Michael Agganis is a successful businessman and, until recently, proud alumnus of Massachusetts’ Salem State College. He has also been their most generous contributor.
But now he’s angry with the college — and, I think, with good reason.
Nine years ago, Agganis offered the school $250,000 for its business school. The school came back with a counteroffer — if he doubled that to a cool half a million, they’d build a new building for the school and name it after him. He accepted it and sent in his check.
Fast forward a few years. The school built the Business School building, but didn’t name him after it. Instead, his name adorns a former GTE factory building now converted into office space, which the school rents out to businesses.
Mr. Agganis was about to give a whole million dollars to the school when he discovered that the school had reneged on their earlier agreement. In fact, not only did he cancel that donation, he’s demanding his earlier $500,000 back, and says he’ll find a new school to shower his blessings upon.
The president of Salem State, Nancy Harrington says she regrets that things have reached this point. She’s quoted in today’s Boston Globe as saying “I don’t think there is a right or wrong side of this. Mr. Agganis hasn’t done anything improper nor has the college done anything improper.”
Here’s a hint, Ms. Harrington: if you accept money for doing something, you ought to do it. If you don’t, for whatever reason, then you ought to give your money back. You don’t just call it a “misfortunate understanding” and move on, keeping the money.
I wonder if Enron had a preference for Salem State alumni?
(I’ve got a personal perspective on this. Last January, I agreed to write some pieces in exchange for donations to tsunami relief, and I still have two of them left to write. My apologies to Sparkle and
Vanshalar — I WILL get them out, and sooner than later.)
(Update: the college has agreed in principle to return the money, and negotiations are underway to work out the legalities. But it was still incredibly stupid of the school to publicly screw over its biggest benefactor.)