Roy S. Johnson: Charles Barkley to donate $1 million each to Auburn women’s athletics and HS for Black girls

    By Roy S. Johnson

    Roy S. Johnson Guest Columnist
    Charles Barkley poses for photographers with a statue honoring him at the Philadelphia 76ers training facility on Friday, Sept. 13, 2009, in Camden, N.J. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

    Charles Barkley never misses “60 Minutes.” Two Sundays ago, the venerable CBS news magazine show aired a segment on St. Mary’s Academy, a 157-year-old, high-achieving Catholic school for young Black women in New Orleans featuring two former students who independently achieved something thought to be impossible.

    Calcea Johnson and Ne’Kiya Jackson, now college students, used trigonometry to prove the 2,000-year-old Pythagorean Theorem, something math experts universally believed could not be done.

    Their achievement did not surprise Pamela Rogers, principal at St. Mary’s Academy, which educates girls from kindergarten through the 12th grade. “Our students can do anything, and that’s what we tell them,” she told 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker. “We teach young women to give service, to empower themselves, [and] to be in the community. We teach them to grow spiritually, intellectually…to be good people and give to one another.”

    The segment moved Barkley to pledge a donation of $1 million to St. Mary’s.

    “These beautiful Black women, man, they’re just the high achievers,” Barkley said in a conversation Monday. “A lot is demanded of everybody at the school—high excellence. And these two young Black women did something in mathematics that was incredible. It just inspired me.”

    Barkley also said he will donate $1 million to women’s athletics at Auburn, his alma mater.

    “I just want to make sure I always take care of the women at Auburn because I worry about them more than anything during this NIL movement,” he said. “Everybody’s worried about football and basketball. I just want to make sure the women know I’ve got a lot of love and appreciation for them.”

    St. Mary’s was founded based on the vision of Henriette Delille, the great-great-granddaughter of an enslaved West African woman. Delille, born in New Orleans in 1812, was a Creole nun whose mother was a free Black woman and father a white Frenchman. She taught enslaved and free Blacks, though it was illegal to educate them in Louisiana.

    She founded Sisters of Holy the Family, the nation’s second-oldest surviving Black Catholic sisterhoods. The sisters created St. Mary’s in 1867, five years after Delille’s death.

    Delille is one of six African Americans in the process towards sainthood. She is in the final stages of canonization; there are no African American saints recognized by the Catholic church.

    Barkley previously donated $1 million each to: ALS research in Alabama in the name of former Auburn teammate Gary Godfrey, who was diagnosed with the disease in January 2019; his alma mater Auburn; the Wounded Warrior Project; and several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) including Spellman, Tuskegee, Miles College, Morehouse, Alabama A&M, Clark Atlanta, Bethune-Cookman, and Jackson State.

    Last June, Barkley shared he was changing his will, redesignating the $5 million he will leave to Auburn to be used for scholarships for low-income Black students.

    “That’s just my way of trying to make sure Auburn stays diverse,” he said at the time.