Since 2004, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, PhD has served as president and CEO of UNCF, the nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to African-American students and a leading advocate of college readiness, students’ need for an education, from pre-school through high school, that prepares them for college success. Under his leadership, UNCF has raised more than $3 billion and helped more than 110,000 students earn college degrees and launch careers. Annually, UNCF’s work enables 60,000 students to go to college with UNCF scholarships and attend its 37 member historically black college and universities (HBCUs).
In 2018, Jean Shafiroff served as a co-chair of UNCF’s Hamptons Gala. Here she speaks with Dr. Lomax about UNCF’s vital role and strategies for these challenging times, innovating for the future, the economic impact of HBCUs and more.
Jean Shafiroff: Michael, the UNCF has done wonderful work since its beginnings. Can you please tell our readers about UNCF?
Dr. Michael Lomax:UNCF is one of higher education’s most impactful assets. Since its founding in 1944, UNCF has provided its member private historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with financial and capacity-building assistance, enabling more than 460,000 students of color to earn a college degree. UNCF annually supports approximately 60,000 students across 1,100 colleges and awards 10,000 scholarships to deserving young men and women. Still, for every scholarship UNCF grants to a student in need, nine other candidates are denied for lack of funding.
Jean Shafiroff: What do you hope your “go forward” strategy will do to preserve the legacy of HBCUs?
Dr. Michael Lomax: UNCF’s strategy for the future is focused on prioritizing the sustainability and transformation of the UNCF network of 37 HBCUs so that they can continue to produce the next generation of leaders as we all adapt to today’s new realities.
HBCUs account for only 3% of the nation’s colleges and universities, and they enroll 10% of all African American undergraduates. Yet, they consistently punch above their weight, producing 17% of all bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans. And they produce strong, impressive results—educational, economic and societal impacts for their students, the communities in which they are rooted, and for our nation. They remain true to their values and produce out-sized results, annually contributing $14.8 billion to the national economy and 134,090 jobs to their local and regional economies.
Jean Shafiroff: How has UNCF addressed both pandemics—coronavirus and the social justice movement?
Dr. Michael Lomax: Every day, COVID-19 and social injustice exacerbate the challenges students and institutions must overcome. During even normal times, HBCUs face a funding gap and must stretch every dollar. UNCF has worked tirelessly to address the critical emergency needs of the member HBCUs and their students.
UNCF’s work on behalf of HBCUs and their students is inextricably intertwined with the ongoing Black struggle for full citizenship rights, privileges and protections. It is important that HBCUs are not merely sustained but are fueled and strengthened for the work ahead. UNCF is up for this challenge and needs increased support now more than ever!
Jean Shafiroff: How can potential supporters invest in UNCF?
Dr. Michael Lomax:Despite our progress, we still can help only 1 in 10 students applying for financial assistance. Recent data shows 39% of students who enrolled in HBCUs in the fall did not return to college the following year—due in part to a lack of financial resources. The need-based financial assistance UNCF provides makes the difference between a student dropping out of college or graduating with a degree and entering the professional workforce.
Diversity matters, and UNCF institutions and students are key components to impacting the national economic growth that will result in better futures for all Americans. Please visit UNCF.org to learn more about the breadth of UNCF programs. You can make a difference by (1) donating at UNCF.org; (2) supporting your local UNCF office; or (3) following us on social media to learn how you can become an advocate. We hope you will support UNCF and join in our decades-long mission of investing in young minds, because “A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in.”
Jean Shafiroff—philanthropist, advocate, TV host and author of the book “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give”—is a volunteer leader of several charitable causes. She serves on several charity boards: Southampton Hospital Association, NYC Mission Society, French Heritage Society, Couture Council of the Museum at FIT, Global Strays, JewishBoard (Honorary Trustee), and Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation Honorary Board.
In addition, Shafiroff is an Ambassador for the American Humane Society and their National Spokesperson for the Feeding the Hungry Covid-19 program. She is the Ambassador of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, and a New York Women’s Foundation Board Alumna who remains very active with the Foundation and women’s issues. Shafiroff is the producer and host of the TV show “Successful Philanthropy,” which airs four times a week through LTV studios in East Hampton.