FAMU, Florida A&M University, FAMU Board Of Trustees, Dubious Donation

FAMU Board Of Trustees Launches Investigation Into Dubious $237.75M Donation

The school's board of trustees will reevaluate the processes of vetting donors and handling large gifts.

The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees voted to conduct an independent investigation into the handling of a $237.75 million gift. 

FAMU received the gift from the Issac Batterson 7th Family Trust and Chief Executive Officer Gregory Gerami, founder of Batterson Farms Corporation. Gerami was the commencement speaker at FAMU’s May 4 graduation ceremony where he announced his donation— the largest ever for the HBCU.

But the university decided not to move forward after board members raised questions about Gerami’s background. The hemp mogul donated $95 million to Coastal Carolina University in 2020, but the deal fell through days after it was announced. Additionally, Patterson Farms Corporation appears to be a relatively small business, which led some board members to question how its stocks could be worth millions. 

During a special meeting Wednesday, FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson acknowledged that the excitement about the donation caused him to overlook the red flags. 

“I wanted it to be real and ignored the warning signs along the way,” Robinson said during a recent emergency board meeting. “There was no personal gain. But the impact on our students and our university would have been extraordinary.” 

He expressed regret for announcing the donation at commencement, which “was premature at best, and I apologize to all who witnessed it and shared their joy and jubilation,” Robinson said.

During the meeting, Robinson also announced the resignation of Dr. Shawnta Friday-Stroud, who served as vice president for university advancement and executive director of the FAMU Foundation. She will return to her previous role as dean of the School of Business and Industry. Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Dr. Donald Palm is expected to replace her as the interim vice president for university advancement.

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