As the college celebrates 2021 Aspen Prize, another surprise — $15 million donation

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The donation is the largest in the college’s 96-year history.

By Rocky Garza Jr.

The past month has proven momentous for this college and President Robert Vela, who has been at the helm for two historic milestones for this college — winning the 2021 Aspen Prize for community college excellence May 18, then announcing a $15 million donation from billionaire and philanthropist Mackenzie Scott June 15.


The Aspen Prize recognized this college as the top community college in the United States.

As for the donation, Vela said administration was not expecting to receive the news the same morning administration learned this college was the Aspen Prize winner.

“Honestly, when I got the call from one of Scott’s representatives, it didn’t feel real,” Vela said. “It felt so surreal to me getting that news and then learning we won the Aspen Prize — it’s still like a dream to me.

“As educators, we usually don’t get these types of rewards because it’s a more intrinsic reward system for us seeing our students graduate, getting awesome jobs and becoming successful people. However, with this donation and the Aspen Prize award, I just feel blessed that SAC is getting its national recognition, and I can’t thank our faculty and staff enough for making this possible.”

When asked for the college’s plans for the donation, Vela said he met with the Alamo Colleges Foundation to suggest putting it in an endowment to let it grow interest.

“Even though there is a lot of need in certain areas at the college, we know once you spend it, then it’s gone, right?” Vela said. “The beauty is that it will continue to grow each year, and the interest can be drawn down and used for specific programs and essentially it be with us forever.”

According to the American Council of Education, an endowment is an aggregation of assets invested by a college or university to support its educational and research mission in perpetuity. It represents a compact between a donor and an institution and links past, current and future generations, allowing the institution to make use of the donation far in the future.


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