The United Negro College Fund: 80 Years Strong And Counting


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At last night’s 2024 “A Mind Is…” New York Gala, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) celebrated their 80-year-long legacy and honored ESSENCE with the Trailblazer Award.

“UNCF’s 80th anniversary is a remarkable milestone that highlights our unwavering commitment to education and opportunity for African American and other underrepresented students,” Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO for the past twenty years, told ESSENCE.

Lomax has led the “nation’s largest private provider of scholarships and other educational support to African American students and a leading advocate of college readiness,” since 2004. Under his tenure, Lomax awards approximately 10,000 scholarships each year in addition to overseeing more than 400 UNCF scholarship programs. Lomax “also launched the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building, which helps UNCF’s member HBCUs become stronger, more effective and more self-sustaining.”

“Education is the key to unlocking a brighter future, and UNCF has been at the forefront of providing that key for 80 years. Together, we can continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of students and the communities they serve,” Lomax continued.

Lomax added that “the NYC gala is an exciting celebration of this legacy, bringing together supporters and advocates to further empower future generations.” At last night’s celebration, UNCF recognized their outstanding partners, including ESSENCE, who are working to advance opportunities within the Black community.

As Diego Aviles, Vice President for Development at UNCF, told ESSENCE, “We wanted to recognize Essence with our trailblazer award for lighting a pathway for others to follow.”

“We need to support our HBCUs and our students of color. And folks like Essence have been there for a long time. Essence paves a trail for others to follow, other corporations to follow by uplifting their communities and having their employees engage,” Aviles stated.

“ESSENCE is honored to be the 2024 recipient of the UNCF Trailblazer Award, recognizing over five decades of cultivating culture, pursuing equity and celebrating community across the full spectrum of Black,” ESSENCE wrote in a social post.

Caroline Wanga, who is a UNCF Alum and President & CEO of Essence Ventures, accepted “the award on behalf of the past, present and future teams that steward this precious cultural artifact.”


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