University Donors Want $100M Gift Returned

Suit claims U of Chicago hasn't followed 2015 agreement
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2018 11:57 AM CST
University Donors Want $100M Gift Returned
Timothy Pearson of the The Pearson Family Members Foundation announces a $100 million gift to the University of Chicago on Sept. 30, 2015.   (Ashlee Rezin/The Sun-Times via AP)

A $100 million donation to the University of Chicago, meant to fund research on global conflict resolution, is now at the center of a conflict itself. With a lawsuit filed late last month, the Pearson Family Members Foundation aims to reclaim what would be the third-largest donation in the university's history, including $22.9 million paid out so far, on the basis that the university hasn't held up its end of the bargain. Brothers Thomas and Timothy Pearson argue the 2015 donation was to be used to create the Pearson Institute, a research center aimed at resolving violence around the world, with a director and four professorships, reports the Chicago Tribune. Two years later, they say positions have been filled by under-qualified candidates or no one at all. They also take issue with budgeting decisions and say the university failed to plan an annual forum as required.

The lawsuit additionally notes the Pearson Institute hosted at least 24 events during the 2016-17 school year but "failed to apprise the Pearson family of, or invite them to, at least 22" of them, per Bloomberg. Such complaints have "caused the foundation to lose all confidence that the U of C is an appropriate or capable steward of the Pearson family legacy," the suit states. But U of C is hitting back against the "baseless" complaint. The Pearson Institute has "hosted dozens of events, enrolled more than 200 students in courses related to the study of global conflict, and fostered an engaged community of scholars," it says, adding "all academic and hiring decisions are the sole purview of the university." Thomas Pearson also tried in 2011 to revoke a donation to the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, in a lawsuit later settled, per the Wall Street Journal. (Read more University of Chicago stories.)

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