OUR VIEW: DSU Foundation whole story needs to be told
The story of how the Dickinson State University Foundation bankruptcy ends is now in the hands of the judge who will rule on the claims of creditors and donors.
The whole story of how the foundation ended up in bankruptcy is one that sadly may never be completely told, and that is the biggest travesty of the whole long saga. We know that when the foundation for Dickinson State Teacher College began 65 years ago to serve the college, no one imagined it would end up in bankruptcy.
Hawks Landing, later to become Hawks Point, a retirement center on the grounds of DSU, built to benefit students and residents in 2003 and described by Kevin Thompson DSUF CEO as a win-win, wasn't planned to end up in foreclosure.
Five years later when Thompson and DSUF took on the task of raising money from private and public sources to replace decaying Whitney Stadium, the plan wasn't for taxpayers to pay off five local banks on defaulted loans.
Nine years later Blue Hawk Square, built for student housing and to fund the foundation, was also not intended to end up in foreclosure. Monday afternoon in the crowded Stark County Courtroom donors to the Dickinson State University Foundation took turns testifying to the court in detail their concerns about monies they had donated to DSUF.
Most donors explained how they had set up a scholarship to honor the memory of deceased loved ones and pleaded to the court to make sure their wishes were honored. Each person relayed to the court and those in attendance how much DSU had meant to the persons honored with their gifts. Through their selfless donations, they had entrusted the foundation with their gifts to make a difference in the lives of students. Many expressed frustration that they had never been consulted or imagined their gifts would be used for collateral for building projects. When approached by Kevin Thompson, one of those testifying said they had respectfully declined the opportunity to invest in Hawks Landing.
They all asked the same $6 million question—how did this bankruptcy happen? There are more questions than answers and the one person who could complete the story was noticeable by his absence during the whole receivership process and even at the trial: Kevin Thompson.
Thompson retired just before the Attorney General placed DSUF in receivership to help run the family farm. Kevin Thompson was there when the scholarships were set up and should explain to the donors and the community what went wrong. Nobody else can connect the dots to tie the story together and, right or wrong, accept his responsibility for the part he played in the story.
The Dickinson Press has offered him the opportunity to tell his side of the story, but so far he has declined. Dickinson has strong ties to the university and, like the donors, many are tired of the harmful publicity concerning the university and long for this period of negativity to be over.
The only way the university will ever truly put it behind them and to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again is for the whole story to be told.