Oral Roberts University takes $62M gift

Tulsa_Leaders of Oral Roberts University voted unanimously Monday to accept a $62 million donation from an Oklahoma City businessman that will help alleviate debt at the scandal-plagued Tulsa school.

Mart Green, the founder of the Christian office and education supply store chain Mardel, will take over as chairman of a new board of trustees that will replace the current panel of 21 voting regents as a result of his donation.

Green's family will have one vote on the board, which will be made up of nine to 22 members, including school founder and chancellor Oral Roberts. Former regents will transition to a nonvoting, newly formed Board of Reference under the plan.

"We felt like the ideas that we brought were more valuable than $62 million," Green said at a news conference Monday.

The change could take place as early as next month.

Green announced plans for his gift in November, more than a month after a lawsuit was filed by three professors accusing former university president Richard Roberts of lavish spending at a time when the university faced more than $50 million in debt. Roberts resigned five days before Green announced his donation.

Green, who did not attend Oral Roberts, pledged a total of $70 million to the 5,700-student university but allowed only $8 million to be used immediately and withheld the rest until his family could review the school's financial records and until regents could consider other stipulations.

The school, which had announced last fall it was more than $50 million in debt, was struggling for an economic lifeline, as parts of the 1960s-era campus fell into disrepair.

"I feel a great relief," said Pearsons, who will be replaced by Green after the transition. "We can breathe financially."

John Swails, one of the professors making accusations, reached a settlement last week after a session of court-ordered mediation talks that resulted in his reinstatement at the school. Other terms were confidential.

Two other professors, Tim and Paulita Brooker, are continuing their lawsuit alleging that they were forced out after reporting the evangelical school's involvement in a local political race and after they gave school regents a copy of a report documenting alleged moral and ethical problems of Roberts and his family.

In the weeks since Green's November announcement, televangelists Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar and I.V. Hilliard all left the board of regents.

Hinn and Dollar are among six televangelists being investigated by U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa to determine whether they violated their organizations' tax-exempt status by living lavishly on the backs of small donors. They have denied wrongdoing.

Justin Juozapacivius, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.