Major Gifts Support OTHC

In November 2019, as part of Syracuse University’s Forever Orange Campaign to raise $1.5 billion in private philanthropy, the Office of Multicultural Advancement set a goal to raise $2 million in 2020 for the Our Time Has Come Scholarship program from Syracuse University’s diverse alumni.

A year later, the world is a different place. The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted normal routines and caused unprecedented challenges, not to mention loss of jobs and loved ones for many families. At the same time, the country is undergoing profound reflection and reckoning on issues of social justice and systemic racism.

Despite recent challenges—and in some cases, because of them—alumni continue to dig deep and give big.

“With philanthropy, timing is everything,” says Rachel Vassel ’91, assistant vice president of multicultural advancement. “Recent events have prompted alumni to make generous gifts in support of our students, understanding both the financial strain COVID-19 has placed on many families and the importance of providing access to higher education to all students.”

Several recent gifts at  $25,000 and above—including three at $100,000—are testimony to the desire of alumni to increase the diversity of Syracuse University and the ability of underrepresented students from all income levels to earn a Syracuse degree.

L. Kelly Atkinson, Jr. ’79 was motivated to increase his financial giving to Syracuse University by student protests during the 2019-20 academic year. “The University was challenged by students of color, a situation that has not completely resolved,” he says. “Some people may have backed off from supporting Syracuse and I wanted to make sure that students in need didn’t lose out on any opportunities because of that.”

A veteran television producer/director, Atkinson is a nine-time Sports Emmy Award winner for his work on 13 Olympics, and NBA and NFL coverage on NBC. Thankful for the professional training he received as a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, he has endowed the L. Kelly Atkinson, Jr. ’79 Endowed Scholarship Fund to promote diversity in the field of telecommunications by supporting underrepresented students studying television, radio and film.

“The Our Time Has Come program has consistently had remarkable graduation rates for students of color and I’m pleased to be able to support students in this way,” says Atkinson, a new member of the Syracuse University Office of Multicultural Advancement Advisory Council.

In addition to a major gift to the Alpha Phi Alpha Scholarship, Andrew Bryan Burnett ’88 has created a new endowment, the Joyceleen and Stephen Burnett Endowed Scholarship, which will support an underrepresented student in the College of Engineering and Computer Science. The scholarship honors Burnett’s mother, whose labor and sacrifice sent six children to college, and his late brother, who was tragically murdered before he had the chance. “My brother’s dream of going to college will be lived by each recipient of this scholarship,” Burnett says.

As an undergraduate studying aerospace engineering, Burnett says he typically never had his tuition paid until finals were over. “I basically sat in class, not being registered, while I came up with the money to pay tuition,” he recalls. “I want to help students of color at Syracuse so that their experience is not as difficult as it was for me.”

A successful entrepreneur, Burnett is currently CEO and managing director of The Accela Group, a management consulting firm; CEO of Soromma Technologies, a networking and cybersecurity company; and also has companies developing mobile apps. “Through some of these ventures I’m hoping to give even more,” he says.

Jamille McCullough ’95 is honoring the memory of her late mother, Gloria Hall ’74, a graduate of the School of Social Work, with a major gift to the OTHC Scholarship program for the support of an underrepresented student. “My mother was fiercely loyal to Syracuse and would not support me financially in attending another institution,” she says.

McCullough has had a successful career working in human resources for multinational companies. Currently, she is director of human resources for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for iRobot, and is based in London. She says COVID-19 prompted her to reflect on her values and priorities. Her desire to give back was fortified by the worldwide protest movement prompted by the murder of George Floyd as well as her own spiritual calling.

“I have been blessed financially and want to provide support to a minority student who otherwise would not have the opportunity to attend a prestigious university,” she says. “Hopefully my gift will inspire others.”

 

Roland Williams ’97, a football standout at Syracuse University and in the NFL, has created the Orange Legends Scholarship to inspire alumni to collectively help underrepresented students on campus.

“I was one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university,” he says. “During my time at Syracuse University, not only did I receive a world-class education, I learned firsthand the critical importance of diversity and inclusion in every part of campus life,” he says. “The Orange Legends Scholarship provides a way for successful alumni from sports, entertainment, and business to unite and provide the much-needed financial support students of color need to survive and thrive.”

Williams’ lead gift of $100,000 to fund this endowment has already sparked an influx of support from other Syracuse sports legends including $25,000 gifts from Juli and Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73 and basketball standout Sherman Douglas ’89.

Williams attended Syracuse University on a full scholarship, earning both his undergraduate degree, as well as a master’s in public relations from the Newhouse School of Public Communications. After college, Williams spent eight years in the NFL, most notably as a member of the legendary St. Louis Rams’ “Greatest show on Turf” offensive unit, breaking numerous records enroute to a Super Bowl victory. Following his professional football career, Williams has enjoyed success as a sports analyst for ESPN, NBC and CBS Sports; as an international team building and performance expert; and now as president and co-founder of J2 Medical Supply, one of the fastest growing medical supply companies in the nation.

“With all the challenges facing our country, now is the time for all of us to find more ways to make the future more equitable for everyone,” he says. “I am excited about this positive step in that direction.”