Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of Siris, a leading private equity firm, and his wife, Laura, have donated $1.2 million to Florida A&M University.
The gift will not only establish the Frank and Laura Baker Graduation Fund but ensure that students who are qualified to graduate in four years but have an outstanding account balance can still walk across the stage. Siris, with more than $7 billion in assets, along with the Bakers is said to have made a concentrated investment in Florida’s largest, and only public, HBCU.
“In 2020, we opened a Siris office in Florida, and as part of that, we believed it was important to invest in our new community. Through our conversations with FAMU, we learned there are extremely capable students who aren’t able to graduate in four years solely due to limited financial resources,” Baker said. “We also discovered that the four-year graduation rate is a key metric in determining the amount of funding FAMU receives from the State of Florida. This made our ‘investment’ decision pretty easy— FAMU students in the workforce sooner and potentially unlocking more state funding.”
The FAMU Office of University Advancement, the Office of Student Success and Strategic Initiatives, along with Frank and Laura Baker, will review the cohort each year to determine how the Graduation Fund will be distributed. The initial $300,000 will be used to clear university balances for spring and summer 2022 graduates and to match donations during the Day of Giving “1887 Strikes” campaign, which took place on Apr. 21-22, and raised an additional $360,000.
“This is a transformational gift that will encourage our students to finish in a timely manner and allow them to move forward less burdened by debt to the University,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We thank Frank and Laura Baker for investing in our students. Their generosity will reap untold dividends for years to come.”
This powerful agreement also puts a framework in place for the University to track recipients.
“The timing and magnitude of this gift cannot be overstated,” said Shawnta Friday-Stroud, Ph.D., vice president for University Advancement and Executive Director of the FAMU Foundation. “It reinforces the importance of the task ahead and is a reminder that student success is at the core of our mission.”