GREENSBORO, N.C. – Bennett College announced today that the college has received a historic $1 million gift from Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano. The donation is one of the single largest grants in Bennett College’s history, and officials hope it will allow the college to bridge the funding gap necessary to retain its accreditation.
The couple made the gift on behalf of Jones’ mother, Dorothy Wilkerson Jones, who graduated from Bennett in 1965 with a degree in pre-law and a minor in political science, as well as Jones’ aunt, Brenda Wilkerson Hoover, who graduated from Bennett in 1963 with a degree in elementary education.
Jones is an impact investor and Founder/CEO of SUPERCHARGED® by Kwanza Jones, a global lifestyle and personal development brand that builds your fitness + confidence + community so you can continuously improve you. Feliciano is co-founder and Managing Partner of Clearlake Capital Group, L.P., a leading private investment firm founded in 2006. Through their Kwanza Jones & José E. Feliciano Initiative, the couple invests in individuals, organizations and early stage/growth ventures across four key areas: Education, Entrepreneurship, Equal Opportunity and Empowerment.
“I am a very proud African-American woman who wears my crown,” Jones said Monday during a press conference in the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel as Feliciano stood by her side. “I am a queen that was raised by queens. I am a queen who knows other queens lift other queens. They raise queens. They raise kings. They raise the world. They elevate everything. So that is the foundation of why my mother said, ‘you know, you all should give to Bennett.’”
Jones told the audience that her mother first approached her last year about giving to Bennett, suggesting she donate $1,926 to commemorate the year Bennett became a women’s only institution.
“It’s not a gift from just Jose and me. It’s a gift from everyone,” Jones said after referencing her late father and her extended family, as her mother and aunt looked on. “Last Thursday we said, we can do something, because we had not heard about the accreditation status. Mom had not even known. Aunt Brenda had not even known. So we called up and said that we would like to give a million dollars.”
Jones’ announcement caught the audience by surprise and was met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. It moved many to tears.
“Just standing here, I can see one of the reasons we named our initiative the SUPERCHARGED® initiative,” Jones said. “For us, SUPERCHARGED® is about energy. It’s about power, but most importantly, it’s about action. And what you all have seen done in this limited amount of time … It wasn’t just 45-50 days. It was a more compressed period of time. (During the holidays) things shut down. But you stood up.”
Bennett College President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins hugged Jones after the $1 million gift announcement.
After the press conference, Dawkins could not say enough about Jones’ and Feliciano’s generosity.
“It’s hard to put into words the significance of what Kwanza Jones and her husband, José E. Feliciano, have done for Bennett College,” Dawkins said. “The importance of their gift goes way beyond the dollar amount. In announcing her gift today, Kwanza Jones instantly became a role model for our current Bennett students by showing them that there’s nothing they cannot achieve in life if they put in the hard work.
“For an African-American woman to bless the College in this way is profound,” Dawkins continued. “All of us at Bennett College are eternally grateful to Kwanza Jones and her husband, and we thank God for her mother and her aunt. Clearly their love for Bennett and their understanding of ‘to whom much is given much is required’ rubbed off on Kwanza.”
In her remarks at the press conference, Jones praised her mother and aunt for the lessons they instilled in her.
“My mother and aunt were trailblazers who came from a family that valued education as a worthwhile pursuit in and of itself,” said Jones. “Bennett College was a transformative place for them and, in turn, for our family. This gift is meant to help ensure that young women of color, today and in the future, have a chance to blaze their own trails and experience the beauty, brilliance and boldness that Bennett College brings forth.”
Founded in 1873 as a coeducational institution, Bennett College became women’s only in 1926. Spelman College in Atlanta is the country’s only other all-women’s HBCU.
Bennett has a rich history of producing outstanding women leaders, including: the first African-American woman licensed surgeon in the south; the first woman or African-American to head the U.S. Peace Corps; the first African-American mayor of the city of Greensboro; the first African-American female mayor in the state of Washington; the writer of the screenplay “The Loving Story,” which in 2016 was turned into an Academy Award-nominated motion picture; the first woman to hold the position of Director of Drug Program and Policies and youngest Director within the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA); and the first African-American woman to serve as Assistant Attorney General in the state of Massachusetts – just to name a few.
Current Bennett College students or recent grads are also impressive, including senior administration major Tyler Binion, who was selected among 63 students to serve as a Competitiveness Scholar through the White House Initiative on HBCUs, and Delrisha White ’13, who enrolled in Bennett from the foster care system in San Francisco and became SGA President. White graduated with honors and is now earning her master’s degree at Harvard.
Ways to give to Bennett College:
- Online: bennett.edu/donate
- Text2Give: Text the word BELLES to the number 444999
- Cash App: $StandwithBennett
- U.S. Mail: Send a check to Bennett College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 900 E. Washington St., Greensboro, N.C. 27401