WPI's Top Donor Embroiled in Controversy

April 3, 2017

This item has been updated to correct errors in the original version.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s single largest donor is causing a commotion for the Massachusetts university, according to The Boston Globe.

Robert Foisie, 82, has been accused of hiring a hit man to kill his adult son and making charitable gifts to the university from secret overseas accounts, among other things.

Foisie graduated from WPI in 1956 and has since donated $63 million to the institution, making him its No. 1 benefactor. The business school bears his name, as does a scholarship program, and the college is currently constructing a $49 million building called the Foisie Innovation Studio.

After being contacted by the Globe, WPI responded to the allegations against its top donor in a statement, saying that it was “concerning.”

On Friday, President Laurie Leshin sent a campuswide letter about Foisie.

“Upcoming news reports may focus on personal disputes involving the Foisie family …. We don’t know whether any of the allegations are true or false, but I want to assure you that we are taking the situation seriously,” Leshin wrote. “While other universities and nonprofits have faced issues related to donors or major gifts, this is new territory for WPI. We are following this closely and will take action, if necessary, to ensure that we are aligned with best practices.”

Regardless of the outcome of the multiple court cases Foisie is named in (spanning three U.S. states), Leshin said, the innovation studio “is on track and will remain so” as “full funding to complete construction is in place.”

According to the lawsuit his ex-wife, Janet Foisie, is filing against WPI, about $4.5 million in donations to the university may have come from secret accounts set up outside the United States that Robert Foisie illegally kept private during their divorce negotiations.

Janet Foisie also said she suspects that her ex-husband continues to donate secret money to the university and has requested that WPI not spend any more of the family's donations until her court case is closed.

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