Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. yesterday announced it is making a $10 million donation — the largest in the firm's 157-year history — to Spelman College.
The donation to the historically black, all-female Atlanta college — which also is the single-largest corporate donation Spelman has received — will create the Lehman Bros. Center for Global Finance and Economic Development at the school.
In addition to the development of an interdisciplinary program that will ultimately become a major, Lehman's gift will be used to hire new faculty, establish scholarships and create a Chinese-language instruction program, said Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman's president.
"For me, this is yet another step in identifying a place where black women have been underrepresented and creating new opportunities," Tatum said in an interview Tuesday. She noted that in the past the school addressed gaps in nursing, sciences and mathematics that needed a pipeline of black women.
New York-based Lehman Bros., an investment banking powerhouse that reported total assets of $605.9 billion at the end of the second quarter and more than 28,300 employees worldwide, said it's making a statement that corporations can help drive change.
"It's because there are so many elements that have contributed to why there is underrepresentation in the financial services industry among women of African descent and other segments of the population that we created a partnership," Scott J. Freidheim, Lehman's co-chief administrative officer, said in an interview.
"We think it is a wonderful opportunity to create a corporate-academic partnership that helps in one of the most important issues that the country faces today."
As part of the agreement, Spelman students will be paired with mentors from Lehman and be tapped for international and domestic internships.
The center, which will be housed in Spelman's Milligan Building, is expected to launch next fall as an interdisciplinary curriculum, school officials said. The goal is to spin it out as a stand-alone major by 2013. The Chinese-language program was included because of the center's global focus, officials said.
"This is not just about any one of the elements that we're going to accomplish together," Freidheim said. "This is about creating a model that will hopefully serve as a wonderful example of how to make a difference."