When a man found himself unable to afford college, he was forced to drop out. Unable to finish his education, he got a job as a UPS driver. He’s since made history after giving away a record-breaking $20 million, but how and why? It’s a story everyone needs to hear.
In 1963, Calvin Tyler Jr was attending Morgan State University, a public historically black research university in Baltimore, Maryland, when he found himself unable to afford the tuition fees. Sadly, he was left with no other choice but to drop out and get a job. After the decision to quit school, Tyler eventually went to work as a driver for the United Parcel Service (UPS) after seeing an ad in a Baltimore newspaper.
Tyler worked hard at UPS. Over the course of 34 years, he rose to the top of the global shipping company, becoming its senior vice president of US operations and a member of the board of directors before retiring in 1998. Following his success, the former UPS driver turned philanthropist decided it was time to give back.
In a record-breaking, historic move, Tyler donated a whopping $20 million to Morgan State University after he had to quit the college decades before because he couldn’t afford it. The money pledged by Tyler and his wife Tina will fund scholarships that were established under the Tylers’ name in 2002 at the historically black university, according to Daily Mail.
The “donation is thought to be the largest gift any HBCU has ever received from an alum,” the outlet explained. The gift is also the second-largest private donation the Baltimore school has received, following a $40 million donation made in December 2020 by MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist and the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Tyler, who grew up in a low-income family, explained that the donation was very personal to him after he was forced to drop out of college because he could no longer afford it. “I didn’t have a scholarship, so I was struggling to pay tuition and working and trying to take care of myself at the same time,” he said. “So, I stayed there as long as I could and learned as much as I could, but I had to drop out and go to work.”
Although Tyler and his wife, who’s also a Baltimore native, have lived all across the country, he said they have never forgotten their humble beginnings, and this isn’t the first time they’ve given a generous donation. In 2016, they made a $5 million contribution, which had already supported 222 students with full or partial scholarships at the time of their more recent $20 million donation.
The couple expanded their giving to offer more full scholarships so students “can graduate from college and enter the next stage of their life debt-free.” With 90% of Morgan State University students receiving financial aid, the Tylers’ gifts are critical to the school.
It’s also significant because public HBCU’s like Morgan State University tend to have lower alumni giving rates compared to private ones. “For a long time, they weren’t asking alumni to give,” Marybeth Gasman, a professor at Rutgers University who studies HBCUs, explained. That has changed in the past couple of decades, she added, saying that schools have “started asking alumni to give and creating a culture of philanthropy on campus.”
David K. Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, said the money will help students for years to come as the scholarship fund, which was originally set up to provide need-based scholarships to students from Baltimore, will now be offered to students from across the United States.
“Through their historic giving, the doors of higher education will most certainly be kept open for generations of aspiring leaders whose financial shortfalls may have kept them from realizing their academic dreams,” he said in a statement. “We are forever indebted to the Tylers.”
Calvin Tyler Jr has more to offer others than just money. While his donation is incredible and will make a difference to many, his story is even more awe-inspiring and can make a difference to all. When this man found himself in unfavorable circumstances, forcing him to quit college, he didn’t give up. Instead, he used hard work to succeed — even though he entered the workforce without a college degree. Rather than make excuses, he made a way for himself. That kind of grit and determination is priceless, but Calvin Tyler Jr reminds us all that it’s not impossible. Like him, others can rise above their difficult beginnings and make a brighter future for themselves with the right work ethic.