Here’s what’s so great about MacKenzie Scott’s $40 million gift to Florida International University: No one begged her for the money; there was no dog-and-pony show to get her to write a check. She just did it because she is concerned about the wealth gap in America. And there are no strings attached.
FIU was one of 286 organizations across the country that will divvy up a $2.7 billion charitable-donation spree by Scott, 51, and her husband, Dan Jewett. Scott, in a blog post wrote that her team selected “286 high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked.”
FIU President Mark Rosenberg was driving down Southwest Eighth Street when he heard the news, the Herald reported. How he kept from swerving off the road, we’ll never know.
Scott explained in a tweet why FIU stood out:
“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved.”
Simply put, that’s FIU.
About 85 percent of its students are minorities, with more than 66 percent Hispanic, according to the university. Many are working and attending college at night to improve their lives.
“It’s unbelievable. They just called and said, ‘You’re in,’” Rosenberg told the Herald.
The gift is the single largest unrestricted gift in FIU’s 56-year history.
The university will direct the money toward its $750 million Next Horizon campaign and invest it in student programs that promote upward mobility to its 55,000 students. Two other Florida schools got the golden phone call: Broward College received $30 million and the University of Central Florida got $40 million.
This is not Scott’s first go-round in this arena. In keeping with her commitment to challenging racial inequity and the wealth gap in this country, she made a round of gifts last year primarily to historically Black colleges and universities and small public colleges, including Florida’s Indian River State College Foundation and Santa Fe College.
Scott has a net worth of $53 billion, according to Forbes. She acquired most of her wealth in Amazon shares after divorcing Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, in 2019.
Scott is not unfamiliar with South Florida. Her ex-husband grew up in Miami-Dade and is a 1982 Palmetto Senior High graduate. Bezos’ stepdad is a Cuban exile who came to this country as a child during Operation Pedro Pan.
Scott understands that, with a singular vision and commitment, sometimes you can throw money at a problem.