Florida A&M trustees want external review of dubious donation

May 16, 2024
2,680 Views

The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to hire an external firm to investigate the $237 million donation it said it had received from Gregory Gerami, an allegedly ultra-rich hemp farmer who doesn’t seem to hold the wealth he claimed.

Last week, President Larry Robinson said he was pausing the gift amid widespread public skepticism about its legitimacy. “I wanted it to be real and ignored the warning signs along the way,” Robinson said at Wednesday’s emergency board meeting, The Capitolist reported.

Gerami, who transferred his supposed donation to FAMU in the form of privately held stocks last month, previously backed out of a $95 million donation to Coastal Carolina University; reporting in the local newspaper, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C., had made that situation widely and publicly known prior to Gerami’s donation to Florida A&M.

That fact, combined with Gerami’s scattered, amateurish online presence, and the limited record of his reportedly highly profitable hemp farming business, Batterson Farms Corp, drove much of the skepticism that followed the announcement of his gift at the university’s spring commencement ceremony on May 4.

A meeting of the board of the university’s foundation last week revealed that the university did not properly determine the value of the gifted stocks and does not know their worth.

Gerami required the university to sign a nondisclosure agreement, meaning that only a handful of university leaders, including Robinson, knew about the donation before the public announcement. Although Kristin Harper, chair of the trustees, signed her name to the agreement as a witness, The Tallahassee Democrat reported Wednesday that she was not among those who knew about the details of the gift.

Robinson apologized to Harper at Wednesday’s meeting, at which she “blasted” Robinson’s administration for using her as “a prop,” the newspaper reported.

Prior to Wednesday’s emergency board of trustees meeting—which Vice Chair Deveron Gibbons called for last week after being blindsided by the announcement—Shawnta Friday-Stroud, FAMU’s vice president for university advancement and executive director of the FAMU Foundation, resigned, The Tallahassee Democrat reported.



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