Netflix CEO Reed Hastings donates $120 Million to historically black colleges and universities

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

The donation, the largest of its kind, will be split between Spelman College, Morehouse College and the United Negro College Fund, which will each receive $40 million.

Calling it the ‘largest gift we’ve ever given’, Hastings’ and Quilling’s gesture comes amid protests following the police killing of George Floyd, and a national conversation about how to end systemic racism.

That conversation has also included discussions about how to provide more education and job opportunities for African Americans – an effort Hastings says will now become the focus of his and his wife’s philanthropy.

‘The times are the most stressed, the most painful, that we’ve ever seen in our lives,’ Hastings told MSNBC Wednesday. ‘But out of that pain can come some opportunity, too. And maybe this will be the moment things change.’

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, announced Wednesday that they will donate $120 million to support scholarships at historically black colleges and universities 

The sum offered by Hastings and Quillin will be enough for both Morehouse and Spelman college to support 200 students each over the next decade. 

The two colleges, based in Atlanta and dedicated to educating women and men respectively, are top producers of black graduates receiving Fulbright scholarships and pursuing doctorates.

The United Negro College Fund, meanwhile, is a minority education organization that awards scholarships to more than 10,000 students each year and financially supports 37 historically black colleges and universities.

Endowments at historically black colleges and universities are significantly lower than at comparable institutions – with the median endowment for American Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) is $15.7 million, compared with the median endowment of $36.8 million for non-HBCUs, a news release said.

But Hastings and Quillin want to help change that, and hope their donation will inspire other wealthy individuals to give to HBCUs.

‘There’s so much social isolation in America, there’s just less awareness in the white community — certainly in my community — of the role that HBCUs have played over the last 150 years,’ the couple said in a joint statement, announcing the donation.

‘So white people generally give to predominantly white institutions. It’s natural, but it’s not healthy. We need to do a better job of kind of getting to know each other and cross-investing.’

Hastings, reported to have a net-worth of $5.3 billion, has a history of supporting educational causes, including charter schools. 

In 2010, he launched a $100 million education fund, focused on giving money toward college scholarships for black and Latino students. $1.5 million of the initiative went toward the United Negro College Fund.

At the time, the billionaire posted on Facebook that ‘I hope to do more in the future,’ seemingly foreshadowing the 2020 donation. 

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

Morehouse College President David Thomas said the gift is particularly powerful because Hastings and Quillin allocated it specifically toward scholarships, as reported by the LA Times.

The donation makes up nearly 10 percent of Thomas’ goal to reach a $500 million endowment – a target he now aims to raise.

Thomas is hoping to make the endowment large enough so the college can admit students without having to consider their family’s economic status.

‘We’ve done the calculations. To be where I want our college to be, which is need-blind, we need an endowment of roughly $1.2 billion,’ Thomas told the Times.

Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College, told MSNBC the donation would help students in need to focus on academics.

‘It’s a statement from Patty and Reid of great faith in our students and faith in our institutions,’ she said. ‘It’s going to mean that every year we’re going to be able to identify 20 high-performing students, high-need students and say to them “you get to go to college debt-free.”’

Outside of his philanthropic pursuits, Hastings has also pledged to address diversity imbalance among his Netflix work force. Currently, around seven percent of its employees in the US are African American, as are eight percent of its company leaders.

Those percentages are among the highest in the technology industry, though the company has been accused of falling short in hiring, retaining and promoting underrepresented minorities within their own ranks.

Other tech industry donations in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests have largely been on the company level.

Last week, for instance, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the company will spend $100 million on a new Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, investing in education and criminal justice reform among other things. YouTube, meanwhile, pledged $100 million to help black artists and other creators.