Netflix CEO Donating $120 Million to HBCUs to Celebrate 'Great Black Achievement'

(Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, announced they are giving $120 million to support scholarships at historically black colleges and universities.

The donation, the largest of its kind, will be split among Morehouse College, Spelman College and the United Negro College Fund, and will be enough for both universities to support 200 students each over the next decade.

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Hastings credited Dr. Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, for "offering to help" him and his wife get to know the HBCUs, and explained why now is as important a time as ever to shine a spotlight on the significance of these institutions.

Hastings and Lomax, along with Morehouse College President David A. Thomas and Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, spoke with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King about the record-setting gift.

Read a portion of their conversation below:

Reed Hastings: About five years ago, I set up a program at my alma mater ... And so I was telling Michael Lomax, you know, "Look at what I'm doing at Bowdoin College."

And he said, "Well, that's great. But, you know, there's this whole other world."

And what happens is that white capital tends to flow to predominantly white institutions. And it's just what you know and are comfortable with and have grown up with. And he offered to help Patty and I get to know the HBCUs ... And then this year, with the tragedy in America and everyone feeling hopeless, we realized this is the time to do something bigger, and to really try to bring the HBCU story front and center...

Gayle King: Dr. Lomax ... it sounds like we have you to thank on some level about this. When you heard that Reed and his wife were doing this ... what was your initial reaction?

Dr. Michael L. Lomax (UNCF): Well, Reed and I have known one another for 15 years… I knew they needed to go to a range of colleges, and I always felt that historically black colleges were gonna be centrally important for that ... So, you know, I was making the case to Patty and Reed — great education at historically black colleges, but we need great philanthropists to step up and invest…

King: Dr. Campbell, how did you hear the news, and what was your reaction?

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell (Spelman College): Patty explained that what they wanted to do was to provide a gift of $20 million, to fund ten students a year over the next ten years with full tuition, room and board scholarships… The very next day — the very next day — Patty sent ... an email around again to Michael, David, and me, and this time said, "You know, we've been thinking, and we've decided to make it $40 million." And I just about fainted at that point… This gift is such an affirmation of all of those gifted, hardworking students who want to come to places like Spelman and Morehouse ... Now we have the resources to support 200 students, each of us, over the next ten years. That's a game-changer.

King: Dr. Thomas, what will this money mean to Morehouse?

Dr. David A. Thomas (Morehouse College): I think it will also transform how people look at HBCUs as an investment ... You also have to put this in the context of what's been happening here in Atlanta.

King: Right, right.

Thomas: During the first week of protests, a student from both Spelman and Morehouse were together, were tased and pulled out of a car by police ... I had been ... with my students who were taking leadership in the protest, and writing to them, and telling them, you know, "You gotta practice what you've been — what you've been taught here at Morehouse, and what it represents ...

King: And what is that?

Thomas: What you've been taught here is ... to create change, nonviolent social action, the vote, organizing, educating and leading and serving ... I wrote to Reed later that what I really felt in his and Patty's reaching out was a true partnership. And then the $40 million email came, and ... my wife had to tell me to put her down. 

King: I love that. I love it ... Did you know you were gonna do 40? Or did you do 20 and then say, "You know what? Let's kick it up a notch."

Hastings: We realized that if we really wanna support the HBCUs in the right way, we should dig deeper ... And so that's where, you know, Patty and I wanted to really go big and really start the ball rolling ... As big and wonderful as this gift is, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the need.

Campbell: ... The wonderful thing about this gift is Patty and Reed did not want the gift named after them. So Spelman College chose to name it after one of our alums ...

King: You said they didn't want the gift named after them--

Campbell: That's right

King: Reed, please explain. Very few people, again, extraordinary, would give money of this magnitude and say, "You know, I don't mind if you name a wing after me or if you call it after me ..."

Hastings: So in both cases, we really want the gift to symbolize, you know, great black achievement, through the HBCUs.

King: People that know you say that you are a very private person, you and Patty.

Hastings: Absolutely ... but, you know, it does help to bring attention — by coming forward and really explaining why the HBCUs are such a great resource, such a historic, so much resilience and so many chapters of that story, and what a difference they make in black education in America.

King: So you guys have all heard that phrase, "Go big or go home." Reed and Patty, you do not have to go home, 'cause you went really big. You went really big.

Lomax: But, you know, just if I may, this gift is the largest single gift made to UNCF and our HBCUs in 76 years of history. It is made by private individuals ... Patty and Reed need to be inspirations to more people to give.

King: Dr. Lomax, are you all optimistic about where we're heading?

Lomax: I will be optimistic when I see other people stepping up as Patty and Reed have stepped up, and that they are saying, "We stand in solidarity with these movements ..."

You know, Dr. King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." The arc does not bend on its own. We have to put our shoulders to it to help it bend. We need more people to join in doing that work.

This article was originally published on on June 17, 2020.


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