Coleman made the announcement with Foundation president and chief operating officer Della Britton Baeza at the annual Jackie Robinson Foundation Dinner in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Monday night. The dinner was first orchestrated by Rachel Robinson, Jackie's widow and the organization's founder, in 1973, the year after he died.
The Foundation, created as a legacy to the player who broke the color line as an infielder with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and later a committed campaigner for civil rights, is a non-profit organization providing college scholarships and leadership training. This year, 271 students enrolled at 93 institutions in 30 states will receive $3.1 million in scholarship support. Scholars over the years maintained a 97-percent graduate rate, more than twice the national average for minority students.
"It will tell the story of Jackie Robinson in the context of the world in which Jackie grew up," Baeza said of the museum, a pantheon configuration that will stand at the corner of Varick and Canal Streets as part of the downtown renovation. "It will, of course, tell the story of Jackie's heroism, and it will also tell the story of some other pioneers who worked alongside Jackie, shared his challenges, and like him changed this nation forever, to a point where we are witnessing a woman and an African-American man that are respectively competing for the highest office in this country."
Sharon Robinson, Jackie's and Rachel's daughter, said, "My mother was such a visionary that she probably knew about the planning of such a museum. Growing up, we had a trophy room in our house. My mother was amazing because she kept every letter, every trophy so we can have a Jackie Robinson Museum. It will serve not only as an enduring tribute but also as a place to inspire children and adults alike."
Mets chairman and chief operating officer Fred Wilpon and Yawkey Foundation chairman John Harrington, former managing general partner of the Red Sox, were in attendance and received from Sharon Robinson sets of gold cufflinks minted in 1997 with the Jackie Robinson Foundation logo "as a very small token of our gratitude," she said.
Coleman also made mention of the contributions of Philip Knight, co-founder and chairman of Nike, and Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner, neither of whom could attend.
"It took one phone call to George Steinbrenner," Coleman said, "He said, 'We are in,' and they were in for seven figures. We're well on our way to making the Jackie Robinson Museum a reality."
Actor-comedian Bill Cosby was the master of ceremonies for the dinner, which also served to honor for their humanitarian efforts Oscar-winning filmmaker George Lucas of the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" sagas, recording industry pioneer Clive Davis and Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, president emerita of Bennett College for Women and Spelman College.
Lucas received the ROBIE Achievement in Industry Award, presented by actor Jimmy Smits. Davis was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Tony Award winning actress Julie White. Dr. Cole was the recipient of the ROBIE Humanitarian Award, presented by producer-author Dr. Camille Cosby, the emcee's wife.
The Mets and Yankees are among nine Major League Clubs, along with the Dodgers, White Sox, Rangers, Marlins, Athletics, Padres and Phillies that contribute funds as sponsors to the Foundation that has provided $16 million in support to nearly 1,200 scholars since its inception.
"Nine down and 21 to go," Baeza said.