Hampton U. President Helps Raise Its Minimum Wage With a Personal Gift

When Hampton University’s lowest-paid employees received their first paychecks of the year, their wages had increased to a minimum of $9 an hour, thanks in part to a donation by the Virginia college’s president.

William R. Harvey and his wife, Norma, who also own the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Houghton, Mich., donated $108,403 to Hampton to support a wage increase for the 121 permanent, full-time staff members working for less than $9 an hour. Those receiving increased compensation are primarily housekeepers, maintenance staff members, and cafeteria workers, he said. Virginia’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

“All of my life I have tried to look out for all of us, not just best of us, but all of us, and that’s the spirit me and my wife have utilized when we have given our money,” Mr. Harvey said.

This is not the first time the Harveys have donated money to support wage increases at the private, historically black university in Hampton, Va. They donated $45,000 to support a 5-percent wage increase for staff members earning less than $7 an hour in 2006, and $166,000 in 2011 to increase minimum staff wages to $8 an hour. The most-recent donation will cover higher wages through the end of the current fiscal year, after which they will be included in the university’s budget.

Mr. Harvey has one of the longest tenures of any sitting college president in the country, serving as Hampton’s leader since 1978. In the last 13 years, the Harveys have donated more than $2.3-million to the university, including $1-million in 2011 to support faculty salary increases and $1-million in 2001 to provide scholarships to students pursuing degrees in education.

“A loaf of bread costs them the same thing as it costs me, a carton of milk costs the same thing,” Mr. Harvey said of the institution’s lower-paid workers. “They are a member of our team, and I appreciate them, as does my wife.”

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