patterson became the third president of Tuskegee University.

Dr. Patterson rapidly realized that without proper funds it would be difficult to run Tuskegee in an efficient manner because so many of the school's students lacked the means to pay their tuition. While qualified for the position, he "quickly acknowledged that he lacked the fundraising skills and personal ties of past Tuskegee Presidents Booker T. Washington and Robert S. Moton," according to Educational Foundations. Additionally, the trustees of Tuskegee seemed to have grown used to the strong fundraising skills of past presidents and turning to them for new insight became an exercise in futility. Driven by frustration, Patterson began to correspond with presidents of other black colleges. He received letters in return telling stories of financial hardships and detailing the difficulties of fundraising. Through this correspondence, he realized that black colleges were "competing against each other by soliciting the same organizations and donors, usually the large industrial philanthropies." On January 30, 1943, Patterson publicized this fact in an article in the Pittsburgh Courier. He pled with his colleagues by suggesting that they "pool their small monies and make a united appeal to the national conscience."

The First Campaigns: 1944-72

On April 25, 1944, the UNCF was incorporated with 27 member colleges. The first fundraising campaign was highly successful, "raising three times more money for the UNCF supported schools than the schools raised independently the previous year," according to the UNCF. Creating more awareness of the organization were its early supporters who included President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

By 1963, civil rights were at the forefront of American issues. It was a time of great unrest with many Americans showing their views in the form of demonstrations and protest. One of the most famous of these Americans was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a graduate of UNCF member school Morehouse College. It could be argued that it was partly because of King's vocalizations that President John F. Kennedy, Jr., decided to take stronger action to help the civil rights struggle. It was also in this year that the UNCF launched its second capital campaign, kicking it off with a reception at the White House, hosted by President Kennedy. The president also made a special contribution to the UNCF, the Pulitzer Prize money he won for his book Profiles in Courage.

A Phrase Is Coined: 1972

In 1972, an advertising executive at Young & Rubicam, Inc. created the new slogan for the UNCF. The tagline, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," was created pro bono and would become one of the most successful themes of all time. The slogan was important for the UNCF because, according to Verde Gallery, "if improperly handled, the advertising campaign for the UNCF could have presented blacks as charity cases, or it could have been viewed as patronizing to the black community. Instead, the creators of the advertisements focused on the potential inherent in the African American community, potential that had been denied due to discrimination and prejudice." Thirty years later, the tagline would become perhaps one of the most recognized in history.

The first of many telethons to support the UNCF was launched in 1974. Called "Something Special" and hosted by singer Nancy Wilson and actor/composer Clifton Davis, it raised $300,000. Later, in 1979, actor/singer Lou Rawls hosted an expanded version of the telethon, the first annual "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" telethon. The program featured singers and entertainers, as well as compelling stories from the UNCF students and inspiring messages about historically black colleges and universities. The show's name would change one last time in 1998, becoming "An Evening of Stars" and, throughout its history, would raise over $200 million in support of the UNCF's efforts.

In 1983, another brainchild of Dr. Patterson came to fruition. Based on the UNCF's College Endowment Funding Plan, Congress enacted the Challenge Grant Act Amendments. This was a fundraising program that depended on donations from private organizations that were matched with federal monies. The program was important, according to the UNCF, "because it was the first matching grant program for small college endowments, especially the nation's historically black colleges and universities."

The UNCF launched its most ambitious capital campaign ever in 1990. "CAMPAIGN 2000: An Investment in America's Future" was kicked off by a reception hosted by President George H. W. Bush and by a pledge of $50 million by billionaire publisher Walter H. Annenberg. The campaign concluded in 1996, exceeding its goals by 12 percent and generating $280 million for historically black colleges and universities and their students. The success of CAMPAIGN 2000 was celebrated at a White House reception hosted by President William J. Clinton.

The year 1994 brought the 50th anniversary of the UNCF. Again, the organization was able to exceed its fundraising goals. According to Black Enterprise, "fundraising hit a record high and administrative costs dipped below 17 cents per dollar raised, giving the UNCF one of the best such ratios of any educational nonprofit group." Although the year saw a decrease in the rate of charitable gifts, the UNCF was able to raise a record $58 million in its annual campaign. The organization expressed excitement and cited their success as coming from a balance, maintaining a connection with corporate America, while also preserving the support of prominent Americans, many of whom were alumni of the UNCF's historically black colleges and universities. The UNCF also acknowledged that its biggest challenge would always be fundraising. "We must provide assistance to our institutions at every level. We have to put them in a position to be competitive with other schools," said William H. Gray III, president and CEO of the UNCF. Also in 1994, the UNCF moved from its location in New York to offices in Fairfax County, Virginia, moving closer to its colleges and universities and thereby reducing administrative costs.

Paving the Way: 1996

In 1996, the UNCF continued with its legacy of taking first steps in the black community by announcing the creation of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. The Institute was founded by Gray and was named to honor the originator of the UNCF. According to the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute, "the Institute was the first African American led research institute in the country to design, conduct, analyze, interpret and disseminate research on blacks in education and provide essential information to the public, policymakers, and educators." Also in 1996, the Institute released the first of its research results in the form of a Data Book. The book, called The African American Education Data Book, was a three-volume reference that compiled statistics on the status, performance, and progress of African Americans in education from preschool to the postgraduate level. It was the first of its kind and would become one of several reports released from the institution.

New Funding Sources: 1998-99

The UNCF received a $41.7 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in 1998, forming The Lilly Endowment-United Negro College Fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program. According to Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News, this grant would be "the largest single grant in the 61-year history of the endowment." The Lilly Endowment's relationship with the UNCF went back to 1944 and this grant, though significant, simply continued the Endowment's support of the independent schools. In its first round of funding, nine private historically black colleges and universities were approved for funding.

In 1999, the UNCF began its involvement with another important funding source, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. In partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Organization of Chinese Americans, and the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the UNCF was named administrator of the $1 billion program. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was aimed at expanding opportunity to those students whose backgrounds reflected diversity in society.

New Scholarship Opportunities and Continued Fundraising Success: 2001-02

In 2001, the UNCF launched several new scholarship programs. The first, called the New Jersey Law Scholars Program, was formed to provide scholarships to deserving students from historically black colleges and universities in order to attend certain New Jersey law schools. The program was funded by Richard and Lois Rawson. Rawson, a senior vice-president and general counsel at Lucent Technologies, Inc., was a 1977 graduate of Rutgers School of Law-Newark. The scholarship program was created as part of an effort to increase diversity in the legal profession. "There are many young people for whom the dream of higher education does not stop with college," said Gray. "The New Jersey Law Scholars Program means that students attending UNCF schools who dare to set goals of becoming lawyers one day have another resource available to them to help achieve those goals."

Another scholarship program launched in 2001 was the UNCF Liberty Scholarship Program. The program was formed to provide scholarship aid to children of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced the program, saying that the UNCF's generosity would "transform the lives of many innocent victims." The program made full scholarships available to all children of victims of the attacks, "regardless of age, race, creed or color," according to the UNCF.

In the fall of 2002, the UNCF was able to announce that it had another strong fundraising year. Finishing the 2002 fiscal year with $168.9 million in revenues, the organization reached its campaign goal. In addition, it was able to maintain a low ratio of administrative costs to funds raised, meaning that a majority of the money raised would go directly to deserving students.

New Leadership: 2004

After the resignation of William H. Gray III in 2004, the UNCF announced a new president and CEO. The new head of the UNCF, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, previously held a position as president of Dillard University in New Orleans. He brought "an impressive background in education, management and fund-raising," according to Michael Jordan, chairman of the UNCF's board of directors. Though he held a notable resume, Dr. Lomax faced some challenges in filling Gray's shoes. Gray resigned after an unforgettable tenure. "Under his leadership," according to Jet, "UNCF's fund-raising results will have accounted for approximately 70 percent of the more than $2.2 billion that will have been raised over UNCF's 60-year history."

In 2005, solid fundraising continued with a Black & White Ball in Chicago. Some 1,200 guests gathered to celebrate the UNCF, raising over $800,000. The celebration also honored Nancy Wilson, original cohost of the UNCF's telethon, Something Special, for her three decades of support. Wilson received the Legacy Award.

After over 60 years of support to over 350,000 students, the UNCF was still going strong. Though the UNCF had raised billions, its legacy as a "helping" organization extended far beyond the money. It lived on in the graduates of the UNCF's member institutions who continued to make lasting contributions to the world.

Principal Competitors

American Indian College Fund; Scholarship America; Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Chronology

  • Key Dates
  • 1944 The United Negro College Fund, Inc. (UNCF) is incorporated.
  • 1972 Young & Rubicam coins the phrase, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."
  • 1974 UNCF's first telethon is held.
  • 1983 Congress enacts the Challenge Grant Act Amendments.
  • 1994 UNCF celebrates its 50th anniversary.
  • 1996 UNCF announces creation of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute.
  • 2001 UNCF launches Liberty Scholarship Program for children of victims of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
  • 2004 William H. Gray III resigns from position as president and CEO; Dr. Michael L. Lomax takes his place.
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