Unusual Commencement Speech offers $100,000 through Flash Philanthropy

The following column was featured on
the national blog of the Social Media Club on May 4, 2013

University professors hear a lot of commencement speeches. But one I heard this weekend was unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.

By combining the power of digital media, passion for philanthropy, and mobile technology,graduating students at Queens University of Charlotte helped the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation give away $100,000 on the spot during their commencement speech. The experiment was the brainchild of graduation speaker Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of Knight Foundation.

During Newton’s address, the audience watched three videos from Communities in Schools, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont, and Loaves and Fishes. In the videos, representatives from each Charlotte-area organization explained how they would use a $50,000 grant from Knight Foundation. Graduates were then invited to text in their votes to decide which organization would receive the grant.

Graduates awarded the grant to Communities in Schools, and the other two organizations were awarded $25,000 grants by the foundation.

For the campus community, the event demonstrated the ability of individuals to make a difference in their communities through digital technology. “Remember the night that your lives were both noble and digital,” Newton remarked to the graduates. Even on a night of celebration of their own successes, the Class of 2013 were reminded to give back to their community.

Queens and Knight Foundation have a partnership established in 2010 with the naming of the James L. Knight School of Communication at the university. The school has a special endowed mission for strengthening digital and media literacy in the Charlotte community. The partnership has created the website digitalcharlotte.org and launched the new online Journal of Digital and Media Literacy.

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