Colleges are struggling with the aftermath of disgraced alumni
By Debra Erdley
Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Carnegie Mellon University officials who run a fellowship endowed in the name of a graduate and former trustee fell silent when he was arrested last week in connection with a half-billion-dollar money laundering scheme for a Mexican drug cartel.
A biography of Marco Antonio Delgado disappeared from CMU's website shortly after his arrest in a case that could involve $600 million of dirty money. But “The Marco Delgado Fellowship for the Advancement of Hispanics in Public Policy and Management” remains, for now.
A university spokesman did not respond to questions about whether the fellowship, which started with $250,000 each from Delgado and CMU, would be renamed, and demurred when asked about the charges.
“We simply have no knowledge about this matter,” said CMU spokesman Ken Walters.
Delgado, 46, of El Paso is the latest in a line of distinguished alumni, donors and staffers across the country who have fallen from grace, leaving colleges and universities with the awkward dilemma of what do with buildings, centers, named chairs and portraits that honor them.
Duke University faced a similar decision with a portrait of Richard Nixon that hung in its law school for many years before he was compelled to resign from the White House in 1974. The election-year Watergate burglary and cover-up forced him from the presidency.
Shortly after he resigned, the portrait disappeared. Officials at the Durham, N.C., school declined to speculate on its location over the years.
But law school spokeswoman Melinda Vaughn said the school placed the portrait of Nixon, a 1937 Duke law school graduate, in the international alcove of the law school library after a 2008 renovation project.
“It's a beautiful portrait,” Vaughn said. “It's probably true for many large education institutions that you have alumni who made choices you wish they wouldn't have.”
Officials at the University of Missouri and, closer to home, at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington County, can empathize. Both schools dealt with sticky situations when life went awry for wealthy alumni.
Published reports document intense discussions at Missouri after former Enron President Kenneth Lay, who endowed a chair in the university's economics department in 1999, was indicted and convicted in the Enron scandal. Lay's name, however, remains on the chair he endowed.
Washington & Jefferson announced plans to name the school's technology center in honor of alumnus Alberto Vilar, an investment adviser, after Vilar pledged $15 million for the project in 1999. But Washington & Jefferson had to scale back plans when Vilar reneged on his pledge and later faced securities fraud charges.
School spokesman Robert Reid said the school omitted Vilar's name from the building, which is known simply as the Technology Center.
Officials at Waynesburg University in Greene County did not return calls about the school's H. William DeWeese Center. The center, dedicated on the third floor of the university library in 2007, honors a former Waynesburg trustee and one-time speaker of the state House who is serving a 30- to 60-month prison sentence. He was convicted in February of diverting public resources to his political campaigns.
Dick Jones of Dick Jones Communications, a State College public relations firm that specializes in higher education, said universities have few givens in handling such issues.
Jones cited Penn State's actions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal last fall. The school removed hall of fame football coach Joe Paterno's statue from Beaver Stadium in the dark of night but kept the late coach's name on the library he endowed.
And while Penn State removed former Vice President Gary Schultz's name from a university child care center's sign when authorities charged him with covering up Sandusky's crimes, university trustees relented last summer and agreed to table a motion to formally rename the center pending Schultz's trial next year.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- Gorman: Can Mike Tyson save boxing?
- Dems in Pa. governor’s race vow to close loophole, say firms skirt corporate tax
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- City’s efforts bolstered to track illegal dumping
- Blue Jackets goalie Bobrovsky turns page, focuses on Game 2
- California University of Pennsylvania offers training for weather spotters