College dropout donates $20 million to the university he couldn’t afford 60 years ago

Nearly 60 years ago, Calvin Tyler was forced to drop out of college in his hometown of Baltimore because he couldn’t afford tuition. Now he and his wife, Tina, have pledged $20 million to endow scholarships for students needing financial aid at the historically Black school.

It’s the largest-ever private donation from an alumnus to Morgan State University.

“Morgan is so proud to call this son and daughter of the great City of Baltimore our own, and 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,” David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, said in a statement Monday. “For public institutions, like Morgan, our charitable alumni are testaments to the legacy we collectively uphold, and the Tylers’ generosity over the years, culminating with this transformative commitment, is a remarkable example of altruism with great purpose. We are forever indebted to the Tylers.”

Tyler enrolled at the school, then called Morgan State College, in 1961 to study business administration. He was the first in his family to attend college and had hopes of becoming the first to receive a college degree, but he had to abandon his studies in 1963 due to a lack of funding and take a job as a driver for the United Parcel Service. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and into the company’s executive suite, ultimately serving as senior vice president of U.S. operations and joining the board of directors before he retired in 1998.

But Tyler never lost sight of his humble beginnings. In 2002, he and his wife established the Calvin and Tina Tyler Endowed Scholarship Fund at Morgan State University to provide full-tuition scholarships for select need-based students in Baltimore. In 2016, the couple pledged $5 million to the fund, which at the time was the largest such gift in Morgan State University’s history.

With students and their families facing financial hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Tylers were compelled to increase their endowment commitment by $15 million and expand the scholarship eligibility to students from anywhere in the United States.

“My wife and I have become keenly aware of the effect that the pandemic has had on a number of young people trying to get an education [and] we have the resources to help a lot of young people,” Tyler said in a statement Monday through the university. “This is why we are increasing our commitment at Morgan; we want to have more full tuition scholarships offered to young people so that they can graduate from college and enter the next stage of their life debt free.”

The Calvin and Tina Tyler Endowed Scholarship Fund has already supported 222 students at Morgan State University via 46 full-tuition and 176 partial scholarships. Students must meet certain financial criteria and maintain a minimum GPA requirement of 2.5, according to the school.

“Endowed scholarships and other gifts have far-reaching implications for any institution, but for a public, urban university like Morgan, with students from a broad spectrum of academic, social and economic backgrounds, the need is especially great,” Donna Howard, vice president for institutional advancement, said in a statement Monday.

Fall 2020 student demographics data shows there are around 7,600 total students — both undergraduate and graduate — enrolled at Morgan State University, which is the largest of Maryland’s historically Black colleges and universities. The school said 90% of its students receive financial aid.

Tyler said donations to institutions of higher education are critical to helping young people succeed because “reliance on government loans is just not the answer.”

“Debt can be extremely crippling to someone trying to get ahead in life,” he said. “We just want to help as many young people as we can [to] get an education.”