FAMU ‘pauses’ $237M donation amid scrutiny; University to audit major gift process

In Top News


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The president of Florida A&M University announced Thursday that the school is putting a “pause” on a historic $237 million donation the Rattlers received over the weekend.

The news comes after days of controversy over the gift.

FAMU announced the donation with a super-sized check during a jam-packed commencement ceremony on Saturday. But the school’s tone toward the funding swiftly changed this week after FAMU Board of Trustees Vice Chair Deveron Gibbons asked FAMU President Larry Robinson and Board Chair Kristin Harper to organize a public meeting in the interest of transparency.

“The recently announced donation would truly be transformative for Florida A&M University, an institution that is helping to shape the next generation of leaders,” FAMU Vice Chair Deveron Gibbons wrote in a statement shared Tuesday. “However, the reality is that little has been shared regarding the nature of the donation.”

More on the donation speculation:

A group of school leaders convened and discussed the donation Thursday afternoon during a FAMU Foundation Board Meeting, which was broadcast via Zoom. During the call, Robinson said that officials decided Wednesday to “put a pause” on the donation “pending additional information that’s come to my attention.”

“It’s in our best interest to put that on hold,” he said.

The group also passed a motion to form an “internal, multidisciplinary committee” that will audit the university’s process for evaluating major gifts.

The meeting came amid a renewed wave of scrutiny over the donation. Details emerged Thursday showing that donor Gregory Gerami had a major gift fall through at a South Carolina university in 2020.

However, Coastal Carolina University ultimately cut ties with Gerami in November of that year after the donation deal collapsed, according to a WCTV affiliate.

Details on Gerami’s gift agreement with the FAMU Foundation also emerged Thursday.

The donor previously pledged a $95 million donation to a South Carolina university that ultimately fell through

The entrepreneur pledged to donate “14 million shares of stock of intrinsic value worth at least $239,000,000” to FAMU, according to the agreement, which WCTV obtained through a public records request. The plan was for the CEO to donate an additional $61 million over the next 10 years, the contract said.

Gerami asked for the donation to be anonymous until he agreed “to make it public,” the document says. In the meantime, “the donation will be known through and as the Isaac Batterson 7th Family Trust and Gregory Gerami as representative of it,” the agreement said.

However, after the events of Thursday’s meeting, the entire deal is apparently in limbo.

After Gibbons’s public call to action, Harper announced Wednesday that the board was planning a meeting. The chair asked trustees in an email the same day to provide their availability “for May 15, 16, and 17 so the seven-day notice can be published as soon as possible.”

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