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Africa University gets biggest-ever gift for scholarships, projects

8/15/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist-related Africa University has received an anonymous gift of real estate valued at US$5.2 million, the largest donation in the school's 11-year history.

"This is a week of hope and affirmation for Africa and its people," said Rukudzo Murapa, Africa University's vice chancellor, Aug. 15. "Earlier this week, we witnessed African leaders bringing their influence and resources together in Liberia, showing that with the right help at the right time, Africans can work to confront challenges to peace and prosperity and to solve their own problems. By giving so generously right now, this United Methodist family is asserting its confidence in Africa University and its hope for Africa's future."

The university will receive the dollars from the gift in about two years, officials said. About US$4 million is designated for the Africa University Endowment Fund, which supports scholarships for needy young Africans. The balance will fund a capital project in one of the institution's seven faculties or departments.

"Though they wish to remain anonymous, these donors are deeply interested in empowerment and in providing opportunities for African children, (and) that's why they've given in a way that helps to ensure that Africa University will grow and remain fiscally sustainable," said James Salley, the university's associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement. "They've seen the impact of AU graduates in communities across the continent, and they want to see that continue."

Salley, who made the property announcement during a meeting of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the commitment of the school's advancement team and advisory development committee played big roles in securing the gift. The couple that donated the gift had already made a major donation to the school, he added.

Despite Zimbabwe's political and economic problems, the university began classes Aug. 13 at full capacity, with 1,200 students from more than 20 countries.

Local congregations support the university's day-to-day needs through the denomination's Africa University Fund, but the institution has never collected 100 percent of the annual $2.5 million asking. Total funding of that commitment is essential, Salley said, describing the challenges the school faces in rising utility, fuel and food costs. The university increased annual tuition fees this year from US$3,950 to US$5,200.

"As it moves forward towards General Conference 2004, Africa University needs more friends and advocates in the church," Salley said, "… people like this couple, who stand with the church in good times and bad times and who see the university as a wonderful model for the church at its very best: connected, relevant and acting on God's word in the global arena."

Africa University is based in Mutare, Zimbabwe. It opened in March 1992 and is the only General Conference-approved, degree-granting institution related to the church in Africa.
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Information for this story was adapted from a release from the Africa University Development Office.

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