It is college graduation season and students across the country are preparing for that defining moment that will transition them from the classroom into the next chapter of their lives. Over the past 20 years, 248 college students attending 38 of the nation’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have participated in this annual spring ritual, thanks in large part to the UNCF/Michael Jackson Scholarship Program playing a significant role in providing them needed financial assistance during their matriculation.
“For 75 years, UNCF has been committed to supporting HBCUs and to providing education for all who wish to get it, and Michael Jackson’s support has lasted nearly half of this organization’s very existence,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael Lomax. “We are grateful to Michael Jackson for his long-term investment in helping change the life trajectory of close to 250 students at 38 UNCF member HBCUs, such as Shaw University, Bennett College, and Bethune Cookman University, in need of a college education that will continue to pay dividends for years to come.”
In March 1988, UNCF recognized Jackson’s extraordinary generosity and commitment to helping HBCU college students with financial assistance by honoring him with the UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Award, the organization’s biggest honor.
An education opens a person’s mind to the entire world,” Jackson said during his acceptance remarks at the awards ceremony. “There is nothing more important than making sure everyone has the opportunity for an education.”
Michael Jackson scholars attend UNCF-member HBCUs and are pursuing degrees in a range of majors, including Communications, Education, Fashion Design, History, Music, Performing Arts, Psychology, and Political Science. Scholars are helped with tuition, room and board, books, or with repaying federal student loans.
Jackson, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Charities Supported by a Pop Star,” status as of 2000, was inspired to support college students by his deep belief in the importance of higher education. UNCF became one of the 39 charities Jackson supported during his lifetime when he gave $1.5 million in 1986 to establish a scholarship endorsement. Jackson performed at Madison Square Garden in 1988 and the first of three concerts was a benefit for UNCF. He donated the proceeds from his performance in the amount of $600,000 to UNCF, making him one of the organization’s largest African American donors at the time.