For the past 25 years Morehouse College has held the “A Candle in the Dark” gala, the largest fundraiser for the historically black college. During this year’s event, The Ray Charles Foundation bestowed a $3 million gift on the only all-male historically black institution of higher learning in the United States.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the gift will go towards the naming of the academic wing of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at the college after Charles’ mother, Aretha Robinson.
“I know that Ray Charles had a long-standing relationship with Morehouse based on professionalism, integrity and honesty,” Valerie Ervin, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “He genuinely valued the education and preparation that Morehouse provides to young men.”
In the past, Charles had been invited to perform with the college’s jazz ensemble. It was actually Charles’ long-time manager, Joe Adams, who introduced the music legend to Morehouse. Adams was an avid contributor to Morehouse, having given a personal gift in support of the construction of the performing arts center now named for Charles, reports the newspaper.
“Morehouse is fortunate to have been able to forge a relationship with Mr. Charles. More important, we are grateful to him, Ms. Ervin, and The Ray Charles Foundation for all they have done to promote appreciation of the arts and humanities and to further music education at the College,” said Morehouse president John Silvanus Wilson Jr. in a press statement.
This isn’t the first monetary gift that has been made in the singer’s name. In 2001 after receiving an honorary degree from Morehouse, Charles made two $1 million gifts to the school. Morehouse was not actually the first choice for a performing arts center in his name. That would be Albany State University. But, according to AJC, late last year the foundation reclaimed $1.2 million of $3 million in donations to Albany State because the school did not use the money to build a performing arts center. Charles, who died in 2004, made gifts totaling $3 million to Albany State in 2001 and 2002 to build a performing arts center named in honor of his mother. The building was never built.
When the foundation asked that the university return the money, the Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens even stepped in. Albany State President Everette J. Freeman said that returning the money “brings to a close negotiations with the Ray Charles Foundation,” reports AJC.
Hopefully, Morehouse will go forward with their plans to build the performing arts center. The Ray Charles Foundation will obviously hold Morehouse to its promise.