ORLANDO, Fla. — Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and her husband, Dan Jewett, on Tuesday announced a $40 million unrestricted gift to the University of Central Florida, which UCF hailed as the largest gift in its 58-year history.

What You Need To Know

  •  UCF hails $40 million gift as the largest in its 58-year history

  •  Gift comes from MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon's Bezos

  • Donation is a part of $2.7 billion to 286 "high-impact organizations"

The gift from Scott, former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, “will strengthen the university’s focus on fostering social mobility while developing the skilled talent needed to advance industry across our state and beyond,” UCF said Tuesday in an article on its website.

Before Tuesday, a gift from about 15 years ago to benefit UCF's College of Medicine stood as the biggest single donation to the university, a UCF spokeswoman told Spectrum News. In around 2005, Tavistock donated $12.5 million, plus 50 acres of land in Lake Nona, now the site of UCF’s Lake Nona Medical Center

Scott's gift is part of $2.7 billion that she and Jewett donated to 286 "high-impact organizations in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked," she wrote in her blog Tuesday. She now has donated a reported $8.5 billion since July 2020.

Calling higher education a "proven pathway to opportunity," Scott said in her blog that she and Jewett sought two- and four-year institutions that have been "successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved."

UCF boasts on its website membership in the 13-institution University Innovation Alliance, which it says "allows us to collaborate with other high-quality universities in eliminating disparity across student populations and ensuring more low-income students achieve their dream of a college degree."

Scott also announced Florida International University as a beneficiary. The Miami-based institution boasts 61% Hispanic enrollment.

Other beneficiaries include the African American Cultural Heritage Fund, the American Indian College Fund, the Arts for Healing and Justice Network, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Funders for LGBTQ issues, the Interaction Institute for Social Change, the Japanese American National Museum, Muslim Advocates and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures. Scott shared the full list here.

Worth a reported $60 billion, Scott wrote in her blog that she and her husband "are attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change." 

"We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others," she wrote.

She made her comments in a blog entry she called "Seeding by Ceding." Her comments came amid increased focus in the U.S. on issues such as income inequality, wealth disparity and a reported $200 billion — and growing — fortune of Bezos, her former husband. 

Scott wrote that "though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others."

UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright said in the UCF article that Scott’s gift “will accelerate our trajectory toward becoming the world’s leading public metropolitan research university and inspire others to invest in building a better future for our students and society.”