Verizon Makes National Appeal For Donations to United Negro College Fund

NEW YORK -- Verizon will honor both the legacy and the future of African American contributions to society with a matching gift drive in support of the United Negro College Fund.

Through a nationwide ad campaign on cable television, radio, the World Wide Web, newspapers and magazines, Verizon is asking its customers to celebrate Black History Month with a gift to the United Negro College Fund. The company will match total customer contributions up to $100,000.

The drive starts today and continues for six weeks, through February, Black History Month.

"Looking back, as we traditionally do during Black History Month, offers perspective and pride," said Bruce Gordon, president of retail markets for Verizon. "Verizon wants its customers and friends also to look forward - to do something today that fosters cultural enrichment we can celebrate in the future." Gordon serves on UNCF corporate advisory group, and was named 1998 Black Enterprise Executive of the Year by Black Enterprise magazine

"Among the students who attend or will attend UNCF member colleges, there is the enormous potential for greatness, and that greatness requires and deserves our support," he said.

The advertising uses the theme "Building Bridges for Tomorrow." The campaign, which is targeted to Verizon's African American customers nationwide, includes commercials on Black Entertainment Television and other stations, banners at www.bet.com, and widespread radio spots and print ads in African American newspapers and magazines nationwide, including Jet, Ebony and Essence.

Verizon will promote the drive in the Lifestyle pages of BET.com, where the company is the exclusive telecommunications sponsor.

TV and radio ads will feature the voice of company spokesman James Earl Jones and also entertainer Brian McKnight, American Music Award winner for soul/rhythm and blues for this year. McKnight will solicit pledges to the campaign.

"Brian McKnight has credibility and appeal that exemplify the power of young African Americans to persist and to succeed," Gordon said. "We're honored to have him working with us on this drive."

William H. Gray III, UNCF president, applauded Verizon's commitment to the future.

"America's young people often depend on someone else caring enough to support them," Gray said. "In this case, we have an entire enterprise -- its employees and its customers -- on the side of the education and futures of young people.

"We're grateful to Verizon for selecting the United Negro College Fund to express the company's ideals, and to Verizon's customers and employees for their gifts."

The United Negro College Fund is the nation's oldest and most successful minority higher education assistance organization in the country. It's mission is to enhance the quality of education by providing financial assistance to deserving students, raising operating funds for their 39 member colleges and universities, and increasing access to technology for students and faculty.

UNCF administers more than 450 scholarships and fellowships to students and faculty who attend UNCF member colleges and universities, other Historically Black Colleges and Universities and majority institutions throughout the country. In its 56-year history, UNCF has raised over $1.6 billion to promote higher education achievement and has helped more than 300,000 students earn undergraduate and graduate

Pledges to the Verizon drive can be made by calling 1-800-566-8880.

Note to editors: Mr. Gordon's biography is available at http://newscenter2.verizon.com/speeches/bio_gordon.vtml and a photo is available at the Image Gallery of the newscenter site. Adobe Acrobat copies of print ads are available on request.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 101 million access line equivalents and more than 27 million wireless customers, and the world's largest publisher of print and online directories. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.