Now-former ASU donor decries college censorship after controversy over Kirk-Prager event

Tom Lewis reportedly donated an estimated $400K annually to the school

A longtime millionaire benefactor of Arizona State University told Fox News he pulled his approximate annual $400,000 donation after controversy arose surrounding the executive director of his namesake center on the campus over her organizing an event that featured conservative speakers.

Tom Lewis told "The Ingraham Angle" on Wednesday that he has been a big proponent of colleges and college education for decades, which helped lead him to his philanthropy to ASU.

He decried the departure of Ann Atkinson, the now-former director of ASU's T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development, as she recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal a February event featuring Charlie Kirk, Dennis Prager and economist Robert Kiyosaki "outraged" her faculty colleagues.

Atkinson wrote that 39 honors college faculty cosigned a letter that claimed Kirk and the others are "purveyors of hate" who demean LGBTQ people and minorities.


now former asu donor decries college censorship after controversy over kirk prager event

An exterior view of Wells Fargo Arena at ASU. (Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Lewis said the creeping censorship on campus was finally enough for him.

"I had a great experience myself in college back in the early '70s, and it meant a lot to me," he said. "I actually got a scholarship to go to college at the University of Kentucky, and it changed my life, and so I've been a big fan of universities in general, and I've been a big donor for 20 years."

"But I finally just kind of had enough, and I've seen what's really happening there, and it's not a pretty picture."

He called Atkinson a "wonderful executive director for that program" she previously led, but noted she is politically conservative, and her invitations wrongly evoked outrage.

A university spokesperson told 12 News that the position would not exist into the next year and that Atkinson is still eligible for other jobs. 


"[T]he university is just intolerable of the voice from the right, and we learned that in spades when you put on this event with Charlie Kirk and Dennis Prager, and it just drove them crazy. Number one, they don't want donors to meddle with the classroom and they don't want conservative speakers to speak on campus."

Lewis said it appears the faculty does not want to offend some of its student body.

"I think the problem we have here is that faculty at most public universities are given a complete free reign in the classroom, and a lot of them are radical," he said. "A lot of them don't really want to teach. They've also redefined academic freedom… "

"They think they have this superior freedom that they can intimidate students and other people they don't agree with."

In response to a request for comment from "The Ingraham Angle," ASU provided a web link they noted describes "the university’s position on free speech, track record of hosting conservative speakers, fact-check documents to address some misreporting related to this matter, and other materials about free speech on campus" and includes quotes from university officials. 

"Arizona State University is committed, in practice, not just rhetoric, to all things that support free speech and all its components," a statement reads in-part. "American universities have long been an environment where ideas are shared and tested, beliefs are expressed, and issues are debated. Along with that comes arguments and disagreements over strongly held beliefs. It can be quite noisy and sometimes uncomfortable, but in a free society, universities must be safe places that demonstrate tolerance for civil public discourse." 

Charles Creitz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. 

He joined Fox News in 2013 as a writer and production assistant. 

Charles covers media, politics and culture for Fox News Digital.

Charles is a Pennsylvania native and graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. Story tips can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Authored by Charles Creitz via FoxNews July 19th 2023