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The Ray Charles Foundation Surprises Morehouse with a $3 million Gift


ATLANTA-February 16, 2013- It was an announcement that brought hundreds to their feet, tonight, during the 25th Annual “A Candle in the Dark” Gala.  The Gala is the College’s largest fund-raiser, with proceeds going towards student scholarships at Morehouse.  The announcement of the $3-million gift made by Valerie Ervin, president of The Ray Charles Foundation, seemed to have raised the roof at the end of the night.  The gift will secure the naming of the academic wing of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College after his mother, Aretha Robinson.

“I know that Ray Charles had a long-standing relationship with Morehouse based on professionalism, integrity and honesty,” said Valerie Ervin, president of The Ray Charles Foundation. “He genuinely valued the education and preparation that Morehouse provides to young men.”

That relationship between Charles and Morehouse began several years ago when he was invited to Atlanta to perform with the College’s jazz ensemble.  Ray Charles’ dear friend and former Morehouse Trustee Bill Cosby opened that performance, but it was his long-time manager, Joe Adams, who introduced the star to Morehouse.  Adams was an avid supporter of and contributor to Morehouse, having given a personal gift, himself, in support of the construction of the performing arts center, now named for his dear friend.  

“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 John Silvanus Wilson Jr., the 11th president of Morehouse. “The funds so generously donated this evening will not only memorialize Mrs. Aretha Robinson, but they will afford us new opportunities to promote the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.”

Ray Charles received an honorary degree from Morehouse in 2001 and later that year the musician, who was often referred to as “The Genius,” made two $1-million gifts to the College to seal a mutual commitment to find, educate and inspire the next generation of music pioneers.  

The naming of the Music Academic Building of the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center for Mrs. Aretha Robinson would have been a dream come true for Charles.  Ervin said that before his death in 2004, he made very clear his desire to leave a lasting legacy for his mother.  Tonight, that wish came true. 


 As the nation’s largest, private liberal arts college for men, the College offers 26 majors in three academic divisions: Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and Business Administration and Economics. 

Morehouse is known for producing great leaders.  It was recently recognized as one of the top feeder schools to the 15 most prominent graduate and professional programs in the nation by The Wall Street Journal, called “One of the best Southeastern colleges” by The Princeton Review and ranked “America’s Hottest College for Men” by Kaplan-Newsweek. Prominent alumni include Martin Luther King Jr., Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil and human rights non-violent leader; Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General and director of the National Center for Primary Care of Morehouse School of Medicine; Shelton “Spike” Lee, filmmaker and president of 40 Acres & A Mule Productions; Samuel L. Jackson, Academy Award-nominated actor; Maynard H. Jackson, founder of Jackson Securities and the first African American mayor of Atlanta; and Nima A. Warfield, the first African American Rhodes Scholar from an HBCU.