Tom Lewis (Image Source: KNXV-TV YouTube video screenshot)
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'Left-wing,' 'radical ideology': Benefactor behind Arizona State University center pulls funding after faculty shows 'alarming' hostility toward event's conservative speakers
July 14, 2023
The benefactor behind an Arizona State University center announced last week that he pulled his annual funding after faculty members showed "alarming" hostility toward conservative speakers who hosted a campus earlier this year.
Tom Lewis of the T.W. Lewis Foundation released a statement last Friday declaring that he would no longer be funding the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development at Barrett, the Honors College at ASU.
In 2019, Lewis' foundation donated $2.5 million to Barrett to finance the center.
Lewis, the CEO of the real estate group T.W. Lewis Company, blamed the school's apparent "left-wing hostility and activism," claiming that he "no longer had any confidence in Barrett to adhere to the terms of our gift."
He explained that the decision to pull the $400,000 of annual funding was in response to faculty members' and administrators' strong resistance to a February 8, 2023, event titled "Health, Wealth & Happiness" at the school's Gammage Auditorium. The event featured "Rich Dad Poor Dad" author Robert Kiyosaki and conservatives Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk.
"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. Instead of sponsoring this 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," Lewis stated.
In response to the scheduled event, nearly 40 faculty members, who claimed to support "a broad diversity of voices and viewpoints," signed a letter calling Prager and Kirk "purveyors of hate who have publicly attacked women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, as well as the institutions of our democracy."
"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," Lewis said.
He told KNXV-TV, “The speaker series was intended to… teach self-awareness, leadership, and career management."
“They were not complaining that we were being too conservative, they don’t want any conservatives,” he added.
Last month, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development's executive director, Ann Atkinson, claimed the university fired her for organizing an event featuring Prager and Kirk.
ASU denied firing Atkinson because of the event, stating that she "has lost the distinction between feelings and fact." The university claimed that Atkinson's termination was due to Lewis' foundation pulling the center's funding.
"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. ASU is working to determine how we can support the most impactful elements of the center without that external funding," ASU said.
The university did not respond to a request for comment regarding Lewis' decision to cancel the center's funding, the College Fix reported.
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Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.