Koch brothers donate $25 million to UNCF; open doors wide for future entrepreneurs


Charles G. and David H. Koch’s $25 million donation to the UNCF blazes a trail for budding entrepreneurs. This dynamic gift will enable students who attend UNCF-member institutions the opportunity to reach their highest potential. The spirit of entrepreneurism and the ideals, liberty and well-being, drive the giving at Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation.

UNCF president and CEO Michael Lomax, Ph.D., said in a statement to the press, “We are enormously grateful to Koch Industries and the Charles Koch Foundation for their long-standing support of UNCF and for helping to create new opportunities for earned success and a better future for our students.”

We need to understand the value to African American students of having their education financed. Graduation rates are, in fact, lower at HBCUs due to students’ lack of financial resources for their education. This statistic speaks to the immediate need for generous gifts like this one that formed the UNCF/Koch Scholars Program where $18.5 million will go directly to scholarships and $6.5 million is provided for general support to HBCUs and UNCF, with $4 million set aside for the 37 UNCF-member HBCUs and their students to provide financial relief related to the Parent PLUS loan crisis.

Spelman College graduates cheering during commencement ceremony in 2014
Spelman College graduates cheering during commencement ceremony in 2014

We trust Dr. Lomax’s vision as the steward over this young generation of African Americans. The Koch grant allows his vision to manifest and creates an opportunity for future generations to effect the change necessary in our business community.

The naysayers who comment about the Koch donation don’t have a 360-degree perspective how it promotes autonomy among an entire generation.  Jobs in corporate America alone will not lower the current 11.4 percent unemployment rate for blacks, which is at its lowest level since September 2008.

Entrepreneurs, specifically African American graduates of HBCUs, like myself, can make a vast difference for job seekers. Morehouse College alum and filmmaker Spike Lee, whose ad agency Spike DDB powers the images for Chevrolet and Cadillac, utilizes entertainers like John Legend and has the power to employ creative directors who were educated at a UNCF-member institution, to produce award-winning commercials like the one for the Chevy Impala.

Creative individuals like filmmaker Bryan Barber, who is a product of Clark Atlanta University, an HBCU and UNCF-member institution, exemplify how promotion of entrepreneurship and generous giving makes a difference.

Other HBCU graduates are actor and philanthropist Samuel L. Jackson, who extends financial support to his alma mater, Morehouse, and construction giant C.D. Moody, who employs and hires members of the community.

In addition to the financial gift, the Koch brothers’ principles and ideals are necessary for individuals in our communities for their advancement and as a tool for the creation of generational wealth.

African Americans can be more competitive with the improved access to STEM degree programs. With the capacity to diversify STEM employment, the playing field is leveled. We will potentially see an increase in the number of scientists, engineers and mathematicians of color produced at HBCUs.

“For the last 70 years, UNCF has raised over $4 billion and has helped more than 430,000 students earn a college degree. This year alone, UNCF awarded over $100 million in scholarships to more than 12,000 students at 900 schools across the country. Yet, UNCF must deny 9 out of every 10 applications due to lack of financial resources,” Dr. Lomax points out. “I’m hopeful that this new commitment from Koch and the Charles Koch Foundation will spur others to come forward and invest in our students so that they can create a better future for themselves and their communities.”

A leader with a true vision is affirmed to move forward his organization when he has the support of individuals who embrace the Kochs’ entrepreneurial ideals: liberty and well-being.

In his book, The Negro in Business, Booker T. Washington tells the stories of early ventures of black entrepreneurs who found success employing honorable business principles. These principles are constant and serve as models today.

When African American entrepreneurs are progressive, the entire community wins. –munson steed