Frank Baker gifts $1 million to fund scholarships, graduates’ tuition at Spelman College

A gift from Frank Baker and Laura Day Baker will cover outstanding bills for 50 students in the Class of 2020

Frank Baker

A group of Spelman College students has received a blessing, akin to one that Morehouse College graduates received last year.

Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of private equity firm Siris Capital, alongside his interior designer and philanthropist wife, Laura Day Baker, has gifted Spelman College $1 million to cover outstanding tuition for select students and fund a scholarship at the esteemed women’s college.

“We are all aware of the headwinds that people of color — especially women — face in our country, the challenges of which are made even more apparent by the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Frank and Laura Day Baker said in a statement. “We hope that this gift will help lessen their financial burden as they start this promising next chapter in their lives and encourage them to persevere over life’s challenges.”

The Atlanta institution announced on Thursday that about four dozen “high-achieving” students of the historically black college’s 2020 graduating class will have their existing spring tuition bills taken care of.

Baker worked with Spelman’s board of trustees to identify 50 women in need of economic aid and donate to their student accounts.

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“The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out,” Baker told Forbes. “These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”

Over the next three years, Baker will donate at least $1 million to Spelman seniors in similar dilemmas.

“These are the women we need in the workforce,” Baker said. “They are going to make a difference.”

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Baker was inspired by his former Goldman Sachs colleague Robert F. Smith, the Black billionaire who made headlines after covering the student debt for Morehouse College’s Class of 2019. Smith, America’s wealthiest Black man, challenged others to donate at his Morehouse commencement address when he shocked students, families and the world with the $34 million donation from his family.

Morehouse conferred Smith an honorary doctorate during the graduation. Smith is chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.

“I’ve got the alumni over there and this is a challenge to you alumni. This is my class — 2019,” Smith said back in 2019.

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward. Because we are enough to take care of our own community.”