Mitchell Technical College and Lake Area Technical College in Watertown are going to be beneficiaries of more than $4 billion of giving from philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott, it was announced Wednesday.
The amount of the gift for the colleges was not stated in the announcement. Scott, who is deemed the richest woman in the world with a net worth of more than $60 billion, has committed $4.15 billion in philanthropy, much of it directed toward supporting those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement from Scott, 50, made through social media, states that 384 organizations, including the two in-state technical colleges, received donations to assist in continuing the work they are already doing, including a number of food pantries, civic organizations and to address systemic inequities.
“This generous gift is transformational and will provide the opportunity for growth in several of our programs to meet high-demand workforce needs in South Dakota,” said Mark Wilson, president of Mitchell Technical College, in a statement.
Bob Kobernusz, marketing director for Mitchell Tech, said that the exact dollar amount of the gift was not immediately known and that the gift was a nice surprise going into the Christmas holiday.
“It was nothing we applied for, it came out of the blue and was a big surprise,” Kobernusz said.
Scott said she sought out organizations for their leadership’s track record of effective management and significant impact in their fields. She recognizes the important role played by these organizations in continuing to provide vital services during the pandemic. She said these organizations are known for profound encouragement felt each time a person is seen, valued and trusted by another human being.
The gifts were given using a data-driven approach to identifying organizations with strong leadership teams that get results and who have low access to philanthropic capital. She identifies organizations with high potential for impact and paves the way with unsolicited and unexpected gifts given with full trust and no strings attached, according to the release.
Make Cartney, president of Lake Area Technical College, said he was pleased to receive the gift.
“It’s humbling to be recognized for our good work and it's our intent to be exceptional stewards of the gift. There is no doubt it will impact LATC, MTC, current and future students and citizens of South Dakota for a long time to come,” Cartney said in a statement.
Scott, who formerly went by MacKenzie Bezos prior to her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019, said use of the gifts will be left to the decisions of the recipients. It's estimated she's made nearly $6 billion in donations this year to charities and organizations, and she signed the Giving Pledge last year, promising to give the majority of her wealth to philanthropy.
“These 384 carefully-selected teams have dedicated their lives to helping others, working and volunteering and serving real people face-to-face at bedsides and tables, in prisons and courtrooms and classrooms, on streets and hospital wards and hotlines and frontlines of all types and sizes, day after day after day,” Scott said in a statement. “We shared each of our gift decisions with program leaders for the first time over the phone, and welcomed them to spend the funding on whatever they believe best serves their efforts. They were told that the entire commitment would be paid upfront and left unrestricted in order to provide them with maximum flexibility.”