What Is the Outlook for the Endowments of the Black Colleges?

Harvard University recently reported that its $36.9 billion endowment had lost 22 percent of its value in the July 1 to November 1, 2008 period. In dollar terms, Harvard’s loss is about $8 billion, more than the total endowment value of all but four universities: Princeton, Stanford, MIT, and Yale.

The Harvard loss may turn out to be larger because Harvard has not dealt with valuation problems in alternative assets such as private corporate equity placements that are currently flooding the market at discounts of 50 percent.

It is possible, too, that there are other nonliquid investments in the Harvard portfolio where under present conditions there is no real way to determine value. In June 2008, Harvard had 9 percent of its endowment invested in timber and agriculture and a similar amount in real estate.

Other colleges and universities have reported endowment losses since July 1 of 25 percent or more.

JBHE has been unable to get any readings on the recent performance of endowment funds of black colleges and universities. Over the years, JBHE has regularly collected information on the endowment performance of the HBCUs. In the July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2007 period, when the Standard and Poor’s stock index rose by more than 20 percent, many of the black colleges with the largest endowments actually outperformed the funds at some of the nation’s wealthiest higher education institutions.

As of June 30, 2007, Howard University had the largest endowment of any of the black colleges. Its funds totaled nearly $524 million. Spelman College in Atlanta ranked second with an endowment of $340 million. The Spelman College endowment fund is considerably less than 1 percent of the endowment value of Harvard University. In its last report Hampton University in Virginia had an endowment of $257 million. But the vast majority of black colleges and universities have puny endowments that generate very little income.

There is a good chance that the black colleges will have smaller endowment percentage losses than the nation’s wealthiest universities and colleges. Black college funds are likely to be invested in low-risk government notes, high-yielding stocks and bonds rather than so-called growth stocks, securities that have been hit especially hard in the latest economic crunch. Also, the black colleges are unlikely to have invested in real estate and commodities where losses have been more severe than in the stock market. This conservative investment philosophy prevails because the black colleges depend on a sure source of income which they use to fund current operations.

In percentage terms, the black colleges may have taken a hit that is less severe than most of the predominantly white colleges and universities.


Three African Americans Awarded Rhodes Scholarships

This year 207 colleges and universities across the United States nominated 769 students for a Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarships, considered the most prestigious award given to college students, provide for up to three years of graduate study at Oxford University. Previous winners have included Bill Clinton, former senator Bill Bradley, former secretary of state Dean Rusk, and former Harvard president Neil Rudenstine. African Americans who have won Rhodes Scholarships include philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke, author John Edgar Wideman, and Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy.

This year there were three African Americans among the 32 Rhodes Scholars.

• For the first time in a quarter-century, a prominent player in a major college football program won a Rhodes Scholarship. Myron L. Rolle, of Princeton, New Jersey, is a safety for the high-powered Florida State University football team. He is rated a top prospect for the National Football League.

Rolle’s academic achievements are remarkable considering the demands of playing major college football. He completed his pre-med bachelor’s degree in two-and-a-half years at Florida State, achieving a 3.75 grade point average. He is currently in a master’s degree program in public administration. He hopes to go to medical school and become a neurosurgeon. At Oxford he will enroll in a master’s degree program in medical anthropology.

Matthew L. Gethers III is a biological engineering major at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT he has participated in research aimed at enabling engineers to genetically encode memory systems to assist in the study and treatment of diseases.

Gethers has volunteered for the MIT Emergency Medical Service and has tutored children each week in the Cambridge public schools. A native of Waterbury, Connecticut, Gethers is a member of the two-time New England champion varsity fencing team.

At Oxford, Gethers will pursue a degree in philosophy, politics, and economics. He eventually would like to study for a Ph.D. in biological engineering.

Rakim H.D. Brooks of the Bronx, New York, is a senior at Brown University majoring in Africana studies and philosophy. He is currently writing his undergraduate thesis on African-American leadership in the post-civil rights era.

Brooks is a member of Brown’s mock trial team and has completed internships with the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Brookings Institution.

At Oxford, Brooks will study for a master’s degree in comparative social policy.



Webcast Allows Black Graduate Students in Mississippi to Take a Course in Materials Science in California

Guillermo Bazan, a professor of materials, chemistry, and biochemistry at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is teaching a graduate course this semester on organic semiconductors structure and applications. But some of his students are thousands of miles away in a classroom at Jackson State University, the historically black educational institution in Mississippi.

An Internet-based Webcast connects the two classrooms so that students at both locations and Professor Bazan can continually communicate. The program is called the Partnership in Research and Education in Materials, or PREM. It was made possible by a five-year, $2.75 million grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the number of black students studying in material science. If the faculty and resources for such study are not available on a particular black college campus, then the Internet can bring the African-American students to a campus that has such expertise.

“There is no expertise in this area in our department,” says assistant professor of chemistry Ruomei Gao at Jackson State University, who sits in and monitors the Web classroom in Mississippi. “PREM allows our students the opportunity to attend classes taught by top scientists.”


Harvard Law School Celebrates Lani Guinier’s Tenth Anniversary

More than 80 guests gathered at Harvard Law School to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Lani Guinier’s appointment as the first black woman to be named to a tenured faculty position at the school. Guinier remains the only black woman on the Harvard Law School faculty.

Attending the event was Derrick Bell, who left Harvard in 1990 to protest the school’s refusal to appoint a woman of color to its faculty. Bell currently teaches at the New York University School of Law. Also celebrating the Guinier anniversary were Henry Louis Gates Jr., Anita Hill, Laurence Tribe, and Damon Keith, the federal judge from Detroit for whom Guinier clerked in 1974.

During the celebration it was announced that a portrait of the late Constance Baker Motley, civil rights attorney and federal judge, had been commissioned and would be displayed at the law school.



• Angela T. DuBose was appointed treasurer at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. She had served as assistant and interim treasurer for the past decade.

• Brian K. Bridges was named vice provost for diversity, access, and equity at Ohio University in Athens. He was associate director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.

A graduate of Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, Dr. Bridges holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina Charlotte and an educational doctorate from Indiana University.

• LuWana Williams was named senior women’s administrator for the athletics department at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. She was a coordinator for the Bibb County Success Program which helps at-risk teenagers earn their high school diploma.

Williams is a graduate of Mercer University and holds a master’s degree from Troy State University in Alabama.


Honors and Awards

The Fisk University Jubilee Singers were awarded the National Medal of Arts in a White House ceremony. The choral group, founded in 1871, has raised millions of dollars for the university. The group has recorded many albums and performed all over the world including a command performance for Queen Victoria of England.

• Mary M. Atwater, a professor of science education at the University of Georgia, was named an inaugural fellow of the American Educational Research Association for her outstanding contributions to education research.

Dr. Atwater is a graduate of Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She holds a master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of North Carolina and a doctorate in science education from North Carolina State University.

• Earl Smith, Rubin Professor and director of American ethnic studies at Wake Forest University, received the 2008 Book Award from the North American Society for the Study of Sport. Professor Smith, who is now a visiting professor at Colgate University, was honored for his book Race, Sport, and the American Dream.

• Michael Waul, a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Waul, a native of Jamaica, was the only Caribbean student to win a Rhodes Scholarship this year. He plans to study for a master’s degree in medicinal chemistry at Oxford University.

• Donald E. Wilson is senior vice president for health sciences at Howard University and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is the recipient of the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

• John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University, is having a new park in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, named in his honor. The John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 1921 Tulsa race riot.



• Alabama State University, the historically black educational institution in Montgomery, received a $50,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation. The money will be used for scholarships reserved for students who are the first in their immediate family to attend college.

• Virginia Commonwealth University received a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The university’s School of Allied Health Professions will use the grant to study the experiences of people with disabilities who come from disadvantaged minority groups.

• Saint Paul’s College, the historically black educational institution in Lawrenceville, Virginia, received a $1.3 million bequest from the estate of Charles N. Mason Jr., a Washington lawyer and civil rights activist. The gift is the largest in the college’s history.

Research Universities With the Highest Black Student Graduation Rates

For many years Harvard University, traditionally one of the nation’s strongest and most dedicated supporters of affirmative action, has produced the highest black student graduation rate of any college or university in the nation. The 2008 data shows Harvard’s black student graduation rate is 96 percent.

But this year Harvard’s black student graduation rate is bested by the California Institute of Technology. All black students who entered CalTech in the 1999 to 2002 period graduated from CalTech within six years. While this is an impressive performance, we note that during this four-year period there were only 17 black students who matriculated at CalTech. In comparison there were 518 black students who entered Harvard between 1999 and 2002, and 96 percent earned their degree within six years.

Yale University shows a black student graduation rate of 94 percent, the third-highest rate in the nation.

Princeton University and Stanford University posted a black student graduation rate of 92 percent. Brown University and the University of Pennsylvania posted a black student graduation rate of 90 percent.


“We’re coming to the end of the age of Ronald Reagan. There will be no more calls from the White House to Fox News. We’re moving into a new age.”

Cornel West, Class of 1943 University Professor at Princeton


Black Scholar Wins 2008 National Book Award

Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of law at New York University and a professor of history at Rutgers University, won the 2008 National Book Award for her nonfiction work, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. Gordon-Reed’s book traces the origins of the Hemings family of slaves from seventeenth-century Virginia to their sale after the death of Thomas Jefferson.

Professor Gordon-Reed’s earlier book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, speculated that the nation’s third president had fathered at least one child with his slave Sally Hemings. A year after the publication of her book, DNA evidence came forth that confirmed a genetic link between Jefferson and Hemings’ youngest child.

Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School.


Exhibit Marks the 40th Anniversary of “Black Thursday” at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh has debuted a new multimedia exhibit detailing the history of the 1968 “Black Thursday” student demonstrations. On November 21, 1968, black students at the university marched into the university president’s office and presented a list of demands. The students wanted increased financial aid, curriculum and cultural changes, and equal housing. The university president had the students arrested. They were subsequently expelled from the university.

The new multimedia project, which will be on display until February at the university’s Gail Steinhilber Art Gallery, includes photographs, documents, videoclips, and oral histories by more than 100 former students, faculty, administrators, and law enforcement officers who were present at the Black Thursday protest.


Columbia University Research Identifies an Environmental Culprit for High Rates of Asthma Among Black Inner-City Children

Asthma is significantly more prevalent among black children than it is among white children. And for those with asthma, blacks often have far more severe cases than whites. Government figures show that black children with asthma are three times as likely as whites to be hospitalized and nearly three times as likely as whites to die from the disease.

Now, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University have found what appears to be a contributing factor to the racial disparity in asthma rates. The study found that children who are exposed to mice and cockroaches and develop antibodies to the proteins of these household pests are more likely to have asthma and other respiratory problems.

“Our findings have significant public health implications,” said Rachel L. Miller, Irving Associate Professor of Medicine and Environmental Health at Columbia. “They highlight the importance of reducing exposure to cockroach and mouse allergens at a very early age.” The research may explain why there is a high level of asthma among black children in New York and other major cities.


The Liberal Arts Colleges With the Highest Black Student Yields in First-Year Admissions

According to the latest JBHE survey of black first-year students at the nation’s highest-ranked liberal arts colleges, Wellesley College, the prestigious college for women in Massachusetts, has the highest black student yield (the percentage of all accepted students who decide to enroll). More than 42 percent of accepted black students decided to enroll at Wellesley this fall. This is up from 33.9 percent last year. At Bucknell University in Pennsylvania nearly 42 percent of all accepted black students decided to enroll. This is an increase from a black student yield of 32.5 percent two years ago. At 36.3 percent, Bowdoin College and Grinnell College tied for the third-highest black student yield among the nationally ranked liberal arts colleges.

The lowest black student yield among the high-ranking liberal arts colleges was at Macalester College. Only 16.7 percent of the black students who were accepted at Macalester decided to enroll. A year ago, the black student yield at Macalester was 26.2 percent. Colby College showed a drop in black student yield from 30 percent to 18.2 percent.


Northwestern University Library Establishes Collection of Obama Memorabilia From Africa

The Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University has established a collection of memorabilia relating to President-elect Barack Obama that originated in Africa. The collection includes posters, bumper stickers, performance DVDs, recorded music, T-shirts, and greeting cards. Many of the items are currently on display at the library.

Melville J. Herskovits, a noted anthropologist, founded Northwestern’s African studies program in 1948. The Herskovits Library is said to house the largest collection of Africana in the world.


Major Research Study on Breast Cancer in Black Women Gets Under Way at the University of North Carolina

The Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is undertaking a major new study on breast cancer among African-American women in 44 counties throughout the state. The study will enroll more than 1,000 black women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Half of the women will be younger than 50 and half will be over 50. A similar group of white women will also be studied. The research will keep detailed records of the women for two years after their initial diagnoses to determine differences in treatment and access to medical care.

The researchers hope to determine factors contributing to a mortality rate from breast cancer that is twice as high for black women than for white women.

The study was named after the late Jeanne Hopkins Lucas, a North Carolina state legislator who died in 2007 from breast cancer.


664,249  Number of black students in public school systems in the state of Texas, the most in the nation.

1,290  Number of black students in public school systems in the state of Wyoming, the fewest in the nation.

source: U.S. Department of Education


In Memoriam

Ella Pearson Mitchell (1918-2008)

Ella Pearson Mitchell, the first woman to serve as dean of the Sisters Chapel at Spelman College, has died in Atlanta. She was 90 years old.

Reverend Mitchell was a native of Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated from the Union Theological Seminary in New York City where she met her husband. The two shared a ministry for 60 years. They were co-mentors of the doctor of ministry program at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. And they founded the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies in Los Angeles.

Mitchell also taught at the American Baptist Seminary of the West and the School of Theology in Claremont, California.

Kristin Hunter Lattany (1931-2008)

Kristin Hunter Lattany, a novelist and former professor of creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, died at a hospital in Stratford, New Jersey, after suffering a heart attack. She was 77 years old.

Lattany was the author of 11 novels. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she returned to her alma mater to join the English department faculty in 1972. There she taught creative writing, children’s writing, and African-American literature for 23 years.



Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.