Tony Signore: A Personal Commitment to Preserving the Legacy of Frederick Douglass and Supporting HBCU Students Nationwide
Listen to the Interview with Tony Signore
On the morning of the 2020 UNCF Annual Gala in Washington, DC, Signore was an in-studio guest on “The Laura Coates Show,” a national radio program broadcast live on SiriusXM. Signore’s interview, originally scheduled for 10 minutes to discuss the UNCF mission, the importance of HBCUs and the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship, turned into an engaging 30-minute conversation with Coates, a best-selling author, CNN Anchor and Senior Legal Analyst, and a former federal prosecutor.
“Tony Signore has shown how proven and invested he is in ensuring people have access to what they need to become part of and a contributing member of their communities beyond their immediate geographies,” said Coates.
In 2018, to honor and commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass, Signore funded a scholarship program to support HBCU students and became founder and chairman of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship Program. Signore’s knowledge, respect and deep admiration for Douglass was instilled in him in 1982 by the Jesuits at Fordham University.
“To honor one of the most important African American figures in our country’s history, we designed and funded the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship Program to recognize this historic leader and provide scholarship support to outstanding young women and men attending HBCUs,” Signore said.
The program is administered and managed by UNCF for a period of 20 years, through 2039. The program awards a total of $20,000 every year to two exceptional HBCU seniors ($10,000 to one female and $10,000 to one male student) who have demonstrated high academic achievement, strong leadership skills, commitment to community service and unmet financial need.
During the SiriusXM interview, Coates asked Signore to elaborate on the reasons he believes HBCUs are unique.
“A little over a decade ago, I started traveling the country with my three kids visiting colleges from coast to coast, meeting with students, faculty and administrators. At the same time, as part of my alliance with historically Black colleges and universities, I spent quality time on HBCU campuses in Louisiana, Washington, DC, South Carolina, Mississippi among others, and it’s very clear to me that there’s something different going on at HBCUs,” said Signore. “The love, care and the engagement in community is like none other. And it’s not just that, it’s the quality of the education and the success students have achieved from their comprehensive HBCU experience that is remarkable. And it’s important to note that one of the critical pillars of UNCF is giving back and helping students holistically. UNCF is one of the most influential and tireless advocates of community engagement, which is critical,” said Signore.
Separate from his family’s personal commitment, under Signore’s leadership position at Taylor, a global marketing communications firm, students attending HBCUs have been provided with professional experience for 16 consecutive years. As CEO & Managing Partner, Signore established a formal, paid internship program in 2006 with the guidance of Dr. Rochelle Ford, who at that time was affiliated with Howard University.
Taylor has also partnered with UNCF on several educational initiatives and supports the organization’s annual fundraising events. For example, in 2020, the firm recognized the challenges that many HBCU graduates were faced with during the peak of the pandemic and collaborated with UNCF to create the Taylor Loan Forgiveness Grant Program for the HBCU Class of 2020. With this specific program alone, Taylor donated $61,000 in loan forgiveness grants.
“I was very proud of the manner in which my Taylor colleagues came together to honor the HBCU Class of 2020,” said Signore, who agreed to help grow support for UNCF as an influential member of its New York Leadership Council.
“Over the past 15 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of collaborating with UNCF and HBCUs nationwide, and with administrative leaders, faculty and most of all, the students. With each and every engagement, I come away filled with great pride, encouragement and inspiration.”
At the conclusion of her interview with Signore, Coates closed with the following comments:
“Democracy is not a spectator sport, and neither is humanity. You have to get involved and do what you can to be the change you want to see in the world. You have translated that through this specific scholarship fund amongst so many other things you’ve done. Tony Signore is the real deal,” Coates noted.
UNCF is proud to have tremendous friends like Tony and the Signore Family, who provide their time, talent, treasure and voice for the betterment of HBCUs and students of color.