With much fanfare in October of 2013, the University of Iowa, in the heart of farming country, held a ceremony in which Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, then 71, was the guest of honor. He had made a $25 million commitment to the school in support of its vision institute, which, in turn, was being renamed the Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research.
The gift made news in Iowa and in Nevada, as well as in medical journals, although some reports came with a touch of skepticism. “An endowment gift from a tycoon suffering an obscure disease or condition may sound less like a ringing endorsement of promising research and more like a bequest in the name of wishful thinking,” said a report in Medical Daily.
The gift was to go toward research to cure heredity blinding. For Wynn, the gift was personal. “As a person who knows firsthand what it is like to lose vision from a rare inherited eye disease, I want to do everything I can to help others who are similarly affected keep the vision they have and eventually get back what they have lost,” he was quoted as saying in a university news release in 2013.
Now, nearly five years later, the university says it plans to remove Wynn’s name from the institute in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Last month, the Wall Street Journal published a report that Wynn had pressured some employees to perform sexual acts.
The fallout was swift for Wynn, despite his denials of the allegations. A day after the report, he stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, The Washington Post reported.
Earlier in January, Wynn and RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel hosted a fundraiser for President Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Trump didn’t attend the event, reportedly because of the drama surrounding the eventual partial government shutdown.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the University of Iowa said: “University leadership determined retaining the name would be damaging to the institution’s reputation following recent allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn.” The removal of Wynn’s name is subject to approval by the Board of Regents.
“The naming was in recognition of the gift, and not a condition of the gift,” the statement said. “To date Mr. Wynn has donated $20 million toward his commitment, dramatically increasing the institute’s scope of research.”
If the measure is approved, it will be the first time the university has removed a donor name from a building or institute.
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