Education

Regents approve dropping Steve Wynn's name from University of Iowa institute

Agreement allows name change 'Only in extraordinary circumstances'

Billionaire Steve Wynn during an interview in Macau, China, on Aug. 15, 2016.  CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Calvin Sit.
Billionaire Steve Wynn during an interview in Macau, China, on Aug. 15, 2016. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Calvin Sit.

AMES — Iowa’s Board of Regents, without discussion Thursday, formally stripped the name of casino mogul Steve Wynn from the University of Iowa’s Institute for Vision Research, to which he donated $25 million in 2013.

A website for the UI enterprise aimed at eradicating blindness and accelerating treatment for various eye diseases has swapped out the “Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research” name for its replacement, the “University of Iowa Institute for Vision Research.”

UI representatives did not immediately know how much pulling down Wynn signage outside and inside the building will cost.

The Board of Regents in August 2013 agreed to attach Wynn’s name to the UI institute in recognition of his $25 million gift. Wynn, a billionaire who also served as the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman, lost his vision from a rare inherited eye disease — which is how he became familiar with the university’s work in vision research.

He was accused in January of harassing and sexually assaulting women for years — first reported by the Wall Street Journal. He has denied the allegations but on Jan. 27 resigned his position with the Republican National Committee due to the “distraction.”

Wynn to date has given $20 million toward his UI commitment, “dramatically increasing the institute’s scope of research,” according to UI officials. The university is not planning to return any of the money, as the naming was a recognition of the gift, not a condition of the gift.

The UI Center for Advancement, an independent fundraising arm for the university, has not received any communication from Wynn about its decision to change the institute’s name, according to center spokeswoman Dana Larson. It hasn’t received any word he won’t fulfill his $25 million commitment.

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Stripping Wynn’s name from the institute was relatively simple because of a clause in a 2015 agreement with Wynn that applied Board of Regents and university policies and noted, “Only in extraordinary circumstances, UI and/or the board may reconsider the naming if the prior approved naming may be damaging to the reputation of the board or UI.”

“In light of recent public disclosures of alleged sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn, the university requests the Board of Regents approve the removal of the Wynn name from the institute as the university has determined it is damaging to the reputation of the University of Iowa,” according to the university’s request to regents.

In a statement last month, UI President Bruce Harreld said his university “is committed to ending sexual violence and sexual misconduct and ensuring survivors know they are believed, supported and assisted.

“It is incongruous with the university’s values to maintain the Wynn name on our program and building,” he said.

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