Historic Gift: Tuskegee Alumni Family Donates $600k to University

Last Updated on January 14, 2016

Main gate entrance on the campus of Tuskegee Univeristy
An alumni family has gifted $600,000 to Tuskegee University, primarily to bring two historic buildings back online as living-learning facilities for Tuskegee students. The family wishes to remain anonymous, and has made the gift in the hopes of inspiring all Tuskegee alumni, friends and constituents to join them in supporting Tuskegee’s ongoing transformation.

$500,000 of the family’s gift will go toward completely renovating the buildings known as Emery I and Emery II as residential spaces for students. The remaining $100,000 of their gift will go toward other initiatives yet to be determined.

Historic Emery Buildings

Historic Emery Buildings I, II and III circa 1905
Historic Emery Buildings I, II and III

There are four Emery buildings, located in the historic area of campus near the main gate. They were designed by Robert R. Taylor, built by students in 1903 and 1905, respectively, and renovated in 1981. They were gifts of Miss Elizabeth Julia Emery. Miss Emery spent the first twenty years of her life in Cincinnati, Ohio and thereafter lived abroad in England. She had a memory from her childhood of harsh injustice toward Black people, so she sought out Tuskegee to put some of her wealth to use at age 70.

Historic Emery Building II on the Tuskegee Campus
Current Emery Building II located in the historic area of the Tuskegee campus.

Living-learning Facility Model

The living-learning facility model is a centerpiece of President Brian L. Johnson’s vision for Tuskegee’s growth. A living-learning facility is a building, much like a residence hall. However, it is designed to house students who already have a natural learning connection; they may be studying the same discipline, hold the same major, be academically high-achieving, or share other natural affinity. These students will live together in the same facility, building lifetime social bonds, and making their academic pursuits a full-time endeavor with their peers. National studies have demonstrated that students in similar learning communities interact with faculty more than other students, and report higher levels of student satisfaction and engagement. They’ve also consistently shown improved learning outcomes, and a greater likelihood to graduate.

Univerisity Reactions to the Historic Gift

President Johnson was overjoyed by the gift:

“Of course Tuskegee is pleased when it receives gifts large or small that benefit our students. However, when the university begins to regularly receive six-figure gifts – and this one, notably, from an alumni donor – it is the clearest signal that there is momentum building and the university is gaining trust in its ability to steward these gifts for greater institutional capacity. Once again, we thank this anonymous family donor for trusting and investing into the Tuskegee tradition and the Tuskegee trajectory.”

Marcus Dean, Interim Director of Capital Projects at Tuskegee, described the scope and significance of the bringing of these two historic buildings back online:

“Each of the two buildings consists of thirty individual one-bed suites, offering a level of privacy and exclusivity which will be attractive to students. This is a unique and special residential experience. There are study spaces which will enhance collaboration. And the addition of a total of sixty new beds is crucial for Tuskegee’s plan to grow enrollment and attract the best students nationwide.”

How the Alumni Family Gift will be Utilized

The gift will cover a complete scope of improvements, among them new roofing, mechanical repairs and service, sewer repairs, and interior improvements including painting, flooring, and renovation of bathrooms and showers.

Tuskegee’s Vice President for Advancement and Development, Robert Blakely, was thrilled with completion of the gift:

“With this gift, we will now have thirteen remaining offline buildings, each of which we hope will serve as a similar living-learning facility. These are historic buildings which we are bringing back to life in the most effective way possible for our students, and for Tuskegee itself. Each will allow us to attract more students, better retain them, and create improved learning outcomes.“

He also expressed appreciation for the family, and the gift’s unique significance:

“I can’t stress how critical it is that this alumni family has stepped up as pioneer givers in our living- learning facility plan for our campus. We will approach all of our key partners, asking them to follow the lead of this alumni family to join in this campus-wide effort, as this is what will ultimately allow Tuskegee to thrive in the coming years and decades.”

Source: 2015 Tuskegee University

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