Pastor Darrell Armstrong, ’91, was a rising 10th grader in 1984 when he made up his mind about going to Stanford. His hometown of Los Angeles was hosting the summer Olympic Games and, as a sprinter and football player, he was in awe of the number of Olympic athletes who came from Stanford. “I was a good student and a good athlete, so I said to myself, ‘I’m going to go to Stanford, because that’s where the scholar athletes go,’” he recalls.
Some might say the odds were not in his favor, growing up in a low-income neighborhood in South Central LA. But he was tenacious and hardworking, and his journey from foster care to kinship care to an out-of-home placement as a teenager was also “riddled with angels,” he says, like a social worker who gave him books and instilled a love of learning. She was there cheering in the stands when he graduated from Stanford in 1991.
Ever since, Darrell has dedicated his life to helping others—through his service as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, the oldest Black church in Trenton, New Jersey; by offering spiritual and social services in that city’s most impoverished neighborhoods; and by volunteering for Stanford.
“I really want to help other kids like me—Black and brown kids from communities like South Central LA and Trenton and give them opportunities,” he says. “My Stanford experience changed my life. Now I want to invest in the institution that invested in me.”
By naming The Stanford Fund as the recipient of the proceeds of one of his life insurance policies, Darrell is supporting future generations of undergraduate students who will arrive on the Farm after his lifetime.
“My Stanford experience changed my life. Now I want to invest in the institution that invested in me.”
Darrell Armstrong, ’91
Today Darrell serves on the board of the Founding Grant Society, which honors those who have made a planned gift to the university. He served as planned giving chair for his class’s 30th reunion in 2021 and is a lifetime member of the Stanford Alumni Association.
Darrell is quick to note his time on the Farm wasn’t always easy. He didn’t have family to lean on and at first felt alone. He remembers questioning whether he, as a devout Christian, belonged on the predominantly secular campus. “I felt self-confident academically,” he recalls, “but also self-conscious as a low-income, first-generation Black man.” He found support through the Reverend Floyd Thompkins, the first Black associate dean of Memorial Church. “He became my mentor, and helped integrate my academic and spiritual worlds,” he says.
During his undergraduate experience, Darrell found meaning through involvement with Memorial Church, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Paper’s Project, Ujamaa House, the Career Planning and Placement Center, Track & Field, and the Haas Center for Public Service. His determination on the track earned him the Frank Angell Track & Field Award in 1988. His commitment to helping others off the track earned him the university’s James W. Lyons Award for Service in 1990. After graduating, he worked for three years as a Stanford Upward Bound counselor at the Haas Center.
Inspired by his mentor’s academic journey, Darrell earned a master’s of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary and has served as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church for more than two decades.
Darrell wants to empower other people to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Through his church and the affiliated Shiloh Community Development Corporation, which he founded in 2001, he extends social services to the greater Trenton area. “The role of the church is to promote hope and resilience over adversity, over trauma, over tragedies of life, and to say that where you start doesn’t determine where you will finish,” he says.
His plans include building what he calls a family life empowerment campus in Trenton that’s based on the concept of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit that operates educational and social services in Harlem, New York.
Darrell wants to engage more alums in planned giving. “I hope I can help inspire legacy gifts from my fellow Black alumni as well as others who have been historically underrepresented in philanthropy because they should have a place at the table,” he says. “That’s what legacy giving is all about—creating opportunities and proverbial ‘seats at life’s tables’ for future generations.”
“Legacy giving is all about creating opportunities and proverbial ‘seats at life’s tables’ for future generations.”
Darrell Armstrong, ’91