HBCUs Still Matter: Celebrity HBCU Alumni Who Have Paid It Forward To Their Alma Maters
Photo Credit: Steve Jennings / Paras Griffin

HBCUs Still Matter: Celebrity HBCU Alumni Who Have Paid It Forward To Their Alma Maters

Some of the biggest household names in entertainment got their higher learning at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) – even our own Vice President Kamala Harris.

What’s admirable about these celebrities is that they have not only supported these great American institutions by matriculating from them, but they also seize every opportunity to pour back into the universities that set them up for success. Whether through monetary donations, visits or initiatives, these alumni have always shown love to the Black educational experience.

From Spelman to Hampton to Clark Atlanta University and so forth, these beloved celebrities are the product of HBCUs. So, we’ve seen firsthand what these colleges are capable of producing. Globally-recognized filmmakers, actors, entertainers and more are a testament to the richness of HBCU culture. For those who have long since graduated, they still take the opportunity to pay it forward when they can.

Here’s a few celebrities who have gone above and beyond to give back to their HBCU alma maters:

Oprah Winfrey — (Tennessee State University)

Photo Credit: Christopher Polk

Oprah’s long history with HBCUs goes all the way back to her days at Tennessee State University as a communications major. Though she’s shared her wealth with other schools and HBCU initiatives, The Undefeated reports that she made a sizable donation to her alma mater last year with a $2 million gift to help the school and its surrounding community. More than that, she also collaborated with the university and Mount Zion Baptist Church to create NashvilleNurtures — an initiative that has provided meals to more than 10,000 families in the city.

Tom Joyner — (Tuskegee University)

Photo Credit: Rich Fury

When you think of Tom Joyner, his legacy is automatically associated with the decorated accomplishments of our nation’s HBCUs. His foundation, founded in 1998, was created specifically to serve and support these great institutions, and has raised over over $65 million doing so.

In addition to The Tom Joyner Foundation, the Tuskegee University alumnus has also supported the raising of funds for his former school. Moreover, Style Magazine reports that he chose the university as one of his foundation’s “Schools of the Month” in 2015, where its programs and students were then highlighted.

Spike Lee — (Morehouse College)

Photo Credit: Ian Gavan

The Oscar-winning film icon has been known to proudly boast about his alma mater, bragging about how “Morehouse is where I became a man.” After graduating, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Lee sat on the school’s board for awhile, also donating funds and resources to support the college’s journalism program.

As a pioneer for the next generation of filmmakers, Lee’s way of giving back to the school that made him who he is today, as well as other HBCUs, is by showcasing part of its rich culture in some of his films like “School Daze” and “Da 5 Bloods.”

Sean “Diddy” Combs — (Howard University)

Photo Credit: Larry Busacca

It’s no secret that the music mogul didn’t graduate from Howard University, but that never stopped him from supporting the place that had such a profound impact on his life. Several reports say that in an effort to celebrate the creation of the university’s scholarship initiative made in his name, he donated a $1 million gift to his alma mater back in 2016 during one of his Bad Boy Family reunion tour stops.

“I didn’t graduate from Howard. I was blessed to get my honorary degree but that doesn’t tell the whole story,” he said in his speech. “Because the only reason why I was able to chase my dreams was the empowerment that Howard gave me, the support that they gave me, the first two years.”

Though he dropped out in 1990, he later returned to Howard University to receive his honorary degree. He continuously credits the university as part of his success and finds more ways to use his accomplishments to pay it forward to other students.

Chadwick Boseman — (Howard University)

Photo Credit: Emma McIntyre

The late actor was a beloved gem that more than made his alma mater proud during his years of Hollywood success. But his legacy continues to live on at Howard even after his passing, both literally and figuratively, with his name now gracing the school’s College of Fine Arts. The university renamed the college after him earlier this year to honor his career and achievements that have inspired millions of people around the world.

What’s most memorable about his relationship with Howard is his commencement speech that he gave to the graduating class of 2018. His words were a memorable call to action that will forever resonate with those students. Everything that Boseman stood for continues to open doors for his fellow Howard brothers and sisters.

Terrence J — (North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University)

Photo Credit: Marcus Ingram

The famed TV host is all about giving back to his NCAT community and never fails to take advantage of an opportunity to show his appreciation to the university that has always supported him. In 2015, he donated a $100,000 endowment fund to the university to benefit the school’s journalism and mass communication department. His way of paying it forward to the programs that set him on the path to success was developing workshops to give students professional development in the media industry and a way to help graduates begin their careers in media.

2 Chainz — (Alabama State University)

Photo Credit: Steven Ferdman

The Atlanta rapper and former Alabama State hooper, over the course of his career, has found a way to merge his HBCU roots with his success in music. Last year, he dropped a music video showing love to HBCUs all around, giving shoutouts to several universities including his own alma mater.

In addition to that, his idea of giving back is more than just donating money back to his alma mater, it’s also about building up the next generation of leaders and business owners. As previously reported by AfroTech, 2 Chainz partnered up with YouTube last year to launch his “Money Maker Fund” for HBCU entrepreneurs.

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