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Spelman graduates tuition balances will be paid off by private equity firm co-founder, wife

50 members of the Class of 2020 have another reason to celebrate!

ATLANTA — Nearly 50 Spelman College graduates are getting the gift of a zero balance on their tuition for college after a couple is stepping in to give $1 million to the school.

Frank Baker and his wife, Laura Day Baker, announced the $1 million gift that will help establish a scholarship for Spelman graduates, the college said.

“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of color - especially women - face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Frank and Laura Day Baker. “

"We believe it is critical that talented women finish college and confidently enter – free of undue financial stress – the initial stage of their professional careers," they added. " We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges.”

The school said the funds will initially pay for the existing spring tuition balances for nearly 50 of Spelman’s 2020 graduating class. Thereafter, the scholarships will provide support for future high achieving graduating seniors.

"We are extremely grateful to Frank and Laura, who have given our talented graduates a gift that will serve them well as they launch their professional careers and transition into graduate school experiences," Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman.

Credit: Spelman College website
Frank Baker

Frank Baker is a founder and managing partner of Siris, a private equity firm focused on investing and driving value creation in technology and telecommunications companies. His wife is an interior designer who has had some of her work featured in top magazines and publications. She is also a philanthropist.

Their contribution to the school makes students like Gabrielle Sumpter, feel grateful. Spelman said the graduate was one of the first students to receive the news that she would be one of the recipients of the scholarship.

“To know that my remaining balance has been lifted off of me means so much,” she said.

Credit: Spelman College
Gabrielle Sumpter

"It means a lot that someone was willing to pour into me – not even really knowing me personally, but knowing that I am coming from an institution that believes in me and they want to believe in me as well," Sumpter said. 

The news comes on the heels of Spelman's virtual celebration that was held for its seniors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have about 480 students a part of the graduating class.

READ: Metro Atlanta group of 2020 graduates contracts COVID-19

It's not the first time that students in Atlanta have benefited from someone's generosity in this form.

It was this time last year when the commencement speaker of Morehouse College announced he would create a grant to eliminate that classes student loans. Robert F. Smith, philanthropist and investor, told the Morehouse men of 2019 the good news during the ceremony.  A Morehouse official told 11Alive the gift was worth about $40 million.

Smith tweeted the good news about Spelman over the weekend, saying he was proud of Baker's contribution.

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