Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

Venture philanthropist and author Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, donated $40 million to Morgan State University, the largest single private donation in the university’s history.

Morgan State University, the largest historically Black university in Maryland, will use the funds to support student success efforts, advance research, and progress the school’s strategic plan.

“This monumental gift will change lives and shape futures,” Morgan State University President David Wilson said in a statement. “I thank Ms. Scott for her due diligence and acknowledgment of the substantive value Morgan offers to so many throughout this nation and around the world, and entrusting that we will ensure the enduring impact of her generosity is truly transformational for many years to come.”

Wilson added that Scott’s gift demonstrates that Morgan’s reputation for helping Baltimore communities precedes itself.

“Long considered as a gem in the crown of Baltimore City and the state of Maryland, Morgan’s dedication to improving the lives of the communities we serve is highly regarded,” Wilson said. “The receipt of this gift is clear evidence that the rest of the world is also taking notice in Morgan too.”

Scott in July pledged to give away the majority of her wealth.

“I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” Scott said. “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

Scott and her advisors looked at 6,490 organizations before whittling down the list to 384 organizations to receive a total of nearly $4.2 billion, the philanthropist wrote in a Medium piece.

Before Scott’s donation, the previous largest individual gift that Morgan State University had ever received was a $5 million donation from philanthropist and Morgan alumnus Calvin E. Tyler Jr. and his wife, Tina. The university used that gift to create the Calvin and Tina Tyler Endowed Scholarship Fund to support students who are academically qualified but who lack the resources to pursue a college education.

“Endowment gifts have a strong and lasting influence and build institutional capacity in the most fundamental and sustainable way,” Donna Howard, Morgan State University’s vice president for institutional advancement, said in a statement. “The impact of Ms. Scott’s gift will reverberate profoundly into the future as we prepare the next generations of leaders and scholars in the arts and sciences.”

Morgan State University is striving to become the first historically Black college and university to achieve RI research classification, the highest research status, university officials said.

The university will use the majority of Scott’s gift to seed its newly established “Leading the World Endowment Fund,” Morgan’s first-ever unrestricted endowment, which will be invested into the university’s strategic initiatives.

Scott’s $40 million gift doubles Morgan’s endowment fund, “establishing a more promising future supporting students and faculty, and improving academic programs for years to come,” university officials said in a statement.

“Morgan is open for investment and if you invest in our university, there will be a definite return on your support,” Wilson said in a statement. “We hope that Ms. Scott’s giving inspires others to give to HBCUs like Morgan, who are providing much-needed opportunities to the students flying under the radar and producing the graduates of today, and tomorrow.”

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at