Education · Visalia

Billionaire MacKenzie Scott gifts millions to Porterville College, UC Merced, West Hills Lemoore

MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced she was giving a $7 million gift to Porterville College and $20 million gift to UC Merced on Tuesday.

Scott’s announcement came amid the announcement of $2.74 billion in gifts doled out to 286 organizations dubbed the “286 teams empowering voices the world needs to hear.”

Along with the gift to Porterville and UC Merced, Scott also announced gifts of an unspecified amount to West Hills College Lemoore.

The gift, aimed at improving educational attainment for low-income students in the southeastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, was deemed “transformational” by school officials.

“We are incredibly honored that Ms. Scott, along with her team of advisors and experts chose Porterville College as one of the recipients of this generous gift in recognition of our work, said college President Claudia Lourido-Habib. “We are honored to receive this transformational gift. It will enable us to continue our work creating brighter futures for our students
and our community. We accept the challenge to remain a pathway to opportunity.”

The college, in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, said it would consult stakeholders to determine how best to utilize Scott’s gift.

UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz celebrated the historic gift, the largest in the university’s 16-year history.

“Any words of thanks from us would be utterly inadequate to express our full gratitude, humility and sense of responsibility to serve as careful stewards of this gift. We pledge to continue to do the work that made UC Merced deserving of this magnificent investment in our students, faculty
and staff,” Sánchez Muñoz said.

“This is a record-breaking year in so many ways. Despite the pandemic, we have the largest enrollment in history, largest number of applications, the integration of the magnificent Project 2020 facilities, soon a new comprehensive strategic plan — and, with this tremendous gift, our largest fundraising year ever,” Muñoz said. “And this gift and the affirmation it provides will further support our continued commitment to inclusive excellence and determined path toward R1. It is indeed a special time to be a part of the proud Bobcat community.”

The Sun has reached out to representatives for UC Merced and West Hills Community College District for more information. This story will be updated.

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.