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Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Grants $3 Million To Morris Brown College To Expand Hospitality Certificate Program

Largest grant received by Morris Brown College in the last 20 years will digitize and expand program to reach students in rural Georgia

ATLANTA – Dec. 18, 2023 – Morris Brown College and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation today announce that the foundation has committed the largest grant to Morris Brown in the last 20 years, $3 million to digitize and market the school’s Hospitality Certificate program. This grant, primarily from the foundation’s Youth Development giving area, will support Morris Brown to reach students outside of the metro Atlanta area who may face challenges with transportation, childcare or inconvenient shift work.

The Hospitality Certificate program at Morris Brown includes a partnership with Hilton Hotels to build a hotel on campus, which will provide classroom and training spaces. This new partnership is an exceptional opportunity for graduates of the program, as it will not only help young people gain the skills needed for work and connect them to job opportunities but also help address the labor shortage in the hospitality industry.

The Hospitality Certificate program and partnership with Hilton exemplify Morris Brown’s core mission to support students who may have challenges accessing traditional educational training and work opportunities. The college is interested in serving young people across Georgia, including those in rural areas who can more easily access educational training through online programs. The partnership with Hilton is particularly advantageous for these potential students given the company’s large and diverse portfolio of hotels across Georgia, including in several rural areas.

Youth Development is one of five new giving areas at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. This portfolio is focused on scaling alternative pathways to economic mobility for young people in rural communities, who often face high barriers in beginning and growing their careers. The hospitality and leisure industry is ripe for opportunity; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that between 2021 and 2031 the industry will produce 1.9 million jobs.  

“One of the ways we can support young people in achieving economic mobility is by contributing to employer-focused efforts that strengthen the career pipeline between young people and an engaged employer,” said Daniel Shoy, Jr., managing director, Youth Development and Atlanta’s Westside, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. “The partnership between Morris Brown College and Hilton Hotels represents a promising model of employer engagement that both trains students and provides strong connections to immediate job opportunities in a thriving industry. We believe this investment in the reinvigorated Morris Brown could be a scalable model for other industries and locations, including Montana State University, where the foundation is funding a similar program, and we invite others to join us in support.”

“I am thrilled about this collaboration with the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, which has a long history of supporting young people, including in the Westside of Atlanta where Morris Brown is situated,” said Dr. Kevin James, president, Morris Brown College. “We anticipate Morris Brown becoming a prominent source of diverse talent for careers in hospitality and organizational leadership. My vision is for Morris Brown to emerge as one of the premier institutions in the nation for Black and Brown individuals to acquire expertise in hospitality, with a particular focus on working in and managing restaurants and hotels.”

Morris Brown will begin developing the online platform for the Hospitality Certificate in early 2024, with the first cohort expected to enroll in Fall 2024 and complete the program in Spring 2025.


About the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation 

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is a philanthropy founded to help transform lives and communities by uniting people across differences to find common cause. Started in 1995 by Arthur M. Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, the foundation has granted more than $1 billion to charitable causes. Our collective giving areas are Atlanta’s Westside, Democracy, Environment, Mental Health and Well-Being, and Youth Development. Across these areas, we take on tough challenges by uniting the courage and compassion of our communities so we can all thrive together.

In addition to the priority areas of giving, the foundation oversees a large portfolio of grants including support of essential Atlanta nonprofit institutions, such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Shepherd Center, and enduring founder-led initiatives, such as veterans and the military and stuttering, among others. The foundation will also continue to guide the seven associate-led giving committees operating across the Blank Family of Businesses. 

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About Morris Brown College

Morris Brown College was founded by formerly enslaved religious leaders at Big Bethel AME Church in 1881, and it is the first college in Georgia to be owned and operated by African Americans. The iconic Fountain Hall and the current Morris Brown campus are where Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois wrote The Souls of Black Folk in 1903. Notable alumni include Alberta Williams King, mother of Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Alan McPherson, the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

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