Spelman Receives $30 Million for Center for Innovation and the Arts

Spelman Receives $30 Million for Center for Innovation and the Arts

Spelman College in Atlanta has announced a $30 million gift from longtime trustee Ronda Stryker and her husband, William Johnston, in support of a planned Center for Innovation & the Arts.

The largest gift from living donors in the college's 137-year history will help fund construction of the center, which will bring together the school's programs in science, technology, engineering, and math and its award-winning programs in the arts, art history, curatorial studies, digital media, documentary filmmaking, photography, music, and theater. The hub of the building will be an Innovation Lab co-directed by Jerry Volcy, the Brown-Simmons Professor of Computer Science, and associate professor De Angela Duff, who works at the intersection of art, design, and technology, in consultation with senior advisor Topper Carew, a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab.

The college's first new academic facility since 1996 will feature a "Front Porch" that "opens up" the building to the community; an extension of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art; a digital theater that will host performances, technology events, and film screenings; and a café. 

Stryker — a director of medical equipment company Stryker Corp., as well as vice chair and director of Greenleaf Trust, an investment bank chaired by Johnston — has been a Spelman trustee since 1997 and currently serves as vice chair of the board and chairs its Arts, Innovation & Technology Committee. Previous gifts from Stryker and Johnston have supported a number of initiatives at Spelman, including the Gordon-Zeto Center for Global Education, the Museum of Fine Arts,  summer internships, the annual fund, the President's Safety Net Fund, and renovations to Sisters Chapel and the Wellness Center at Read Hall.

"As former educators who believe strongly in social justice, Bill and I have great appreciation for how Spelman provides a superior education for students that encourages them to be global change agents," said Stryker. "Spelman alumnae are leaders across every field imaginable, breaking new ground while tackling some of the world's most challenging issues, from health disparities to the digital divide. We are thrilled to support a building that will encourage students to master technology, innovation, and the arts."