Bennett College kicked off the new school year and announced big improvements at its annual “Celebrate the Oasis” Donor and Community Appreciation Breakfast held at the Steele Hall Art Gallery, on campus, last Thursday. The school received almost $4 million from alumni, federal funds and major donors.
Rep. Alma Adams hand delivered a check to the all-women’s college. Adams also serves as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus Foundation whose goal is to raise funds to support historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in North Carolina. “Last year we issued scholarships to 10 HBCUs. We have raised an excess of $230,000. And we are prepared to give $100,000 to our 10 HBCUs. Each HBCU will receive $10,000,” said Adams.
One of the biggest donations came from Bennett alumni. Deborah Tillman Love (’79), vice president of Bennett College National Alumnae Association Officers, presented a check in the amount of $1,000,640.67. As the crowd gasped with excitement, Love said, “We are proud to give to Bennett College, our beloved Alma Mater.”
During the summer months, Bennett began several construction projects. The Student Union is now handicap accessible, the science building now has three new labs and the old heating plant will become the new journalism and media studies building.
Other areas on Bennett’s campus will receive a much needed facelift. These areas include, the Wellness Complex which will have an upgraded gym, two new NCAA tennis courts, a soccer field and a track. “Our goal at Bennett is to educate and celebrate women and develop them into 21st century leaders and global thinkers. We think about the whole woman and that includes the physical,” said Dr. Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College.
A new global learning center will also be added to accommodate large, public gatherings. The center will have a banquet meeting space that will accommodate 450 people, an auditorium that will seat 200 people along with study and classroom space. An intergenerational house, comprised of a daycare for children and elders, will also accommodate 54 students. It will also include 6,000 square foot playground and two observation rooms.
One of the biggest plans that Bennett unveiled was for a new four-story, 144-bed honors dormitory which will have three-guest suites for visiting faculty. Student suites will consist of two dormitory rooms with a common living area and kitchen space. Each dormitory room will have a bathroom to be shared by two occupants. The new dormitory will also have computer rooms and study halls located on each floor. “This building will enhance the summer program. No grown people are going to come to our dorms if they have to go down the hall in flip flops to use the shower. We are excited that we will get to share these spaces with the community,” Malveaux shared.
Bennett has had its share of good news over the past few months. The school had its accreditation reconfirmed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and it has also seen its enrollment exceed 700 students. Malveaux said, “We think that we will be able to grow from our 700 or so students to about 850. I’ve said constantly that small-school economics don’t work. Bennett College for Women needs to be a 1,000 student campus.”
But a plea lay through the good news that Dr. Malveaux shared with the audience. When she came to Bennett, the $50 million campus was encumbered by $8 million of debt. The school is paying off the debt and officials are confident that the college can handle it. However, getting scholarship dollars is critical. Malveaux urged prospective donors to work with the college to raise the scholarship dollars that the school needs to help students who are struggling to pay tuition.
Malveaux exclaimed, “What you all did for us basically takes my breath away. In the middle of a recession, you exceeded expectations. We are so phenomenally grateful. I can’t tell you how excited we are. We’re taking Bennett forward. We’ve talked about moving from good to great. We are moving from good to great.”