A former UPS driver turned philanthropist and his wife have made history by donating $20million to Morgan State University – the largest gift any historically black college or university has ever received from a former student.
On Monday Calvin Tyler Jr and his wife Tina pledged the money, which will fund scholarships that were established under the Tylers’ name in 2002.
The gift is the second largest private donation the school in Baltimore has received following a $40million donation in December from MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist and the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Tyler said the donation was personal to him as he grew up in a low-income family and was forced to drop out of Morgan State in 1963 because he could no longer afford to study.
‘I didn’t have a scholarship, so I was struggling to pay tuition and working and trying to take care of myself at the same time,’ Tyler told The Associated Press.
‘So I stayed there as long as I could and learned as much as I could, but I had to drop out and go to work.’
The following year, Tyler saw a job advertisement in a Baltimore newspaper from United Parcel Service and got a job with the company as a driver.
He rose through the ranks during his 34-year career at the global shipping company to become its senior vice president of US operations and a member of the board of directors before retiring in 1998.
Tyler and his wife, also a Baltimore native, have lived all across the country but he said they have never forgotten their humble beginnings.
Their latest pledge follows a $5million commitment they made in 2016 for the fund, which to date has supported 222 students with full or partial scholarships.
These gifts are critical to the school, which said 90 per cent of its students receive financial aid.
The couple were ‘keenly aware of the effect’ of the pandemic on students, Tyler said, and expanded their giving to offer more full scholarships so students ‘can graduate from college and enter the next stage of their life debt free.’
Marybeth Gasman, a professor at Rutgers University who studies HBCUs, said the gift is significant because public HBCU’s like Morgan State University tend to have a lower alumni giving rate compared to private ones.
‘For a long time, they weren’t asking alumni to give,’ she said. But that has changed in the past couple of decades she added, and the schools have ‘started asking alumni to give and creating a culture of philanthropy on campus.’
Gasman said black people tend to donate a higher percentage of their discretionary income but she said this might be the largest give from an alum because HBCU graduates have not had access ‘to build assets in the same way’ as others with four-year degrees.
‘Systematic racism is a part of that,’ she added.
The scholarship fund, which was originally set up to provide need-based scholarships to students from Baltimore, will now be offered to students from across the United States, the school said.
David K. Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, said the money will help students for years to come.
‘Morgan is so proud to call this song and daughter of the great city of Baltimore our own,’ he said in a statement.
‘Through their historic giving, the doors of higher education will most certainly be kept open for generations of aspiring leaders whose financial shortfalls may have kept them from realizing their academic dreams.’
‘We are forever indebted to the Tylers’.