A Black investor and his philanthropist wife are spending $250,000 to pay off the tuition of about 50 graduates from Spelman College, the all-women historically Black college in Atlanta. According to Forbes, Frank and Laura Day Baker were planning the gesture for a while, but the need became even more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic. That urgency caused the couple to accelerate the process.
"The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out,” Frank told Forbes. “These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”
The couple has also pledged to contribute at least $1 million to help Spelman seniors over the next three years.
“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of color — especially women — face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Frank and Laura said in a statement. “We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges.”
Frank Baker of Siris and Laura Day Baker to pay remaining tuition for nearly 50 Spelman College seniors and announced a $1M gift toward the establishment of a scholarship to ensure future graduating seniors have the financial resources to graduate. https://t.co/hoSeGdA3ot pic.twitter.com/Xo6veARwDB— Spelman College (@SpelmanCollege) May 21, 2020
Frank started his business success on Wall Street in 1994, getting involved in the mergers acquisition of Goldman Sachs, Forbes reported. The Black entrepreneur became the founder and managing partner of Siris, a private equity firm investing in technology companies. He also serves as a trustee of the University of Chicago in addition to working as a board member for the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity and for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization.
Laura has elevated herself as an interior designer, having her work featured in publications such as Vogue and The New York Times. As a philanthropist, Laura focuses on underserved communities, academics and the arts.
Now, the couple is uniting to give back to the women of Spelman.
“These are the women we need in the workforce,” Frank said. “They are going to make a difference.”
The 47-year-old found his inspiration from Robert Smith, who paid off the student loans for graduates of Morehouse College last year, as Blavity previously reported.
“Robert was fortunate enough to go to Cornell and Columbia and him giving to Morehouse was a nod to the recognition that the majority of African-Americans going to college are graduating from historically black institutions,” Frank said. “We need to make sure these schools continue to be viable. We are all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if I went to the school or not.”
Smith expressed similar sentiments when he made the donation last year.
“I’ve got the alumni over there and this is a challenge to you alumni,” Smith said at the time. “Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward. Because we are enough to take care of our own community.”
Spelman graduate Gabrielle Sumpter was one of the first students who found out that Frank and Laura would be paying off her tuition.
"To know that my remaining balance has been lifted off of me means so much," Sumpter said. "This is a testament to what it means to give back. My mom is a Spelman alumna and we continue to talk about the ways we can give back to Spelman. It means a lot that someone was willing to pour into me – not even really knowing me personally, but knowing that I am coming from an institution that believes in me and they want to believe in me as well. I don't think people realize just how much of an impact this will have on my future."