By BRAD ROLLINS
Texas State University is buzzing with news of President Denise M. Trauth’s declaration that she will sever ties with — and return a half-million dollars to — the troubled Austin-based Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation.
In an e-mail sent to faculty and staff, Trauth said she had resigned from the foundation’s board of directors and that the university would not accept further contributions from one of its largest all-time donors. In addition, she wrote, the university will return the $500,000 used to endow the Mitte Honors Program and rename the program.
“We are saddened by our decision to discontinue a relationship that was so valued both by two of our most outstanding alumni and by our entire University community; but, we have concluded that we cannot continue Texas State’s relationship with this Foundation,” Trauth wrote.
She said the decision was prompted by the March arrest in Travis County of the foundation’s director, Scott Mitte, on a charge of possessing 29 grams of cocaine. But the Mitte Foundation has been under increased scrutiny on other fronts recently as it scaled down its contributions to a number of universities, citing financial difficulties.
This year, the foundation announced that it would not be able to honor scholarship commitments at Indiana University, Ohio State and Penn State, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report. Instead, the article said, the foundation would focus primarily on Texas State, where the organization’s founders and namesakes received undergraduate degrees. In 2003, the foundation withdrew $9.4 million from the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business after its officials learned Scott Mitte had been sued four times for sexual harassment by female employees of the foundation and an insurance company founded by his father.
The foundation’s gifts to Texas State include $12.5 million to establish a scholarship program and $5 million to endow professorships. Trauth said the university will use other funds to maintain those programs “under different designations.” The e-mail did not say if she would seek to rename the massive Joanne Cole and Roy F. Mitte Complex, which houses the university’s physics and technology schools, or a lecture series that bears their name.
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