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Alum Stephen A. Smith gives back: $250,000

By Dysheada Reid
On February 15, 2016

Stephen A. Smith’s $250,000 gift to Winston-Salem State left University officials in awe at his generosity.

The “Bond. Score. Win!” fundraiser was held Jan. 20 to raise funds for the men’s athletics.

The donation will be divided into $50,000 increments and dispersed over a period of five years.

At the fundraiser, Smith announced that he wanted 50 percent of his donation to be given to the Athletics Department and 50 percent toward the Communications and Media Studies department.

Michelle Cook, vice chancellor for University Advancement and executive director of WSSU Foundation, said the first $50,000 of the donation will be received July 1, 2016, which is the beginning of the University’s fiscal year.

Donors can choose whether they want their gift to be in the form of a scholarship, emergency fund, endowed or non-endowed.

Cook said she would suggest the donation be used as scholarships for the Athletics department and the Communications and Media Studies department.

“I would also suggest that he [Smith] endows his donation,” Cook said.

An endowment refers to a donation that remains in perpetuity with an establishment.  All interests gained will be spent.

According to Cook, approximately $10,000 to $12,000 worth of interest could be gained per year from the $250,000.

“The interest is spent based on the University’s ‘spending policy,’” Cook said.

The $250,000 will remain with the University for the life of WSSU.

“It is our responsibility to honor what is called ‘donors designation’,” Cook said. “So if a donor tells us [University Advancement] that’s how they want their money to be, we are required to do that.”

Now that the ball is in WSSU’s court, it is the responsibility of the University Advancement office to negotiate the terms of Smith's donation.

“I haven’t yet talked to Stephen A. Smith about how his gift is going to come in,” Cook said.

Cook said donation negotiations could take between one day and one year.

“Sometimes a donor will sit down and make a decision at the table. Others take a little more time,” Cook said.

Tonia Walker, director of the Athletics Department, said all the funds will go toward scholarships for student-athletes.

“My vision falls in line with WSSU’s leadership’s desire to secure additional scholarship offerings for the students. One-hundred percent Stephen’s commitment will support scholarships for the department,” Walker said.

Walker said the “Bond. Score. Win!” event was a creative way to combat minimal budget increases and federal aid decreases.

Smith has donated to WSSU’s Athletics department before, but this is his first donation toward the CMS Department [formerly the Mass Communications department].

Brian Blount, CMS department chair, said the donation would primarily be used as scholarships.

Blount said he would also purchase new media equipment and upgraded software.

He said he was very excited and appreciated the gift from Smith.

“I was here when he was a student. I’m very proud of his accomplishments,” Blount said. “He has come back to talk to students to give them the useful professional insight about the industry and how to prepare for it.”

Smith is a 1991 graduate and former basketball player of WSSU with a bachelor's in Mass Communications. He wrote frequently for The News Argus.

Smith is currently an ESPN sports commentator for First Take. He is also a NBA analyst on SportsCenter and NBA Countdown and has his own radio show as well.

Walker said having one of the University’s former student-athletes commit to his alma mater speaks to the importance of the cause at a time when HBCU’s are fighting to share their story of relevance and distinction.

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