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He couldn’t afford to stay at Morgan State, but once he made it he gave back millions

Retired UPS executive Calvin E. Tyler Jr. and his wife Tina, left, with the Morgan State University president David Wilson. The couple donated $5 million to the historically black university. (P.A. Greene)

Calvin E. Tyler Jr. would have been the first in his family to graduate from college, but by his junior year in 1963, he could no longer afford to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore. The newlywed had a family to provide for and a part-time job that didn’t pay enough to cover tuition and household bills. So his degree in business administration was put on the back burner.

Tyler landed a job as a driver at United Parcel Service in 1964, just as the company was gaining a foothold in Baltimore, he said. In a matter of years, Tyler became a manager and continued to climb the corporate ladder all the way up to senior vice president of U.S. operations before retiring in 1998. All the while, he never forgot how Morgan shaped his life.

“I learned the value of hard work and I appreciate the education that I got,” he said. “I would have preferred to have stayed and finished, but I learned a lot.”

Tyler and his wife Tina have pledged $5 million to endow a scholarship fund at Morgan, the largest individual donation to the historically black university. The gift is scheduled to be announced Wednesday from the Tylers’ home in Las Vegas.

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The gift will initially fund 10 need-based scholarships to cover full tuition for Morgan students from Baltimore City, the Tylers’ hometown. The scholarship, which can be renewed every year, will be offered to incoming freshman with at least a 2.5 grade point average in high school.

“Calvin grew up in Baltimore not far from where the riots took place. He understands the financial circumstances of many of the young people in Baltimore who are just like him,” said Morgan president David Wilson. “Putting resources in place to ensure that those students can taste the magic of a college education is a game changer. He understands all too well.”

Over the years, the Tylers have made a series of smaller donations to the school. The couple provided Morgan $500,000 to establish the scholarship fund in 2002, followed by another half-million dollars three years later and a $1 million gift in 2008. This month, the Tylers donated $3 million, bringing their total investment to $5 million.

“We just wanted to help the kids who may not be able to attend college without these scholarships,” Tyler said. “My wife and I both came from a very humble background and we understand the challenges a lot of young people face when their families don’t have the resources.”

Morgan officials say the Tylers’ gift is one of the largest ever made to any historically black college or university. The school has enjoyed a surge in alumni giving in the five years since Wilson took office, with alumni participation climbing from 6 percent to 18 percent. According to an annual survey from the Council for Aid to Education, the university pulled in $6,085,250 in charitable contribution in the 12 months ending June.

“We understand that you have to tell your alums about the good things taking place at the university, especially the value proposition of the school,” Wilson said. “What the Tylers have done is to set a standard for philanthropic giving to HBCUs. They have said ‘we understand Morgan’s value proposition and that we have to invest in institutions like Morgan.’ ”

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