Donor who gave millions cites ‘left-wing hostility and activism’ in cutting off Arizona State

A long-time Arizona State University benefactor has pulled all funding from the school over its hostility toward conservatives.

Scottsdale real estate magnate Tom Lewis made the decision after the school fired a woman named Ann Atkinson.

Atkinson had worked as the executive director of ASU Barrett Honors College’s T.W. Lewis Center, which is named after Lewis.

In an op-ed published for The Wall Street Journal last month, Atkinson wrote that she was fired after she hosted events featuring conservative commentators Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk, among others.

“At the names of Messrs. Prager and Kirk, the faculty of ASU’s honors college were outraged. Thirty-nine of its 47 faculty signed a letter to the dean condemning the event on grounds that the speakers are ‘purveyors of hate who have publicly attacked women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, [and] institutions of our democracy,'” she wrote.

“The signers decried ASU ‘platforming and legitimating’ their views, describing Messrs. Prager and Kirk as ‘white nationalist provocateurs’ whose comments would undermine the value of democratic exchange by marginalizing the school’s most vulnerable students,” she added.

While the events reportedly went off without any hiccups, the school eventually responded to the backlash from the schools’ leftists by sacking Atkinson.

“[A]s of June 30, ASU will dismantle the Lewis Center and terminate my position as its executive director. Barrett Honors College leadership told me this is purely a business decision, despite my raising more than $500,000 in the last year through the center,” she explained in her op-ed.

Her termination and subsequent op-ed prompted massive backlash, with even former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake weighing in:

Lewis himself was apoplectic. Indeed, he soon after released a devastating statement slamming the school to smithereens and vowing to cut off all future funding.

“As part of its speaker series, the Lewis Center scheduled a major event on February 8, 2023, at Gammage Auditorium titled ‘Health, Wealth & Happiness,’ featuring Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, Robert Kiyosaki, and Dr. Radha Gopalan,” he wrote.

“Because these were mostly conservative speakers, we expected some opposition, but I was shocked and disappointed by the alarming and outright hostility demonstrated by the Barrett faculty and administration toward these speakers,” he added.

He continued by noting that instead of approaching the event with “a spirit of cooperation and respect for free speech, Barrett faculty and staff exposed the radical ideology that now apparently dominates the college.”

“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. 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,” he concluded.

It is, unfortunately, a sad ending for what had originally been a great tale.

“In March 2019, the T.W. Lewis Foundation, Tom Lewis – CEO of Scottsdale-based real estate business T.W. Lewis Company – and his wife Jan gave a $2.5 million gift to Barrett to support student personal development and success,” according to the Arizona Daily Independent.

“The couple designated their generous gift for two purposes: $1.5 million to establish and fund the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Barrett Honors College on the ASU Tempe campus and $1 million to go toward the construction of a $10 million Barrett Honors College Student Success Center,” the paper reported earlier this month.

Thanks to this funding, not only was ASU able to launch the center — but it was able to hire “a full-time director, four faculty members, and an assessment coordinator” to offer assistance with “personal development, career coaching, self-awareness assessments, leadership training, networking opportunities, and courses on finding success and happiness.”

But ultimately, the school decided to choose “wokeness” over Lewis, and now it’s paying a steep price.

That said, many critics support Lewis’ decision given not only ASU’s most recent action but also other “woke” decisions it’s made.


Vivek Saxena


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