UNI may need to return PFG athletic donation
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 13:09
In 2009, Russell Wasendorf Sr. (owner of Peregrine Financial Group Inc., also known as PFG or PFGBest) and his wife Connie pledged to give the University of Northern Iowa athletic department a $2 million unrestricted donation, the largest unrestricted donation ever given to the university at that time.
“I am simply paying back, with interest, the financial aid I received while attending UNI. I feel without that financial aid I would not have received a quality college education,” Wasendorf, a 1970 alumnus, said in a press release.
However, Wasendorf was charged with federal embezzlement in July, raising questions about whether UNI will have to give the money back.
“(Wasendorf) gave a $2 million gift that was going to be paid in installments over four years,” said UNI director of athletics Troy Dannen.
“Obviously we hadn’t gotten through four years, so he hadn’t paid all the installments.
“He was current on his payments. Any money that he has donated has been frozen right now at the foundation in case it is recalled,” said Dannen.
According to Dannen, Wasendorf’s donation didn’t comprise any of UNI’s athletic budget.
“(The funds) were set up in the foundation as a quasi-endowment… It was there as an emergency account,” said Dannen.
Wasendorf’s donation would have likely been used to help reduce cuts, or phase in cuts over time instead of making them immediately. Dannen also said that the money could have been used to help front future projects if other donations were not readily available. Those future donations could have then been used to backfill the project.
“I think (Wasendorf’s donation) showed us the value of having unrestricted assets in a time when budget cuts could come at a moment’s notice. It allowed us to have some options, as opposed to when we dropped baseball in 2009 with budget cuts and no money in the bank.
With the future of Wasendorf’s donation in question, the UNI athletic department is continuing to search for other donors who are willing to contribute to the athletic fund.
“Russ (Wasendorf) was obviously supportive of UNI and of UNI athletics, and it’s important now going forward that we raise money that will be used in the way that Russ’ gift was intended to be used,” said Dannen. “We spent a good part of the last couple of months meeting with prospective donors who have the capacity to make similar gifts.”