Keynote Speaker Oprah Winfrey Announced $1,149,000 Matching Donation for Deserving Students and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Celebrating 75 years of service to the nation, more than 1,000 guests adorned with fascinators and hats attended UNCF’s (United Negro College Fund) sold-out 17th annual Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon Sept. 28 in Charlotte, raising a record-breaking $2,300,000 in support of education. Global media leader, producer, actress and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey headlined the signature fundraising event presented by Wells Fargo and bestowed an unrivaled moment by matching live fundraising efforts to donate $1,149,000 million.
Named after loyal UNCF supporter, the late Dr. Maya Angelou, the luncheon annually honors local women whose footprints positively impact the Charlotte regional community. Proceeds from the luncheon will be used to benefit students in North Carolina and the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that educate them.
“I believe in the power of education,” said Oprah Winfrey. “There is nothing better than to open the door for someone.”
“The smashing success of this event is due in large part to the dedication of committee members and volunteers, led by Tiffany Jones, our local area development director, and event co-chairs Tina Bonner-Henry and Sonja P. Nichols,” said Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO,UNCF. Both Tina Bonner-Henry and Sonja P. Nichols (Florida A&M University) have co-chaired the luncheon for the last 3 years. Bonner-Henry’s special friendship with Winfrey secured her participation. “Oprah Winfrey’s record-breaking gift will be life-changing for our students and the historically black colleges and universities that serve them, continued Lomax, president and CEO, UNCF. “With her investment, we can continue to provide the resources our HBCUs need to do their invaluable work. We can fund scholarships that narrow the gap between college costs and family resources, and change the narrative of our HBCUs, who help strengthen and elevate a new generation of young, black and gifted students.”
“Words cannot express our gratitude to Ms. Winfrey,” said Jones. “Her inspiring words reminded us that we stand on the shoulders of many and our legacy isn’t based on one action. With her generous gift, we can secure better futures for Charlotte’s brightest students and that raises the bar for us all.”
North Carolina’s black female powerhouses came out in droves to support UNCF’s work, including U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (North Carolina A&T University alumna), Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Kristi Jones (North Carolina Central University alumna), chief of staff to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Other key attendees included Georgette Dixon (Tennessee State University), Senior Director of External Relations for National Constituents, Wells Fargo and founding luncheon member and North Carolina UNCF-member presidents Clarence D. Armbrister, Johnson C. Smith University; Dr. Paulette Dillard, Shaw University; and Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, Livingstone College. This year’s Women Who Lead honorees were Madelyn Caple, Western region managing director, Wells Fargo Private Bank; Tish Guerin, director of player wellness, Carolina Panthers; Tiffany Eubanks-Saunders, market executive, Bank of America; and Joan H. Zimmerman, CEO, Southern Shows.
Media Maven Cherise Belnavis emceed the sold-out affair, which featured shopping, entertainment provided by Johnson C. Smith University’s jazz ensemble, Harvey Cummings Trio and national recording artist Maria Howell; event favorite, the Hatitude competition, and student testimonials from Taylor Barnes, Miss UNCF; Imani and Cierra Graham, Bennett College alums and McKenzie Estep, sophomore at local member-school St. Augustine’s University.
Estep’s powerful testimony, including a quote from Avinash Gupta “Don’t let your life change your goals, because achieving your goals can change your life,” brought the audience to their feet. Estep continued, “It is through the power and lesson of these words that inspired me to overcome adversity and become a first-generation college student.” Inspired by Estep’s words, Kieth Cockrell, Head of Specialty Client Services, Bank of America and wife Serena Peltier Cockrell (Dillard graduate) told the sophomore “We got you,” and paid off her semester’s balance before the end of the event.
The event was made possible with support from presenting sponsor Wells Fargo; platinum sponsor, Bank of America; gold sponsors, Atrium Health, Duke Energy, Lowe’s Home Improvement and Novant Health; and individual supporters, including long-standing UNCF supporters Tina Bonner-Henry and Kevin Henry, the Joan H. Zimmerman Trust and many others.
“Wells Fargo has served as presenting sponsor of the Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon for the past eight years,” said Jay Everette, senior community relations manager, Wells Fargo. “At Wells Fargo, we understand the importance of UNCF’s mission and programming, and we support it in important ways. The Wells Fargo Foundation provides more than $1 million in funding annually to support UNCF scholarships and specific student programming. We sponsor the national UNCF Empower Me Tour to help students understand what it takes to get to and through college successfully. We have Wells Fargo senior leadership representation on UNCF’s national board, and many of our Wells Fargo team members provide human capital to UNCF in regional chapters across the country.”