Fisk University receives largest gift in its history from Nashville family

"We could not be more excited about this extraordinarily generous gift and we are grateful that Dr. Nash has allowed the University to name this historic Chair in her honor”, said Fisk University President Vann R. Newkirk.

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On Monday, Fisk University announced that it received a $2.5 million donation from a Nashville family. The donation came from a couple, Amy and Frank Garrison, and is the largest in the HBCUs 155 year history. 

“We could not be more excited about this extraordinarily generous gift and we are grateful that Dr. Nash has allowed the University to name this historic Chair in her honor”, said Fisk University President Vann R. Newkirk.

Amy and Frank Garrison are alumni of the neighboring Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and their gift will be used to establish The Diane Nash-Descendants of the Emancipation endowed chair, named for civil rights organizer and strategist Diane Nash. The chair will serve as director of the university’s John Lewis Center for Social Justice, according to the university’s website.

Fisk University thegrio.com
Fisk University campus (Courtesy of Fisk University)

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Nash and the esteemed civil rights activist John Lewis are both Fisk University alumni along with many other luminaries such as W.E.B. DuboisNikki Giovanni, Ida B. Wells, James Weldon Johnson and John Hope Franklin to name just a few. 

“This is the first and only endowed chair with my name and I am so pleased to have it at my alma mater. This is such an honor and it belongs not only to me, but also to the thousands of people who participated in the freedom movement with me,” said Nash. 

In recognition of the role the university has played in shaping American history, the Garrisons said they are happy to support the university’s service to future generations of students and alumni. 

“Fisk’s extraordinary contributions to the fabric of American life are well documented and today’s students are eager to continue in the footsteps of those legendary leaders, like Diane Nash and John Lewis, who helped shape a better future and set lasting examples of courage and purpose for all of us,” said Frank Garrison. 

“Fisk is such an important asset to our ever-changing city and we wanted to recognize that; Fisk is so deserving of city-wide support and we are very happy to be in a position to lend ours,” said Amy Garrison. 

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Like other HBCUs, Fisk has reported an increase in student enrollment over the last five years. Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T, Elizabeth City State University and Edward Waters College also reported increases in 2020, signaling a renewed focus on the invaluable institutions that is happening nationwide. 

“Fisk students, the University’s partners and the broader community are all looking for thoughtful and focused programming, inquiry and discussion around social justice,” said Fisk University vice president Jens Frederiksen.

With this remarkable gift and the endowed Director role, Fisk will be able to address this need for the next 155 years and we are beyond grateful to Amy and Frank Garrison for their vision and support.”

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