Benefactor pulls six figure donation from Arizona State University, citing ‘left-wing hostility and activism’

Tom Lewis, a millionaire benefactor to ASU's Barrett honors college, stated, 'I no longer had any confidence in Barrett to adhere to the terms of our gift'

A real estate magnate who has donated millions to Arizona State University over the last two decades pulled back on a six figure donation he had pledged to the college. His move was prompted by faculty condemning a staff member for organizing on-campus events with prominent conservatives.

In a recent statement, Scottsdale real estate investor Tom Lewis claimed he would not go through with his annual $400,000 pledge to the university’s honors college – where he has a center in his name.

His decision came after one of its faculty claimed the school fired her for inviting conservative commentators Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, and Robert Kiyosaki to speak on campus.


benefactor pulls six figure donation from arizona state university citing left wing hostility and activism

A major Arizona State University benefactor pulled his annual pledge to the school, citing "left-wing hostility and activism" by faculty.  (Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

Lewis cited "left-wing hostility and activism" on campus and among ASU staff the factor pushing him to rescind his support.

Over 20 years, Lewis has donated millions to ASU and has developed the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development, which is part of ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College.

In late June, Lewis pulled the money because of faculty’s reaction to the event organized by Ann Atkinson, the T.W. Lewis Center’s executive director in February. 

That month, around three dozen Barrett faculty members signed a petition to the honors college dean condemning the on-campus event featuring the conservative speakers. The petition referred to the speakers as "purveyors of hate."

Barrett faculty chair Jenny Dyck Brian told a local news affiliate that she and her colleagues had an issue with the honors college appearing to endorse the event. She stated, "I didn't have a problem with them speaking, but the event was being advertised in Barrett's name with Barrett's logo... We wanted to make it clear that we were not endorsing the event."

The event happened with no disturbances. However, several months later ASU fired Atkinson. In a statement following her termination, the former faculty member suggested ASU parted ways with her for bringing the right-wing speakers on campus. 


benefactor pulls six figure donation from arizona state university citing left wing hostility and activism

Real estate magnate Tom Lewis pulled a $400,000 donation he had pledged to ASU after seeing the woke behavior of some of its staff. (Fox News)

She said in a public statement, "ASU claims to value freedom of expression. But in the end the faculty mob always wins against institutional protections for free speech."

ASU denied Atkinson’s termination was politically motivated in a statement it gave on June 20, claiming her exit was prompted by Lewis pulling his donation, cutting funding for her job. 

It stated, "Ms. Atkinson's current job at the university will no longer exist after June 30 because the donor who created and funded the center decided to terminate his donation. Unfortunate, but hardly unprecedented."

It added, "the 'Health, Wealth and Happiness' event hosted by Robert Kiyosaki, Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk was a success. Speakers came, they spoke, and more than 600 people attended."

However, Lewis’ press release, which came after both Atkinson’s and ASU’s, blasted the university for its hostility to conservative thought, providing that as the reason he was done funding the center. 

He wrote, "After seeing this level of left-wing hostility and activism, I no longer had any confidence in Barrett to adhere to the terms of our gift, and made the decision to terminate our agreement, effective June 30, 2023."

Lewis added, "I regret that this decision was necessary, and hope that Barrett and ASU will take strong action to ensure that free speech will always be protected and that all voices can be heard."

Fox News reached out to both ASU and the T.W. Lewis Foundation for comment on Mr. Lewis terminating this year’s grant. This article will be updated with any response. 

Gabriel Hays is an associate editor for Fox News Digital. 

Authored by Gabriel Hays via FoxNews July 15th 2023