“SINCE THE DAY I learned that you can ask God for anything, I began to make a wish list making all sorts of requests of the things I wanted and the things I desired. On my list, I asked God for wars to cease, for famine to end, and for peace and good success to my family and my children. For the sick and the downtrodden to receive healing.” Noticeably absent from her list was herself. Yet it was precisely this type of selflessness that led her from opening her door to orphans needing help financing their education to standing at the podium of the 132nd Commencement exercises at Morehouse on May 15, 2016, to accept the College’s highest honor: the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Her husband, Strive, received an honorary degree from Morehouse four years earlier. Mr. Masiyiwa, who is founder of Econet Wireless and considered the wealthiest man in Zimbabwe, has been named one of the “Ten Most Powerful Men in Africa” by Forbes Magazine and one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” by CNN Fortune Magazine. The College has now officially honored both Masiyiwas for their philanthropic and humanitarian work across the African continent. In one example of their selflessness, the couple has joined the Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. But the selfless act of the day was found in the fruit of their labor from the Higherlife Foundation, a charity they founded to help educate African orphans. Through the Foundation, the Masiyiwas have made a $16.4 million commitment to fully fund four-year scholarships for 40 African men to attend Morehouse. Nine of the 10 members of the initial class of the Andrew Young International Scholars were part of the class of 2016 (the 10th member is in a five-year dual degree program and graduates next year). Two decades ago, before he took on
Commencement speaker Strive Masiyiwa greets Ambassador Andrew Young.
the Zimbabwean government in a five-year battle for the right to own his telecommunications company, Masiyiwa owned a small construction company. He noticed that he was going to a funeral nearly monthly, he said in his Commencement address to the 380 graduates and 6,000 audience members. HIV was killing many of his workers, who often left young children behind. As the virus spread, so did word that he and his wife were putting up the money to keep these orphans in school. Thousands of children showed up at their door. It got to the point where Mrs. Masiyiwa quit her job to run the foundation full time “to take care of these children.” According to Mr. Masiyiwa, since its conception, the foundation has given financial assistance to a quarter of a million African students. On any given day, the Foundation is helping 40,000 African students continue their education from secondary schools to colleges and universities. Three hundred and fifty of them are in the United States. Nine of those crossed the Morehouse graduation stage—with their benefactors looking on. “It fills me with humility and honor to find that the students we sent here came from a program that was set up for orphans 20 years ago,” said Mr. Masiyiwa. Four years ago, the 10 inaugural Andrew Young scholars were carefully selected. The Masiyiwas looked for talented young scholars who would be steeped in the Morehouse brand of service leadership,
then return to Africa to improve the lives of their fellow countrymen. Perhaps Prince Abudu stands out most prominently among the inaugural Tsitsi Masiyiwa receives class graduates. In honorary Doctor of 2016, he became Humane Letters. the College’s fourth Rhodes scholar (see article on page 28). And in a venture that transfers American knowledge to Africa, he co-founded Emergination Africa, which allows college-aged U.S. students to mentor African students. Although the Foundation sends students to institutions around the world, Mr. Masiyiwa said he was drawn to Atlanta for its rich legacy in the civil rights movement. In a spring 2012 Morehouse Magazine article, he said the U.S. civil rights movement was synonymous to Zimbabwe’s fight against colonialism. He was inspired to name the Foundation’s scholarship program in honor of Ambassador Andrew Young, Atlanta’s second African American mayor. And he wanted to send students to Morehouse because it had produced the U.S. movement’s iconic leader, Martin Luther King Jr. ’48. “In coming to Morehouse, I’ve always been fully persuaded that this great institution, which for generations has been the shining city on a hill to many Africans and African Americans, will play a key role CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE WINTER 2017
37 MOREHOUSE MAGAZINE