Column: Morehouse College gets $5 million gift from Woodruff Foundation

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on January 3, 2014

Morehouse College has received a significant gift — financially and symbolically — from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

The $5 million will go toward renovating the historically black college’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel — the spiritual heart of Morehouse College.

The chapel was built as a “World House” of unity and peace to promote the optimum human conditions by creating genuine community and global excellence based on a Hindu-Buddhist-Islamic-Judaic-Christian love — in the name of the college’s most famous graduate — civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

For John Wilson, who became president of Morehouse on Jan. 28, 2013, the gift is particularly “poetic” on several levels.

“When I graduated from Morehouse in 1979, we were the first class to graduate in the King Chapel,” Wilson said of the building that opened in 1978 and now needs $7 million in upgrades to make it a “world-class” facility.

Wilson also said that on his very first day on the job, one of his first meetings was with Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation, when they talked about the important relationship between the foundation and Morehouse.

“There’s something poetic about getting this gift from the Woodruff Foundation to redo the King Chapel,” Wilson said. “I’m hoping that the Woodruff gift will help lead to other gifts to Morehouse. We believe it’s a great time to invest in Morehouse, and a gift from Woodruff is among the very highest ratings you can get of your investment worthiness.”

Edwin Moses: STEM and Morehouse

One of the world’s greatest athletes — Edwin Moses — has been an Atlanta resident since 1994. But until now, his philanthropic efforts have been focused internationally instead of in his adopted hometown.

That’s about to change.

Moses is one of the most dominant track and field athletes to have hailed from the United States. He won gold medals in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. And between 1977 and 1987, Moses won 107 consecutive finals (122 consecutive races) and set the world record in his event four times.

Moses — through the new Edwin Moses Global Institute — is partnering with his alma mater — Morehouse College — to encourage more students entering the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

“The demand is for 1 million new jobs for STEM undergraduates,” Moses said at a fundraising event at the Oceanaire restaurant in mid-December. “We have an opportunity to make an imprint.”

Moses spoke of how he has been involved in philanthropic activities related to world sports, half-seriously saying: “There’s a lot of science in going over hurdles.”

But he said his “vision is to use what I’ve learned and bring it to Atlanta.”

Moses, who was born in Dayton, Ohio, first came to Atlanta to go to Morehouse.

He later returned in 1994 to join Robinson-Humphrey, and he never left.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in Atlanta,” Moses said in an interview at the event. “I’ve just never had the opportunity before to do something in my hometown.”

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