Schools reluctant to return over $30 million in financial gifts
The University of Pennsylvania and the University of Iowa have cut ties with real estate mogul Steve Wynn amid recent sexual misconduct accusations made against him, but both schools have no plans to return his ample financial contributions totaling some $30 million between the two institutions.
Steve Wynn, the billionaire who made his fortune in Las Vegas casinos, was accused by several women in late January of various forms of sexual harassment. Wynn has denied the allegations, calling them “preposterous.”
Wynn, a 1963 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, has donated over $7.5 million to Penn over the years. The area outside Penn’s Houston Hall was dubbed “Wynn Commons” in recognition of the billionaire’s financial contributions to the university.
In the wake of the allegations surrounding Wynn in recent months, the area has been renamed by the university to “Penn Commons.” The school also scrubbed Wynn’s name from a scholarship program there.
The College Fix reached out to Penn’s media relations department to find out if the school has any intention of returning the substantial sums it received from Wynn before the scandal broke. Repeated emails to campus spokesman Ron Ozio were not returned.
Wynn has also been a generous patron to the University of Iowa’s Institute for Vision Research, an organization dedicated to finding cures to hereditary blindness. The research entity was formerly known as the Stephen A. Wynn Institution for Vision Research after Wynn pledged to donate $25 million in late 2013.
In the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations, the Institution has dropped Wynn’s name from their title.
The College Fix reached out to the University of Iowa to see if they intend on returning any of Wynn’s donations.
“The institute was named in recognition of Mr. Wynn’s gift, and not as a condition of the gift. His stated intentions when giving the gift were to further the institute’s research to prevent and cure blinding eye disease. We are carrying out the intentions of the gift,” Jeneane Beck, a representative from Iowa’s communications department, told The Fix via email.
Wynn has already made good on $20 million of his original $25 million pledge to the university’s Vision Research Center. The College Fix asked if the university will accept the remaining $5 million from Wynn if he decides to fulfill the entirety of his pledge.
“Any additional contributions as part of the original gift commitment will be used in this way as well,” Beck replied via email.
According to a press release from the University of Iowa, this is the first time a donor’s name has been scrapped from a building or institution in the university’s history.
Penn also stripped Wynn of an honorary degree awarded by the university. At the same time, the school stripped an honorary degree awarded to Bill Cosby.
“Upon careful consideration, when it became clear that the Wynn name should be removed from visible public recognition on Penn’s physical campus, it was no less incumbent on the Trustees to remove that name from the roster of those holding the University’s highest symbolic honor,” David Cohen, the chair of Penn’s board of trustees, said in a statement along with Penn President Amy Guttman.
“That decision in turn made it also clear that the multiple and highly credible charges involving Bill Cosby warranted the same action.”
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