The Charles Barkley Foundation recently made major gifts to Auburn University, including the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, to strengthen the university’s relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs.
Barkley, the legendary NBA Hall of Famer who began his path to glory as a star player on Auburn’s basketball team in the 1980s, created his namesake foundation to support causes close to his heart. A longtime supporter of his alma mater, Barkley established the Auburn gifts in the wake of a series of donations to five Southern HBCUs over the past few years.
From 2016 to 2020, he contributed significant gifts to Alabama A&M University, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Miles College and Tuskegee University.
“I just think what it’s costing these kids to go to college today is a travesty in this country, and I know historically black colleges are struggling,” Barkley told CNN in 2020. “I wanted to do something to help them, and I’m going to continue to help them.”
The Charles Barkley Foundation’s aim is to build bonds between HBCUs and the major programs of large universities to attract students from HBCUs to pursue their graduate degrees at Auburn. With these funds, the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences has established the Charles Barkley Foundation Fellowship.
Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, said the Barkley Foundation gift goes beyond its dollar amount and represents a step toward attaining diversity within the school, which is an ongoing effort. Last summer, Alavalapati established a Diversity and Inclusion Coordination Team of faculty, staff and students to promote a more inclusive culture of diversity within the school.
“This group’s mission is to consolidate our thoughts and develop and identify activities to promote diversity and inclusion within the school,” Alavalapati said. “Charles Barkley’s recent gift, which promotes the inclusion of students who have graduated from HBCUs, goes hand in hand with our ongoing efforts and will be a tremendous asset to this endeavor.”
The Charles Barkley Foundation Fellowship will give preference to qualifying students who have graduated with an undergraduate degree from an HBCU. Other factors for selection include applicants’ socioeconomic background and whether they grew up in a highly rural or underserved area.
Barkley said in the 2017 docuseries, American Race, “I truly believe that building bridges, not building walls and not giving in to fear, will make our communities better.”
(Written by Teri Greene)