Charles Barkley dunks $1 million into Spelman College coffers

Charles Barkley said he will donate $1 million to Spelman College. (AJC file photo)

Combined ShapeCaption
Charles Barkley said he will donate $1 million to Spelman College. (AJC file photo)

NBA legend was motivated by the success of business partner’s daughter at the HBCU

Charles Barkley, the NBA legend who has already made major donations to two local colleges, is adding Spelman College to his philanthropic portfolio.

Barkley said this past week that he is donating $1 million to Spelman, after seeing the impact that the Atlanta-based historically Black women’s college has made on Jordyn Hudson, the daughter of his business partner, John Hudson.

“John has been a great mentor, a great friend and a great business partner,” Barkley told Alabama news site al.com. “I was ready to do another HBCU and with his daughter doing great things at Spelman, so I told him, ‘Why not there?’”

Jordyn Hudson will be Spelman’s sophomore class president this fall. Last summer, the Birmingham native produced the documentary “Shape the Culture: Then & Now,” which looked at how activists of the 1960s are connected with today’s youth activists.

The announcement, which came Thursday, was a complete shock to the Spelman community. Which is not a surprise. Barkley has been known to announce his major donations before informing the schools.

Combined ShapeCaption
Helene Gayle is president of Spelman College. (Contributed photo)

Credit: Contributed

Helene Gayle is president of Spelman College. (Contributed photo)

Credit: Contributed

Combined ShapeCaption
Helene Gayle is president of Spelman College. (Contributed photo)

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

“Charles Barkley’s $1 million gift to Spelman College comes at a significant time as we continue to close education and wealth inequality for Black families and maintain affordable education opportunities for women of African descent,” said Spelman’s new president, Helene Gayle. “As one of the country’s leading engines of social mobility and the nation’s leading HBCU, this generous gift will help build upon Spelman’s legacy of developing the next generation of leaders.”

Spelman, which has received an influx of high-profile, large donations in recent years, is widely considered the best Black college and one of the best women’s colleges in America.

In 2021, the school launched the public phase of its “Spelman Ascends” funding campaign to raise $250 million to boost the school’s educational offerings.

Barkley’s donation is timely in that it also marks one of the first major gifts under the leadership of Gayle, who officially took over as Spelman’s 11th president on July 1 after leadership stints at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CARE USA and the Chicago Community Trust.

Barkley, who has created a whole new generation of fans from his work as the affable host of “Inside the NBA,” has made a habit lately of supporting HBCUs.

The Spelman gift will be the sixth major donation that he has made to a Black college since 2016. A native of Alabama, Barkley donated $1 million each to Alabama A&M, Miles College and Tuskegee University.

In 2016, he pledged $1 million to Clark Atlanta University, followed by a 2017 pledge to Morehouse College for $1 million.

Combined ShapeCaption
Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Combined ShapeCaption
Spelman College holds commencement for the class of 2020 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sunday, May 16, 2021. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

“People are aware of Charles from TNT and his NBA stardom, but I don’t think people are aware of how focused he is on philanthropy and entrepreneurism,” John Hudson told al.com. “He knows how committed Jordyn is to Spelman and has seen how it has transformed her worldview.”

According to al.com, last summer Barkley, a 1981 graduate of Leeds High School, gave every Leeds City Schools employee $1,000, while arranging for students to receive 200 computers and free internet service for a year.

“What can you say about someone who is so giving and charitable with their resources with all they’ve accomplished?” John Hudson said. “He has a special place in his heart for Black women; I’ve seen him invest in Black female-owned companies. This is just another indication of Char­­les investing in something that is close to his heart.”