Businessman Frank Baker pays off tuition of Spelman College graduates

May 28, 2020

Frank Baker

College graduations in 2020 are unlike any other. From walking across virtual stages and Zoom graduation parties, the graduating class of 2020 will probably remember their final months of school like no one else. Now, graduates are going into the real world with worries about the job market, this pandemic and so much more.

But the ladies in the graduating class of the HBCU Spelman College have one less thing to worry about: their tuition.

Frank Baker, the founder and managing partner of Siris, a leading private equity firm in technology and telecommunications that’s raised nearly $6.0 billion in capital, announced he is paying the tuition balances of about 50 seniors who are graduating from Spelman.

“The people who my heart really goes out to are women in their senior year who can’t afford it anymore and have to drop out,” said Baker. “These are the most resilient people because if they run out of money their senior year, you know they were out of money their sophomore year and just made it work.”

Baker has spent $250,000 to cover the tuition balances of about 50 women so they could graduate this year with no money owed to Spelman College. He has also committed to continuing to spend no less than $1 million to help Spelman seniors in similar situations for the next three years.

“These are the women we need in the workforce,” said Baker. “They are going to make a difference.”

This surprise financial gift to an HBCU comes one year after Billionaire Robert F. Smith paid off all the loan debt for the graduating class of Morehouse College. During his commencement speech, Smith issued the challenge to others with the means to do so. But most of us were caught up with the incredible gesture that we didn’t know if any other wealthy folks heard him.

But Baker did hear him.

Actually, Baker has been colleagues with Smith for years. Like Smith, Baker is also an African American who found success in business by starting a private equity firm that invests in technology companies. Smith and Baker both started their Wall Street careers in 1994 in the mergers and acquisitions group of Goldman Sachs.

“Robert was fortunate enough to go to Cornell and Columbia and him giving to Morehouse was a nod to the recognition that the majority of African Americans going to college are graduating from historically black institutions,” said Baker, who graduated from the University of Chicago, in an interview. “We need to make sure these schools continue to be viable. We are all part of the same community. It doesn’t matter if I went to the school or not.”

Frank and his wife Laura Day Baker, an accomplished interior designer and philanthropist, live in New York City and are married with three children. Their oldest is a twelve-year-old girl, which makes this gift even more meaningful.

Thank you Mr. Baker for literally investing in the future.