Stephen A. Smith, co-host of ESPN show “First Take” has committed to donate $50,000 every year for five years to his Alma Mater, Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
Smith made this commitment during the WSSU fundraiser breakfast, 400 people attended the event and the university raised $33,000 from the breakfast.
Winston-Salem is a historically black college (HBCU) that was founded in 1892. Smith attended on a basketball scholarship, though injuries hindered his playing time, and graduated from the university in 1991.
His service to the university made Smith a member of the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame, The Winston-Salem Journal reports.
Smith noted that he hopes that half of the money will go to the athletic department and the other half goes to the Mass Communication department. The ESPN personality mentioned how HBCUs have been suffering due to lack of funding.
“A lot of HBCUs are hurting financially,” he said to the Winston-Salem Journal. “I’m here to tell you they are needed in a big way.”
In recent years, HBCUs have struggled to receive proper financing. Additionally, federal loans have implemented stricter credit standards. Those factors have caused 16,000 students to either look for other financial resources or withdraw from school, Aljazeera reports.
WSSU and other HBCUs in North Carolina suffered from 2010-2012 when the state withheld money that was designated to minority institutions. North Carolina was one of the 10 states that endured the refusal during that period.
The Morrill Act of 1890 established 18 black land-grant universities. With that, the federal government committed to give funding to the schools as long as the state matched the amount. States are not penalized for not matching financial support due to a congressional mandate, according to Black Enterprise.
Other states that withheld HBCU funding include Texas, Missouri, and Kentucky; the states suspended $57 million in funding, Black Enterprise reports.
WSSU Chancellor Elwood Robinson did not know Smith was going to make this donation.
“It’s just a testament to what kind of individual Stephen A. is that he cares about his former school,” Robinson said. “It’s a big day for us and it’s a special day because, as you know, any amount of dollars we can acquire helps everybody.”