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WASTEBUSTERS: Lincoln University spent $35k on president’s inauguration, medallion

When Lincoln University severed its ties with the not-for-profit Lincoln University Foundation on Dec. 31, it brought a relationship of nearly 40 years to an end.

The move also prompted ABC 17 News to look closely at the reasons for the separation and whether finances played a role the breakup. That examination turned up information about the Oct. 5 inauguration events for Lincoln University president Jerald Woolfolk, including a university request that the foundation help foot the bill.

In total, the inauguration ceremony held at Richardson Fine Arts Center and the Inaugural Ball held at the LINC recreation center cost more than $35,000.

The university was able to recoup about $7,000 from ticket sales, leaving the net expense of the weekend’s events at about $28,465.

Even with the ever-increasing cost of attending college, the funds spent on the inauguration events could pay for more than three-and-a-half years of a student’s education. The approximate cost of annual tuition listed on Lincoln University’s website is $7,795.

Among the items purchased for the ceremony was a nickel-plated medallion engraved with the names of all Lincoln University presidents.

PHOTO: High-resolution photo of the presidential medallion 

Jacqueline Shipma, Lincoln University’s legal counsel, told ABC 17 News the money for the events was drafted from the Special Designated Projects account.

In an email conversation, the LU president’s office requested the Lincoln University Foundation donate $10,000 toward the inauguration -- a request the university says was never fulfilled.

When asked how the money would be used, chief of staff and executive assistant to the president Carlos Graham answered with the following email:

“The Foundation’s support of this event will be used to cover vital costs of the Inauguration, to include the medallion ($4500 total cost), the printing and design of the invitations ($855.00) and the printing of the program book (another approximately $800).  The remainder will be used for activities meant to make the ball a regal and memorable event.”

James Tippin, the foundation’s attorney, said the request was ultimately granted despite some hesitation and reluctance.

“After discussion, we said, ‘this is a new president, we’re starting new, and trying to foster good relationships,’” Tippin said. “It was done in reluctance, but it was approved.”

Shipma said the transfer of the $10,000 donation from the foundation “never happened,” and that the university funded the entire event.

The inauguration came months before the Lincoln University Foundation was given notice that it would no longer have a working relationship with its namesake college.

The foundation renamed itself The 62nd & 65th Regiments Legacy Foundation and soon launched a lawsuit against LU over its financial records.

No one with the foundation cited the inauguration request as a major factor contributing to the breakup. Lincoln University declined a request for an interview but held a news conference Thursday afternoon at which spokeswoman Misty Young read from a prepared statement and took questions.

Young emailed the prepared remarks afterward as a news release.

"The University works diligently on a daily basis to ensure each unit is operating as good stewards of not only our state appropriations, but also the revenue from tuition and fees. Inauguration activities are an honored tradition within the higher education community.  As with any special event, organizers work to celebrate an important moment in institutional history, but to also make sound decisions as it relates to not only that event, but the university’s overall fiscal health. We are committed to being fiscally responsible.  

Records from the 2013 inauguration of former Lincoln president Kevin Rome show the university spent more than $41,000 on those events.

Presidential inaugurations at colleges and universities are not uncommon. Rome was the subject of such a ceremony in 2017 when he became president of Fisk University. And while the University of Missouri did not hold an inauguration for either UM System President Mun Choi or current Columbia campus Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, the school did hold an event in 2014 for former chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. 

ABC 17 News Investigates / News

Joe McLean

Joe reports stories all across mid-Missouri, including our WasteBusters series of reports, and co-anchors ABC 17 News at 9 a.m. with Zara Barker.

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