Prominent business leaders rally for Paine

Paine College Lions graphic
Paine College Lions graphic

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) –  Support for Paine College just expanded with help now coming from the Augusta business community. These aren’t just any local business leaders, but some pretty prominent ones.  They are the exact people the school’s board chairman, Michael Thurmond, appealed to in June when Paine accepted a $1 Million gift from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

“If you have white friends, I’m just going to say it. We need our white friends,” Thurmond urged the group attending the event in June after telling them he placed a call to one of Augusta’s riches residents prior to the press conference.

Fast forward nearly three months and the plan to divide the color line in order to give Paine the long-term financial security it needs is working.  From a larger perspective, the school is hoping the financial support shows the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that Paine should be accredited.

Vice President for International Advancement Sunya Young told NewsChannel 6 she’s the fundraising chair for Paine and everything is looking good.

“We’re on target. We should probably be able to reach $5 Million this year,” she said.

Even though they were once feeling the pain, Augusta’s century plus old Historically Black College is getting some relief.

“Last year, I’m happy to report that was our most successful fundraising year ever,” Young told us. “We raised $4.2 Million. The year before that, the college raised $2.6 Million. So that was very, very successful for us. This year, I think we’re probably about 300 or 400 thousand dollars over where we were at the same time last year.”

Young added that Paine is currently in its pledge period and that has been successful.  She said the school will soon launch its Annual Fund Campaign and it has a Jazz Festival set for October 23 at 4:00 p.m. at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater.

But Young added the school still needs support, especially pledges because $1 out of every $3 in pledges counts as an asset in the college’s books.

The big dogs are stomping for the lions now. An Augusta Chronicle Facebook post represents just one of the entities saving the school from its financial woes. The paper’s publisher, Billy Morris, said he was once on Paine’s Board of Trustees.

“They are doing many, many good things. So our first mission is to know and to understand what they’re doing. And hopefully we will determine that and what their needs are and help them meet some of those needs,” Morris said.

The Augusta Committee to Help Paine College met Tuesday with the school’s leadership for facts, figures and to give a high-five before the school appeals its accreditation next week.

Chairman Thurmond described it as, “A broad range of 30 plus business leaders came together to receive an update on the status of Paine College, the progress that has been made and is being made.”

Thurmond added Paine still needs around $1.5 Million dollars in cash, line of credit or pledges.

“What we’re trying to do is rebuild our endowment to increase our assets versus liabilities and to demonstrate to SACS that the college is not only operating, but we are sustainable over a long period of time,” he shared.

Also at that meeting was NewsChannel 6 General Manager Bill Stewart as well as Billy Morris, the publisher of the Augusta Chronicle.

The man credited with the “Save the A” campaign to ensure then Georgia Regents University included the Augusta, is also stomping for Paine.

Nick Evans said Paine’s leadership made tremendous and positive strides in the last few months to get the school in the financial position it needs to be in.  Additionally, he said Augusta needs to save Paine College because the school has a bright future.  He said not if, but when SACS approves Paine, all Augustans; white, black, and business will need to come together and support Paine College.

Evans said, “Paine is headed in the right direction and this community needs to step up and support Paine College going forward to help educate and build future leaders of our community.”

Paine College leaders will head to Atlanta next week to appear before SACS.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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