By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
Miles College and Birmingham area business leaders on Tuesday announced the start of a $25 million fundraising campaign for the Fairfield institution aims to improve the surrounding community, as well as student experience.
Bobbie Knight, president of Miles College, said the positive impact the campaign will have on the institution “cannot be overstated.”
“The funds raised will enable us to enhance our facilities, expand scholarship opportunities for deserving students, grow our endowment and invest in cutting-edge technologies that will revolutionize the learning experience here at Miles,” Knight said.
The impact of the campaign will extend beyond the campus, Knight said.
“We envision fostering stronger ties with local businesses and organizations through collaborative initiatives that promote economic development and social progress. By working hand in hand with our neighbors, we can create a brighter future for all,” Knight said.
The $25 million campaign is the second phase of an effort which started in 2019 to raise $125 million, coinciding with the school’s 125th anniversary this year. In the first phase, $101 million was raised. Below is a breakdown of where the $25 million raised is set to go.
- $10 million: scholarships and tuition assistance
- $5 million: academic improvements
- $4 million: building renovations and North Campus pre-development
- $3 million: endowment
- $3 million: community development
Bishop Clarence Kelby Heath, chair of the Miles College board of trustees, said the campaign will “shape the future” of the institution.
“The campaign we launch today is not merely a fundraising endeavor. It is a holistic vision for the growth and prosperity of Miles College. As we move forward, our primary objectives encompass a range of initiatives that will propel our institution to new heights,” Heath said.
Mike Suco, president and CEO of Birmingham-based Coca-Cola UNITED, who serves as chair of the campaign, said Miles is an important institution for his family. Before his birth, Suco’s family fled to the U.S. after his father and grandfather were jailed for political dissent in Cuba.
The Sucos built their life in Central Alabama after his grandfather, who was a professor in Havana, took a job at Miles in 1963.
“My grandfather came here, and they hired him, and because of that acceptance of my grandfather, he was able to help with Miles to bring my family from Miami to here, and it really started our family’s American journey,” Suco said.
Suco said the memories of visiting his grandfather teaching at Miles have stuck around.
“I used to come here as a kid, have a wonderful time here with him. He loved Miles, and I loved the way he was treated by the staff and by the students, and we have just wonderful, fond memories of being here,” Suco said.
Leroy Abrahams, executive vice president of community affairs for Regions Bank, the campaign’s co-chair, said participating in Miles’ fundraising campaign fits well with the bank’s goal to advance “inclusive prosperity.”
“What we mean by that is that we recognize that not all individuals, and not all parts of the community have been able to enjoy the same economic growth as, sometimes, the greater community has. We believe what we can do best is strategically invest in those areas where there’s a greater need,” Abrahams said.
In supporting the fundraising efforts, Abrahams said, Regions can help “remove barriers to success.”
“Students at Miles have dreams, as well as the surrounding communities, as well as the faculty and staff, and to the extent we can do something that removes the barriers, lowers the barriers so people can accomplish their dreams, then we accomplish what we set out to do,” Abrahams said.
“As an organization, we don’t believe we could outgrow our community, so helping our community grow becomes a major focus for us,” he added.
The theme of the fundraising is “Come Grow with Us” which has multiple meanings, Knight said.
“Grow our student enrollment; grow our scholarship funds; grow our endowment; grow offerings that we’re providing, not just to students, but to the community. We want to grow Fairfield.”
The president said the school’s approach remains “relentless, looking for and examining what makes sense for Miles and what makes sense for our students.”
The mission of 125 years ago hasn’t changed, she said.
“We’re (looking to) give our students a top-notch experience here at Miles College. I am always committed to Miles College, our students and the historical mission bestowed upon this institution … to motivate and prepare students to seek knowledge that leads to intellectual and civic empowerment.”