Harlem-born Sean "Diddy" Combs had a stint at Howard University, pursuing a degree in business administration before dropping out to intern at a record label. His Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group fostered the likes of Mariah Carey, TLC, Boyz II Men, and Lil’ Kim, among others. Between music and other ventures in clothing, media and spirits, the 46-year old hip hop mogul is worth a hefty $750 million.
Many of the country's entertainers are making more than ever before, which has implications on the American philanthropic landscape, as well. We track this growing giving in our Glitzy Giving vertical. One theme of this coverage is that quite a few celebrities from entertainment and sports are people of color, and some have given attention to race-related causes in their giving.
Besides his role as a major media mogul, though, Diddy also founded Citizen Change, a political service group behind the popular "Vote or Die!" campaign, which aimed to inspire young people to vote. Diddy is also interested in education, and launched Capital Prep Harlem, a free, public charter school located in his old New York City neighborhood. The school recently opened its doors with 160 students enrolled in the 6th and 7th grades. He's also been involved with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and last decade, he ran the New York City Marathon, raising $2 million to support children in New York City Schools.
Let's not forget Diddy's start at Howard University, either. We've written before about the role philanthropy can play in supporting historically black colleges and universities, which face a unique set of challenges. In 2014, five HBCUs — Howard, Spelman, Hampton University, Meharry Medical College, and Florida A&M —had a combined endowment of around $1.5 billion. Harvard alone has an endowment, meanwhile, of over $30 billion.
Thankfully, some funders are on the case, including wealthy HBCU grads like Oprah Winfrey. Baseball legend Hank Aaron and his HBCU graduate wife Billye have also keyed in on this issue and recently gave Morehouse University in Atlanta $3 million.
Though Diddy left Howard early, he's stayed in the school's orbit, and received an honorary degree from the school in 2014, delivering the commencement address. “When I delivered the commencement address at Howard, I asked the students, 'Do you know how powerful you are?' I know that Howard students are intelligent, talented, passionate, and their hard work will shape the future," Diddy says.
Now comes recent news that Diddy has contributed $1 million to Howard University. The Sean Combs Scholarship Fund will provide business majors with scholarships and internships starting next Fall. The gift comes just as Howard is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary in March 2017.
Diddy is only in his 40s, and very much engaged in business, so we're betting that he'll put off bigger giving till later on. But his work in education is likely to be notable. One final word from the rapper: “Great schools and great education make a big difference. Unfortunately, too many people don’t get the opportunity to succeed, no matter how hard they try. This is leveling the playing field.”