The scandal led to the resignations of two top spots

The Portland State University Foundation is trying to put would-be donor John Fitzpatrick behind it after a scandal that led to the Sept. 1 resignations of CEO Françoise Aylmer and Chief Development Officer Kristin Coppola.

“The university has had no more nor desires to have any discussions with Mr. Fitzpatrick,” says Portland State University spokesman Scott Gallagher. COURTESY PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Portland State University Foundation's former CEO Françoise Aylmer.

Interim CEO Lindsay Stewart, a former board of trustees member and chief of staff at Nike, started Wednesday but declined a request for an interview through the foundation’s spokeswoman.

Fitzpatrick, whose bogus $100 million offer led to the resignations, says he himself places the blame at the feet of PSU President Wim Wiewel and PSU Foundation Board of Trustees Chairman Mark Rosenbaum rather than Aylmer and Coppola.

“I think it’s a very sad situation because I think they were scapegoated,” says the man who claims to be a profitable investor in a data center in New Mexico and kalbon, a new form of currency similar to bitcoin.

Fitzpatrick has given numerous interviews to local media despite his initial request of anonymity from Portland State University. He says he wanted an anonymous donation in order to not sully his political career — he ran in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 1998 — and to keep the focus on encouraging others to donate matching funds to PSU. COURTESY PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Portland State University Foundation former Chief Development Officer Kristin Coppola.

Fitzpatrick adds that he continues to try to donate to his alma mater, the university he attended from 1976 to 1985 without obtaining a degree. On Aug. 31, he offered $500 million in corporate bonds but says he was thrown off campus by the chief of campus public safety.

“I kind of was wondering why I just tried to donate to them,” Fitzpatrick says.

Gallagher says Fitzpatrick’s account is, again, wildly overblown.

The “$500 million” in bonds was a typed paper in an envelope that Fitzpatrick hand-delivered to the foundation’s office, Gallagher says. Then, as Fitzpatrick was waiting for a bus, the chief of campus public safety came up and told Fitzpatrick the university was not interested in contact with him, according to the spokesman.

“There was no incident,” Gallagher says. “That’s absolutely not true.”


The university blames The Oregonian/OregonLive media group for digging into the cancellation of an embargoed press conference on the expected $100 million donation to which the Oregon governor and Portland mayor were invited.

“Even though this gift was never announced by PSU, the media coverage about the promised gift has overshadowed the many achievements of the foundation and the university,” reads a joint statement from Aylmer and Rosenbaum. “In offering her resignation, Ms. Aylmer stated that she hopes her departure will help the foundation continue its good work without the distractions caused by the gift controversy.”

Gallagher says the foundation was vetting Fitzpatrick and questioned the veracity of his promise in time to cancel the publicity event.

“You could have said it shouldn’t have got that far, and certainly, that’s what The Oregonian is saying,” he says.

In a Sept. 3 piece , The Oregonian/OregonLive editor Mark Katches defended his news team’s actions: “Officials there wanted us to act as if this strange turn of events had never taken place rather than get to the bottom of it.”

The situation does open questions about how university foundations — which are increasingly desperate for money — are preparing for such scenarios.

Mike Andreasen, University of Oregon vice president for University Advancement, declined to say if the story has changed their practices nor how they vet their donors.

“I don’t have much to share regarding this unfortunate situation,” Andreasen wrote in an email. “What I can tell you is that UO works very closely with our donors to identify opportunities to match their interests with campus needs, as well as their ability to give.”

The Oregon State University Foundation also declined requests for an interview.

Gallagher says he hopes the Fitzpatrick affair emphasizes the need that PSU and all universities have for philanthropy.

“We need to raise more. The need has not gone away.”

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