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At the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) 65th anniversary dinner in New York, Black Enterprise magazine publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. and attorney Caroline Kennedy received awards of distinction for their commitment to the education of black students.
In addition, guests were surprised to learn from Exxon Mobile Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson that Exxon would immediately donate $500,000 and supply a matching grant of another $500,000 to the fund.
The UNCF supports more than 60,000 students that attend 39 historically black colleges and universities through scholarships and educational development. The organization is also known for “An Evening of Stars,” formerly the “Lou Rawls Parade of Stars,” a nationally televised event to raise money for HBCUs. Proceeds from the dinner will support the fund.
After UNCF President Michael L. Lomax welcomed the guests, each award recipient spoke briefly to give their gratitude to the UNCF and to HBCUs.
“Receiving this award is an indication that what I did was meaningful and substantive. I know it has made a difference,” says Graves, who has donated generously to HBCUs throughout the years.
Graves, a graduate of Morgan State University, received the Frederick D. Patterson Award for his career accomplishments and commitment to minority education and philanthropy. The award is named after the Tuskegee University president who founded UNCF in 1944.
“Earl Graves has been a role model for generations of black college students who, before Black Enterprise, didn’t really think that starting their own business or working in corporate America was much of an opportunity or an option for them,” Lomax says. “He’s been a role model, a champion, and a trailblazer in his work. That has been great for our students.”
Graves, a member of the board of directors at Howard University, requested that his grandson Carter Graves join him on the stage as he accepted his award. “I have taken each grandchild, in order of age, to an event like this. Carter is number six of the total eight,” says Graves. “I want him to understand the importance of this organization and what it means to the students and the institutions that it helps. I also want him to be exposed to an audience of 1,600 people, the majority of whom will be African American, who have had great achievements.”
In accepting the UNCF’s President’s Award for her work on behalf of New York City’s public schools, Caroline Kennedy said she was really gratified to see the improvements in student achievement in New York public schools over the last six years.
“Receiving this award has a special meaning to me because my father gave the money from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage to the UNCF, so this is an association that our