West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah announced Tuesday it will receive a $15 million gift from a billionaire philanthropist, with college leadership saying the historic donation has the potential to be a “generational game-changer.”
WKCTC President Anton Reece said he first learned the week of Nov. 29 that Billionaire MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, was making the donation through the college’s foundation, and he initially thought the substantial gift was a hoax. He said WKCTC was picked for the donation among the more than 7,000 organizations considered by Scott.
“For West Kentucky Community Technical College to be in that net, that is just indescribable,” Reece said. “We have transformative opportunities, and starting with this gift is the next chapter to take things up to the quintessential level.”
Reece said details about how the donation is used will be revealed in the upcoming months, but said some of the gift will be used to launch the “WKCTC Guarantee.” He said the “guarantee” is an education partnership with K-12 school districts, the Innovation Hub at Paducah Public Schools, Murray State University, and organizations supporting diversity and inclusion including the NAACP.
“Ultimately our goal is to serve a large number of adults. In Kentucky, there are 367,000 adults who do not have a high school diploma,” he said. “It’s an enormous challenge but we are up to the challenge. And I intend for this gift to be a generational game-changer.”
WKCTC Board of Directors Chairman Charles Murphy called the donation “unbelievable'' and said the board was “truly blessed” to receive the gift.
“This will allow WKCTC to move to the next level in education and to meet the needs of diverse and low-income students throughout the four rivers and the region,” Murphy said. “I would especially like to thank Dr. Reece, his faculty and staff for the great job they do for these kids.”
Reece also said this year has served as a “complex juncture” in the nation’s history given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and protests against racial and social injustice. He said leadership calls for rising above debate and rhetoric to “life people up,” with this gift serving as an opportunity to do so.
MacKenzie Scott signed on to a charitable giving campaign last year to give away the majority of her more than $50 billion in net worth over the course of her lifetime. She said over the summer she had given at that point nearly $1.7 billion to initiatives regarding economic mobility, racial equity and more.