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Delta CEO announces $2M grant to Atlanta-based HBCU Spelman on ‘Gaining Altitude’

Delta CEO Ed Bastian talks to Spelman College President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell in the latest episode of Gaining Altitude.

The Delta Air Lines Foundation announced a $2 million grant to Spelman College for the Center for Innovation and Arts as part of the Spelman Ascends campaign. Delta CEO Ed Bastian presented the grant Wednesday on the airline’s Gaining Altitude series. 

Bastian’s guest, Spelman President Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, tearfully expressed her gratitude at the episode’s conclusion when the surprise contribution was announced. The grant totals $500,000 a year for four years, helping fund the historically Black college’s integration of the arts into its already robust STEM education programs for women. 

“At Delta, we’re committed to investing in the communities where our employees live, work and serve,” said Bastian. “Mary and the women of Spelman do so much for the Atlanta community, and that’s why it’s a huge honor for me to announce this grant.” 

The announcement was the culmination of a wide-ranging conversation between the two leaders about removing diversity barriers in the workplace and the importance of inclusivity. The conversation is the latest in Delta’s efforts to spotlight the importance of actively seeking diversity, boldly pursuing equity and consciously promoting inclusion. 

"I think it is extremely important not to relegate the conversation about DEI to just crises. It's got to be part of the ongoing mission of whatever company or organization makes that its centerpiece,” Dr. Campbell said. “There has to be clear goals and objectives for bringing people into the company, for having people develop in the company, for having them move up in the company, for having them be able to participate in a meaningful way. I think DEI has to be part of the DNA." 

Dr. Campbell is the 10th president of Spelman College and has spent her career driving forward diversity, equity and inclusion. From piloting the accreditation of the country’s first Black fine arts museum to being vice-chair of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, Campbell has built her career on uplifting women in the arts. During her time at Spelman, Campbell launched Imagine. Invent. Ascend, a strategic vision to ensure every Spelman student graduates with a competitive edge. She previously announced that she plans to retire at the end of this academic year.   

Gaining Altitude is an enlightening series of conversations worth navigating, connecting people while building understanding around the globe. Bastian hosts the one-on-one discussions with insightful leaders, covering topics including diversity, equity and inclusion, servant leadership, entrepreneurship, sustainability and mental health.  

Campbell was the sixth guest invited by Bastian to appear on Gaining Altitude. The series premiered featuring Tristan Walker, the founder and CEO of Walker and Company Brands and the founder of the nonprofit Code2040. 

About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Delta  

At Delta, we are committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion as part of our work to connect and reflect the world. Delta drives meaningful impact by actively seeking diversity, boldly pursuing equity and consciously promoting inclusion while holding ourselves accountable to these goals. 

In 2020, Delta made a commitment to become an anti-discrimination, anti-racist organization. The company periodically updates progress toward its multi-layered goals through racial equity progress reports. Additionally, Delta has placed a focus on closing diversity gaps within its workforce: setting goals for the diversity of our frontline to be proportionally reflected in their leaders. 

Delta's senior cross-divisional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council, made up of nearly 30 executive leaders, ensures these goals are embedded throughout the organization by evaluating corporate and divisional metrics, programs and proposals. Ten Business Resource Groups with over 24,000 actively engaged employees to ensure that diverse perspectives are brought to the table, serving as strategists, and thought leaders on business issues. 

As a "Best Workplace for Diversity," Delta has been recognized as a "Best Workplace for Women" by Great Place to Work and Fortune for three years in a row, "Top-Rated Workplaces for Veterans" by Indeed, and "Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion," receiving a top score of 100 percent on the 2020 Disability Equality Index (DEI). 

Learn more at or by finding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on the News Hub. 

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