WASHINGTON — The United Negro College Fund announced a $25 million grant Friday from Koch Industries Inc. and the Charles Koch Foundation — a large donation from the conservative powerhouse Koch name that Democrats have sought to vilify heading into the 2014 midterm elections.
The fund, known for its iconic motto, ‘‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste,’’ supports historically black colleges and universities and provides scholarships.
From the donation, $18.5 million will go toward nearly 3,000 merit-based scholarships to African-American students, and $6.5 million will go toward general support for historically black colleges and universities and the fund.
This is the fifth-largest gift the fund said it has received. The largest, $1.6 billion, came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
African-Americans are a key constituency within the Democratic Party. But Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the fund, said that since the organization’s inception in 1944, it has reached out to people of all backgrounds for support without an ‘‘ideological lens’’ because it is in everyone’s interest. The organization has awarded $100 million in scholarships to more than 12,000 students at 900 schools this year alone, but he said the need is so great that the organization turns away nine out of every 10 applicants, or about 100,000 students annually.
He said in today’s politically charged climate, he’s prepared to take criticism from those of different political leanings than the Kochs.
‘‘Criticism is a small price for helping young people get the chance to realize their dream of a college education, and if I’ve got to bear the brunt of someone else’s criticism to ensure that we have the resources to help those students, then I can handle it, and I can take the heat,’’ Lomax said.
Lomax said he and Charles Koch, chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan., had lunch together and were able to find that we ‘‘shared a profound belief in the importance of education.’’
In a statement, Koch said ‘‘increasing well-being by helping people improve their lives has long been our focus’’ and that the partnership will provide promising students with new educational opportunities.
‘‘We have tremendous respect for UNCF, and we are hopeful this investment will further its effectiveness in helping students pursue their dreams,’’ Koch said.
Scholarship recipients in the new ‘‘UNCF/Koch Scholars Program’’ are to be exemplary students interested in how the study of entrepreneurship, economics, and innovation contributes to overall well-being. They must attend one of the fund’s 37-member private historically black colleges and universities or one of the 250 colleges and universities where the Charles Koch Foundation has an existing program. They will attend an annual summit, have mentorship opportunities, and have the ability to participate in an online community.