Hennessy has committed $10 million dollars over the next 10 years to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund in order to increase diversity in corporate leadership with the announcement of the Hennessy Fellows graduate program.

The groundbreaking graduate scholarship initiative is designed to equip the next generation of African American leaders through financial assistance, access to training and professional development experiences and real-world skill application. It was created for graduate students who want to blaze their own trails and pursue their dreams, regardless of challenges faced along the way.

Last year, only 8.6 percent of Fortune 500 board seats were held by African American executives. Additionally, most scholarships focus on undergraduate education which makes post-grad level degrees less attainable to those who rely on scholarships and financial assistance.

“The issue of financial aid is not only limited to undergraduate students on our HBCU campuses,” said Dr. David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, one of the HBCUs eligible for the Hennessy Fellows program. “Limited resources for graduate students also lead to student drop off. Hennessy’s initiative will be a lifeline of support providing more opportunities for graduate students that are often forgotten.”

The college fund’s vision of “Changing the World… One Leader at a Time” aligns with Hennessy’s “Never stop. Never settle.” mantra, which reflects what one can achieve by pushing the limits of potential, said Giles Woodyer, senior vice president of Hennessy US.

“Continuing a heritage of support and celebration of the African American community that began over 100 years ago, Hennessy is excited to partner with TMCF to help ensure more diversity in leadership roles,” Woodyer said. “The immediate goal of the Hennessy Fellows program is to create a pipeline of highly qualified talent over the next 10 years and help prepare these future leaders for success.”

Jim Clerkin, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy North America, said the program will “build a broader, more inclusive talent base” for corporate America.

“As a charter corporate sponsor of the fund, we continue to support the work of this organization in developing a pipeline of talent and future leaders from historically black colleges and universities,” Clerkin said. “I am proud of the work we have done together to date and look forward to continuing our efforts to build a broader, more inclusive talent base for corporate America.”

Following a thorough application process, the Hennessy Fellows program selects 10 high-achieving, high-potential graduate students per year. Recipients will be awarded financial assistance toward collegiate graduate level education programs, as well as curated corporate development experiences, including training forums and networking to enhance the exchange of ideas, and provide direct exposure to the inter-relatedness of corporate, social and economic systems.

“When such a tremendously successful global brand like Hennessy invests in a higher education non-profit like ours, it tells the world that HBCUs and PBIs have value and are worth investing in, and TMCF is the best steward to carry out such a monumental investment,” said Dr. Harry L. Williams, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. “This is major, and it can’t be overlooked as just a financial contribution; it is a real partnership that is a game changer for the students and our community.”

Hennessy’s partnership with the college funds adds to the brand’s long history of supporting the African American community dating back to the early 1900s. Hennessy leadership at the time was among the founders of what would ultimately become the National Urban League, paving the road for Hennessy’s involvement as first corporate sponsor of milestone organizations like the NAACP and Tuskegee Institute.