Bennett College President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins announced on Monday that the College has raised $8.2 million in its #StandWithBennett Campaign.
“So, we’ve come to the moment that you’ve been waiting for,” Dawkins said inside a packed Annie Merner Pfeiffer Chapel. “As of today, and let me just say we’re still counting. We are still counting money. But as of today, Bennett College has raised $8.2 million.”
Dawkins’ announcement was met with jubilation, as Bennett students, alumnae and others began jumping up and down in their pews. Many cried, others hugged and some looked shocked.
After the total was announced, Brooke Ashley Kane, Miss Bennett College, spoke briefly.
“I would like to thank everyone for coming here today (and) for the many gifts we received,” said Kane, a political science major from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. “It is a blessing. But I want my Bennett sisters to remember that the bell is our icon and it represents our school. Bells are strong, and they will never stop historically ringing. As Bennett Belles we too are strong, and we must hold ourselves to a higher standard and ensure that our ringing voices are heard, not only for the sisterhood within these gates but in the world in which we expect to make a difference.”
The Bennett College Choir, under the leadership of alumna Dorthea L. Taylor ’99, closed the event by leading the audience in “The Preference Song.” Afterward, Dawkins kept her promise to ring Bennett’s bell if the College reached its goal of raising a minimum of $5 million. A reception ensued in the Wilbur Steele Hall Art Gallery.
The press conference began with an invocation from the Reverend Jamal Bryant, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. New Birth donated $16,000 to the College and was one of the first faith-based institutions to contribute to the campaign.
Dr. Gladys Ashe Robinson ’71, chair of the Bennett College Board of Trustees, Gwendolyn Mackel Rice ’61, president of the Bennett College Alumnae Association, and Shani McMichael, valedictorian of the class of 2018, also spoke. McMichael entered Bennett with a 2.3 GPA but graduated with a near-perfect 3.9 GPA and is now in graduate school at Columbia University. A postcard bearing a photo of her speaking at Commencement was used throughout the campaign to help raise money.
Also speaking at the press conference were LaDaniel Gatling, II, vice president for institutional advancement, Kwanza Jones, who with her husband José E. Feliciano announced a $1 million gift to the College during the press conference, and High Point University President Dr. Nido Qubein.
On Feb. 1, Bennett’s deadline for raising the $5 million, Qubein announced during a press conference inside HPU’s Charles E. Hayworth Memorial Chapel that HPU was pledging up to $1 million to Bennett as a challenge grant.