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Howard University Receives $3.5 Million to Endow Chair in Honor of Education Entrepreneur Sean McCleese

Student sits in front of computer at library

An anonymous donor has committed $3.5 million to Howard University to establish an endowed chair in honor of the late education entrepreneur Sean McCleese

The Sean McCleese Endowed Chair in Computer Science, Race and Social Justice supports scholarship, teaching, policy development and partnership building. The goal of this endowed chair is to ensure that emerging technologies and data analysis are equitable in their design and deployed to make the United States – and the world – a more just and inclusive place. The chair will be seated in the Center for Applied Data Science & Analytics (CADSA). 

“Howard University is thankful for this gift, especially as it serves a crucial purpose – to ensure that the modern tools of computer science and data analysis serve the goals of social justice, a foundational aspect of the University’s mission,” said Anthony K. Wutoh, PhD, RPh, provost and chief academic officer. 

McCleese, who died in 2022, founded and was CEO of Student of Fortune Inc., an online tutoring marketplace that was a conduit between students and tutors. McCleese enrolled in Occidental College at age 15 and graduated with a degree in physics. He was inspired to create Student of Fortune during his senior year when he needed to solve a specific problem but couldn’t find online resources that explained how. This was one of his earliest efforts in his lifelong commitment to use technology to advance social justice, as he found his life’s joy in helping people navigate the world as a “purposeful troublemaker.” 

“It is most appropriate that Sean McCleese is remembered with an endowed chair at Howard University,” Wutoh continued. “In his life, Mr. McCleese practiced Howard’s commitment to academic excellence and racial equity. It is an honor to keep his name alive through this gift.” 

The McCleese Chair will support CADSA and will work with all University schools and colleges on social justice matters. CADSA is under the leadership of the Office of the Provost and Chief Academic Officer. 

“Applied data is increasingly a factor in every aspect of life; influencing financial status, public policy, health care and social well-being. Our training mission at CADSA is to create a cadre of data scientists with the expected technical skills combined with a heightened sensitivity of the importance of the equitable implementation of data across all segments of society, while the CADSA research effort is committed to the generation of new data and the application of both new and existing data to solve current societal problems. The addition of the McCleese Chair to CADSA will be a great benefit to the University, facilitating collaborative work across disciplines,” said William Southerland, PhD, CADSA interim director. 

Part of the donation is earmarked for an endowed fund for the McCleese Chair. The other part creates a current-use fund available for immediate spending that can accept future annual distributions from the endowed fund. The current-use fund expedites the University’s ability to hire for the position and support CADSA activities. 

About Howard University 

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American PhD. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu