VSU receives $30 million donation from billionaire philanthropist

By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- Former wife of Jeff Bezos, American novelist, billionaire and venture philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $30 million to Virginia State University in December making it the largest in the history of the institution.

“I asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis,” Scott said in a Medium post. “They took a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams and results, with special attention to those operating in communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital.”

According to a statement by the school, the donation money will be utilized by VSU for more holistic opportunities for its students under the school’s strategic plan.

Scott was married to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos from 1993 to 2019 helping him launch the company and determine the company name, also managing the company's finances in its early years. After divorcing Bezos, Scott was at one point the third-wealthiest woman in the world and one of the world's wealthiest people by April 2019.

Today, Scott is currently the 18th wealthiest person in the world with an estimated net worth of $60 billion. Over the past year, Scott has donated $6 billion to charity after signing the Giving Pledge committing to donate half her wealth to philanthropic causes. Time magazine also named her one of its 100 Most Influential People of the year.

Scott has also donated money received by other Virginia HBCUs including Norfolk State University and Hampton University. Other organizations in Virginia that have received donations from her include Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia and United Way of South Hampton Roads.

“Ms. Scott’s legacy and generosity will touch the lives of Virginia State University students for years to come,” VSU President Makola M. Abdullah said in a statement. “Thanks to her investment in VSU, a generation of students who are living through the challenges of a pandemic, a social justice movement, and reduced scholarship funding will have additional resources as they continue to pursue their dreams of a world class education at Virginia State University.”