8 Noteworthy Donations to U.S. Colleges From Celebrities and Companies

From hip-hop artist Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott to the NBA Charlotte Hornets and critically acclaimed author and producer George R.R. Martin, here are some of the most notable gifts from famous celebrities and companies.
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Published on August 23, 2023
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Hip-hop, basketball, soda, tech, elementary schoolteachers, and fantasy books have all made their mark on pop culture, and the same also goes for higher education.

BestColleges found nine noteworthy donations from cultural icons and companies to programs ranging from esports to airborne pathogen research.

Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott Donates $20K to Norfolk State University

Date: Dec. 10, 2022

Grammy Award winner Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, the first female hip-hop artist inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, donated $20,000 to a historically Black college and university (HBCU) near her hometown of Portsmouth, Virginia. She allocated the gift to the school's "area of greatest needs," making the announcement during her fall semester commencement speech.

"I'm looking around and I see innovators, visionaries, leaders created in here," Elliott told Norfolk State University's graduating class. "I want to see these same faces years from now saying … 'I became famous.' 'I became president.' 'I became a lawyer.' All of those things."

Charles Barkley Commits to Giving $1 Million Each to 2 HBCUs

Date: Dec. 8, 2022

NBA Hall of Famer and TV personality Charles Barkley announced in December that he would donate $1 million each to HBCUs Bethune-Cookman University in Florida and Jackson State University in Mississippi — before he even told them. Since 2016, Barkley has contributed to several HBCUs and once donated $1,000 to every employee of the school district he attended.

"I'm [expletive] 60 [years old] in a couple of months, which is crazy," Barkley told Alabama Media Group. "All this [expletive] money is crazy. I'm gonna use the rest of my life to bless as many people as I possibly can."

Toyota Donates $500K to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to Train STEAM Teachers

Date: Sept. 28, 2022

North Carolina A&T State University will use Toyota's donation to train future educators in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). The gift will also create the Toyota STEAM Lab in the College of Education to give future educators practice-based education with K-12 students from the area.

"We are grateful that our friends at Toyota understand that the key to meeting the challenges of the STEAM workforce of the future is to invest in rich STEAM educational opportunities for students today," university Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. said in a statement.

Verizon Wireless Donates $100,000 to Howard University's Esports Lab

Date: Nov. 8, 2022

The Verizon Foundation helped launch the Washington, D.C., HBCU's esports lab. Verizon also awarded the Verizon Game Forward Scholarship to a team of five women, which includes guaranteed internships at tech and game companies and access to the Verizon 5G Gaming Center in Los Angeles.

"I am so proud of being a part of the innovative team of students, faculty and organizations, especially Verizon Forward and Cxmmunity so that Howard University offers additional opportunities of learning," said Deborah Johnson, professor and interim chair of health, human performance, and leisure studies. "Howard Forward continues."

Charlotte Hornets Foundation Gives $10K to Johnson C. Smith University's Esports Program

Date: March 12, 2023

The Charlotte Hornets Foundation and its NBA 2K esports affiliate team Hornets Venom GT gifted the money to the Esports and Gaming Management program at Johnson C. Smith University, a North Carolina HBCU. Instead of selecting one student to award a scholarship to this year, the foundation supported an entire program.

"Our organization has a long-standing relationship with Johnson C. Smith University, and we are proud to support their innovative Esports & Gaming Management program in many ways throughout the year," Charlotte Hornets Foundation Executive Director Betsy Mack said in the announcement.

Ethereum Founder Donates $15 Million in Cryptocurrency to the University of California, San Diego

Date: Sept. 26, 2022

Vitalik Buterin's gift, through the Balvi Filantropic Fund, will create an institute to study airborne pathogens in the UC San Diego School of Biological Sciences. To support the fund's mission of breaking barriers to scientific knowledge, the institute will publish research in open-access journals and make reports and additional data available to the public online.

"I am pleased to support the creation of this new institute at UC San Diego, which will work to grow our scientific knowledge about airborne disease and share it freely, enabling changes to infrastructure and policy that benefit people around the globe," Buterin said.

The PepsiCo Foundation donates $400,000 for Scholarships to Bunker Hill Community College

Date: Nov. 14, 2022

The PepsiCo Foundation's Uplift Scholarships, which help Black and Hispanic students access higher education, will support 85 students at Bunker Hill Community College. These students can access success coaching, emergency grants, and financial literacy sources. The Uplift Scholarship is part of a nationwide program for students seeking two-year degrees or trade certificates and those looking to transition to a four-year institution.

"This money has meant the world to me," Marc Ramirez, a business student and Uplift Scholarship recipient, said in the release. "It has allowed me to concentrate on my studies and to make better decisions for my future and my family's."

George R.R. Martin Gifts $5 Million to His Alma Mater Northwestern University

Date: Oct. 31, 2022

George R.R. Martin — author of "A Song of Fire and Ice," a producer for "Game of Thrones" and its prequel "House of the Dragon," and a writer for the award-winning video game "Elden Ring" — donated to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism to establish a creative writing summer workshop and an endowed professorship. He was inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement in 2015 and received an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2021.

"The George R.R. Martin Chair in Storytelling and the Summer Intensive Writing Workshop will enable us to recruit, retain and host recognized authors and storytellers for the benefit of Northwestern students and writers from around the country," Charles Whitaker, dean of Medill, said in a press release. "These initiatives will help aspiring writers across myriad literary genres to make their mark on the world, as George has done."