Harper College receives transformational gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott

Harper College announced it is a recipient of an $18 million gift from philanthropist, activist and author MacKenzie Scott, who in 2019 pledged to give a majority of her wealth to charitable causes and address some of society’s most pressing problems.

President Avis Proctor said the unrestricted gift, which is the largest in the college’s 54-year history, will go far to advance Harper’s equity agenda and help the college reimagine how it serves students and the community in a post-pandemic environment.

“This is a truly transformational gift and an affirmation that the innovative work we do is having an impact on the region,” Dr. Proctor said. “After an extraordinarily challenging time, this brings us a renewed hope and energy as we continue to remove barriers and elevate meaningful opportunities.”

Scott announced on Tuesday a total of more than $2.7 billion in gifts to 286 “high-impact organizations.” Harper was among more than 30 colleges and universities selected through a rigorous process of research and analysis. “Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote.

“This historic gift is confirmation of Harper’s visionary leadership and the dedication of its faculty and staff to help students transform their lives,” Harper College Board Chair Pat Stack said. “We also need to thank our community for their continued support and engagement over the years. This gift validates to the community that Harper is a valuable resource, and its laser focus on student success is being noticed and recognized nationally.”

Harper will allocate the gift to initiatives that will make the greatest impact, including efforts to reduce equity gaps, advance academic innovation, and increase student access through scholarships and basic needs support. The college will also explore providing tuition relief for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Harper’s four-year strategic plan will help serve as a blueprint.

“On behalf of the Harper College community, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to MacKenzie Scott for this extremely generous gift and for recognizing the role we play in advancing the social mobility of our students and improving the economic vitality of our community,” Dr. Proctor said. “Generations to come will benefit.”