Oral Roberts University Gets $70M Pledge

Associated Press/November 28, 2007

By Justin Juozapavicius

Tulsa, Oklahoma - Oral Roberts University, the debt-ridden evangelical institution riven by scandal, has been handed a $70 million lifeline.

Mart Green, founder of the Christian office and educational supply store chain Mardel, said Tuesday he would immediately give $8 million to the university, with the rest to come after a 60-to-90-day review of the university's financial records.

Green said his family must approve the financial review before the $62 million is given and is requesting at least two seats on the board of regents for his family members.

"Let's straighten the ship," Green said, four days after the school's president stepped down amid accusations that he misspent funds to support a lavish lifestyle. "Let's get integrity. Let's get trust built back and the rest will go away."

Green said he has never attended the university and had no ties to the Oral Roberts family. He said he has been following the university's story in the media in recent weeks and decided he wanted to help.

The pledge came on the same day the university's regents said they planned to separate the finances and leadership of the university from the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.

The association is a nonprofit ministry that produces television and radio programs, including "The Hour of Healing," among its many outreaches, according to its Web site.

The university has been under the ministry since its inception in 1963, an arrangement that critics say led to co-mingling of funds and a blurring of leadership roles.

Last week, university president Richard Roberts, the son of the school's founder and namesake, resigned. He will remain chairman of the association and be allowed to live in his university-owned home near campus for the time being, said George Pearsons, the regents' chairman.

Roberts and his father will remain "spiritual regents," who cannot vote on university matters. Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay Roberts, stepped down as a regent about a month ago, Pearsons said.

The younger Roberts and the evangelical university have come under fire since three former professors sued last month, alleging wrongful termination.

The lawsuit includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Lindsay Roberts, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts children.

In the days after the lawsuit was filed, the university revealed it was more than $50 million in debt.

In a previous interview with The Associated Press, Roberts and his wife denied wrongdoing. He said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

Last month, Oral Roberts returned from semiretirement in California to help guide the school he founded in 1963 while his son was on temporary leave.

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