Dr. Dre, the world renowned hip hop mogul, raised eyebrows among African Americans in the early part of 2013 by announcing his $35 million gift to the University of Southern California, which boasts an endowment of nearly $4 billion.
Forbes Magazine has estimated his net worth at upwards of $250 million, much of which has presumably been generated by The Beats headphones. His gift to USC exceeded, by $5 million, the largest sum an African American has ever contributed to an institution of higher learning. In 2012, Verna Dauterive, a USC Trustee, contributed $30 million to construct Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall, which will house a six-story center for interdisciplinary social science research and teaching.
Her millions were contributed to honor the memory of her late husband, Peter, a prominent Republican National Committeeman and a 23-year executive with Los Angeles’ Broadway Federal Savings and Loan Association.
During Peter Dauterive‘s tenure at Broadway Federal, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the National Employment Commission for Employment Policy. A dependable fundraiser for Republicans in California and the nation, Dauterive was also a member of the Reagan 10 Club.
Dr. Dre’s gift, and another $35 million from Jimmy Iovine, his producer, means that $70 million will bankroll the university’s state of the art Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and Business Innovation. The Academy, according to a news release, was conceived to “inspire innovative, entrepreneurial thought in business design, marketing and the arts.”
The United Negro College Fund, representing 39 historically black institutions, finances 60,000 scholarships annually for students at 900 universities and colleges. UNCF nationwide, throughout all of 2012, raised just $60 million from corporations, alumni and individuals.
USC, by contrast, launched a seven-year, $6 billion capital campaign in 2011, which will conclude in 2017 with the expectation of reaching that goal, if not racing far past it.
Not only does the university revel in its endowment, which ranks 21st among America’s institutions of higher learning, but it also broadcasts the ability to attract enormous grants for research. The university’s researchers are currently supported by annual grants totaling at least $560 million.
Iovine, speaking of his dream for the Academy with New York Times writer Jenna Wortham, said, “If the next start-up that becomes Facebook happens to be one of our kids, that’s what we are looking for.”
Dr. Dre, who often exhorts young blacks to “keep it real,” told Wortham, “I feel like this (the gift) is the biggest, most exciting and probably the most important thing I’ve done in my career.”
USC undergraduates need no less than $75,000 for tuition, fees, room and board. Spelman, Fisk and Morehouse students need approximately $25,000 for tuition. Fees, room and board require another $10,000 or so for two semesters at the three colleges.
Efforts to reach spokespersons for the UNCF and the three colleges were fruitless before the deadline for this article.
Several messages left for Dr. Dre were not returned, either.
Although the university’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs and the Cecil L. Murray Center for Community Engagement serve vital student and neighborhood interests, neither has been able to attract donations in the million-dollar range from African Americans or other contributors.
The Cecil L. Murray Center is the glue bringing together ethnically diverse clergy, community-based organizations and stakeholders to create economic development initiatives, while the Cultural Center sponsors monthly programs and projects to promote the intellectual, social and political genius of African Americans.
Dr. Murray was the senior minister of Los Angeles’ First African Methodist Episcopal Church when Easy E, 31, a member of Dr. Dre’s group, N.W.A., died of HIV/AIDS in 1995. Without a stutter, Dr. Murray, oblivious to criticism by the church’s more conservative members, gladly opened its doors for his funeral service.
“We’re going to applaud the life of Easy E and the family of Easy E,” Dr. Murray said, near the close of the service.
Only five percent of the university’s undergraduates are black. Many are athletes, basketball and football players, who later distinguish themselves as professionals, but leave their studies well before earning degrees. Before leaving, though, they are magnets drawing alumni dollars that overflow into the hundreds of millions each year.
Sharon D. Johnson, Ph.D., a widely respected academic and former chair of the WGA Committee of Black Writers, told BlackAmericaWeb.com, “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Young didn’t choose to donate his $35 million, no doubt gained in large part from black youth supporting his
music, to an historically black college or university. I suspect, if he has ever made such a donation, we would have heard about it in news media.”
She noted that Dr. Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University, in a Los Angeles Times piece “questioned Mr. Young’s decision, as the arts, technology and innovative business are areas in which students at historically black colleges and universities increasingly merit greater educational and career opportunities.”
USC and its students, Dr. Johnson noted, “are not lacking in these areas. Unless Mr. Young is going to advocate a dramatic increase in USC’s admission of students of color, particularly blacks, I am hesitant to express excitement about his show of generosity.” Dr. Johnson, a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, has been a guest lecturer at Spelman and Pomona Colleges, among a broad range of others.
Lee Bailey, the founder of the Electronic Urban Report (EUR), was measured in his comment for this article. “From my point of view, although its his money and thus, his decision, it would be a great gesture if he were to make a (sizable) contribution to an historically black college or university.”
“God knows,” Bailey said, “all black colleges and universities need the money, so $35 million could help a lot of them alleviate all, or a lot of, their debt.”
“From a public relations point of view, this issue isn’t going away,” he said, “and the fact that you called for a comment shows that it isn’t going away. By contributing, he could do something to improve his image.”
“It’s really simple,” he added, “it’s the right thing to do, to give back to one’s community, but he’s the one who will have to live with the fact that the black community isn’t going to forget.”
A random sampling of 11 African American Angelenos seemed to confirm Bailey’s belief.
“He’s just trying to make himself look big,” said Barbara Wheeler, who was shopping when asked for a comment. “This (the contribution), is plain crazy,” echoed Asia Stone when she stopped to reply.
“Dr. Dre does not read history,” opined Meti, a musician riding on an MTA bus headed to Santa Monica. “I can’t support his decision,” added Greg Russell much later, as he walked hurriedly along Wilshire Boulevard toward his SUV.
In Las Vegas, Anice Dickerson, a descendant of the 13th bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rt. Rev. William Fisher Dickerson, said, “Dr. Dre should re-think his charitable contributions. Gifts to historically black schools help many, many more students, especially in the deep south, where fewer youth can afford the costs of a higher education.”
The bishop’s vision, stamina and leadership were primary in the creation of Allen University, in Columbia, South Carolina, despite the white hot rage that overflowed after the Confederacy’s bitter defeat in the Civil War.
At this moment in history, said a west coast executive, “what a difference it would make if other African Americans and minorities of color took a nod from what Andre Romelle Young, aka Dr. Dre, did for USC and repeated that support for the United Negro College Fund, the oldest minority, financial education assistance organization in the United States.”
Black Hollywood and African American celebrities everywhere, the executive mused, “could make a real difference in building better futures for upcoming, college-ready students by assisting the UNCF, especially in Southern California. Magic Johnson did it in the 1980s and 90s, while Lou Rawls stood in the gap for more than a quarter of a century.”
“Who will be the next celebrity to take up the cause for higher education?” the executive asked.
When that celebrity steps forward, Dickerson believes, “that will motivate other entertainers and athletes who have never given much, if anything at all, to black colleges and universities.”