Florida A&M University receives historic $237 Million donation

Florida A&M announced a historic donation during their Saturday afternoon commencement ceremony. The institution is receiving a $237 million gift from Gregory Gerami and the Issac Batterson 7th Family Trust. Florida A&M also announced the gift on their social media accounts moments after the announcement at the graduation ceremony.

Florida A&M reported that the $237 million donation exceeds the institution’s endowment value ($121 million) and stands as one of the largest single personal contributions to an HBCU.

“To give back to HBCU at this level, it’s important to me to be able to choose for our foundation, to be able to choose a university where our legacy will continue and will be the most impactful. For generations and generations to come, that is the most important thing to our foundation and us,” said Gerami in a quote obtained by Florida A&M that was posted to the institution’s Twitter/X profile.

Gregory Gerami founded Batterson Farms Corp and advocates for sustainable agriculture and biodegradable hemp products in Texas. Despite facing challenges early on, he emerged as a key figure in the industrial hemp sector and a trailblazer in the production and sale of top-notch hemp seeds. Gerami’s forward-looking agricultural vision includes establishing the largest African American commercial hydroponic warehouse in West Texas.

According to Florida A&M, Gerami initially contacted Audrey Simmons Smith of the FAMU Office of University Advancement in autumn 2023 to discuss a significant donation. Gerami mentioned that FAMU’s mission, research strengths, particularly in hemp production, are closely related to his company’s goals.

Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the FAMU Foundation, is said to have been involved with discussions on the donation from it’s onset. She spoke about the generosity of Gerami in a statement released by the institution.

“I cannot thank Mr. Gregory Gerami enough for his beyond-transformational gift to Florida A&M University. It will forever elevate FAMU’s tradition of excellence and change the lives of Rattlers yet unborn…As a result of the many meetings and conversations with members of the FAMU community that uncovered the various intersections between his personal and professional experiences, and FAMU’s mission and programmatic offerings .”

She also spoke about the impact of the donation, saying, “Mr. Gerami has made the largest gift ever received in FAMU’s 136-year history. Due to Mr. Gerami’s thoughtfulness and attention to detail, his gift will be inextricably woven into the fabric of FAMU and Dr. Robinson’s legacy. It is the gift that will keep on giving in perpetuity, and for that, we are eternally grateful. Finally, I have to sincerely thank Mrs. Audrey Simmons Smith, my colleagues, and the best University Advancement team on planet earth.”

The Rattler athletics department is also set to benefit from the historic donation and Florida A&M Vice President of Athletics Tiffani Dawn-Sykes spoke about what’s to come in a statement released by the institution.

“This donation substantially elevates the way FAMU athletes show up in the competition landscape. This reflects his commitment to the overall development of our staff and student-athletes. It will position us, not only to compete but to dominate every time we step on the field and on the court. This gift is absolutely a game changer for FAMU Athletics. It will transform the way we are able to recruit; it will transform the way we are develop and support our athletes.”

His donation will support the Center for Disability Access & Resources (CeDAR), aiding approximately 700 students. Gerami, having overcome childhood physical challenges, aims to assist students encountering similar obstacles.

“The impact is just tremendous because we are not a department that often gets gifts like this. Alumni tend to give to their school or to athletics, but the Office of Disability Services doesn’t necessarily get recognized with monetary gifts like this and, especially, this magnitude,” said Director Deborah Sullivan in the statement from the institution. The gift could be far reaching beyond what we do with students with disabilities. It can be impactful for every student on campus with some of the training, programming, and services we’ll be able to offer.”