Ask an HBCU alum about their college experience and it’s likely they’ll say, “it’s just different.” From their inception, historically Black institutions have served as a testament to the struggle won by survivors. Those who attend them understand why it’s a “different world” and those, like Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, who advocate for them, know exactly what that “different” experience can mean in the lives of Black students.
In February, the Life Member and current president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. committed $1.6 Million on behalf of the sorority to 31 of the country’s HBCUs. It was done in partnership with the Educational Advancement Foundation (EAF), Alpha Kappa Alpha’s philanthropic arm, to help assist in the financial stability of our treasured institutions. Over the next four years, that fund is expected to grow to $10 million with an aim at distributing financial support to 96 accredited schools.
“I actually know firsthand the financial challenges that face HBCUs,” Dr. Glover tells ESSENCE about why she chose to make HBCUs a target for her administration. “I know that we need sustainable solutions for historically Black colleges and universities and the best way to do that is through an endowment because endowment represents sustainability. Endowment is the pathway to student success.”
Though HBCUs have proven their economic impact on the country, financial backing for these educational powerhouses has never adequately addressed the needs of its students or campus infrastructure. Yes, reports show that a low percentage of alumni give back to the colleges and universities from whence they graduate — U.S. News and World Report estimates that number around 11.2 percent — but these schools have also seen little investment from federal and state governments, which has created resource inequities between predominantly white institutions and historically Black ones. Glover understands this.
In her presidential bio for Alpha Kappa Alpha, Glover is described as “the daughter of a civil rights activist” who “determined early that education and equal justice were important for all people of color.” This lends credence to why the Memphis native—who also serves as the president of Tennessee State University, an HBCU located in Nashville—has used her executive position within the organization to present Alpha Kappa Alpha as an invested source of support.
Proof of this came as Bennett college faced the loss of accreditation earlier this year. The 146-year-old women’s college was challenged to raise $5 million by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Though Glover already had plans to present a $100,000 check to Bennett at the end of February, she personally notified Bennett’s President, Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, that the first Greek letter sorority founded by African-American college-educated women would support her efforts to keep the doors of Bennett open.
“I made the phone call to Dr. Dawkins at Bennett to say listen we’re here to help. What can Alpha Kappa Alpha do?” Glover recalls of the conversation. “She said ‘Well you can do a lot. You can help us raise $5 million.’”
One could say that applying a heightened level of personal attention is one of Glover’s trademarks. She showed that same care earlier this month when she traveled to Memphis to award Tupac Mosley, a recent graduate of Raleigh-Egypt High School, a full scholarship to her alma mater. Tupac’s story was special in that he managed to become valedictorian of his senior class all while being homeless. He also received $3 million in scholarships to attend school. Mosley chose Tennessee State University.
“For the president herself to drive down to one of the schools to actually assist a student personally, one-on-one, to take him or her up there for a visit, it’s just mind-blowing to me,” Mosley said at the time of her visit.
But Glover did not go alone. She brought with her a team of senior university officials who helped present Mosley with the life-changing gift.
“Tupac is not homeless anymore,” Glover said to reporters during a celebration for the future engineering major. “He now has his own room with a meal plan with all the necessary amenities to help him continue his success as an academically talented student. That’s what we do. We are an HBCU, we care about our students. It is in our DNA that we can see a student with this much potential and talent and see what we can do to assist him even before he starts his academic journey.”
In November 1971, Glover made a promise to “be of service to all mankind.” And she’s doing it, daily. Whether she’s wearing the hat of Alpha Kappa Alpha International President or that of TSU president, the civic-minded leader says, “I think I’m just happy that I have a chance to give back in this way.”