Mackenzie Scott, the ex-wife of the Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, gave away $8million to one of the first tribal colleges ever developed in the United States – with no strings attached.
Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt, North Dakota was created 50 years ago due to a lack of support offered to indigenous students who went away to college and found it difficult to be away from their families.
The founders decided to start tribal colleges on the reservations “to serve the educational needs of tribal citizens and provide the workforce that is needed on the reservation.”
There are around 500 students and about 95 percent of those are Native American, the majority of those are Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.
In an interview with Slate about the donation, Donna Brown, the college president, described how it felt to get the huge donation.
“When I first received an email, it just said, “There’s a donor who’s potentially interested in giving money to the college, would you have time to have a conversation with me?” And that’s really all it said.
“So it was kind of, Is this real? Is this fake? What’s the deal? But I did have a conversation with somebody doing some research for [Scott].”
Then came the life-changing phone-call
She goes on to describe her reaction when she found out just how much Scott was donating.
“I happened to be driving at the time. I almost had to pull over the side of the road. My jaw dropped. The most we’d received prior to this was $300,000. So to get $8 million was mind-blowing. I didn’t know if it was real.”
Brown asked Scott how the college selected, but Scott told Brown: “I can’t tell you that.” Though Brown said that they had done a lot of research as Scott knew that she was a very new president and, after a few interviews with Scott’s team, they were selected.
She added that Scott was interested in women of colour who were leaders and who were leading successful institutions.
Organizations that deal with climate change, LGBTQ rights, gender equality, poverty, and racial justice are just some of the different areas that Scott has made significant contributions to.
Some of her largest surprise gifts were directed at colleges and universities with largely Black and indigenous student bodies that she said were “selected for transformative work.”
So, how is the eight million being spent?
Brown said Scott doesn’t want the college to do something with the money to accomplish her own goals but to use it in a way that “fulfills our own mission, and in a way that we find appropriate, in the best way to serve our people.”
The college have requested, from an accreditation agency, to offer its first master’s level program and have also invested a portion of the money to meet their budget requirements.
Where else has Scott donated money?
When Scott and Bezos divorced in 2019, Scott walked away with the biggest settlement ever awarded in a marital split: $38 billion in Amazon stock.
Scott has signed a pledge to give away a majority of her wealth—estimated at more than $50 billion.
She donated an astonishing $4.1 billion dollars in the space of just four months last year, including to food banks and emergency relief funds.
Charity experts have applauded the amount she has given away and how she has done it. Ms Scott has worked with a team of advisers to research thousands of organisations.
She has been more generous in her donations than her ex-husband, but he has also been active with philanthrophy.