Unknown Peace trustees spend two-thirds of endowment on real estate

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 09:26 PM

RALEIGH — William Peace University officials have refused to provide the names of the trustees who voted to spend nearly two-thirds of the school's $33 million endowment to buy a retail center, saying the release of the information violates school policy.

Some alumni want to question trustees about the decision and are upset that officials say school policy prevents them from releasing those names, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported (http://bit.ly/12iBqIj ).

"I was told they did not release the names with no real explanation," Michelle Lynch, who graduated from then-Peace College in 1987 and now lives in Wilmington, said in an email. "I also asked when new members were coming onto the board. No info was given."

Beth Cherry, the Board of Trustees vice chairwoman, said the policy has been in place for several years. She said she didn't know if it went into effect before or after President Debra Townsley took office.

"Everything goes through the office of the president. Anyone is welcome to contact the trustees through the office of the president," she said. " ... It has worked very, very well for us."

The school's public relations firm also declined the newspaper's request for trustees' names.

Cherry said the board has 18 trustees. The university is required to list its trustees in a form it files with the Internal Revenue Service. The most recent filing available is for the 2011-2012 tax year.

The newspaper confirmed that the board's current chairman is Todd A. Robinson and that other trustees include Scott Custer, CEO of Raleigh-based VantageSouth Bank; Rick Martinez, a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory; and Kenneth Gwynn, a Raleigh real estate lawyer.

The trustees' names were routinely disclosed in the past, said a former member of the college's staff. "When I was there, we were proud of our trustees, and listed them prominently," Michael Hobbs, former Peace College director of communications, wrote in an email. Hobbs left the college in 2010, before Townsley became president.

William Peace has a purchase agreement to buy Seaboard Station, which has been in bankruptcy for nearly a year, for nearly $21 million. Higher bidders could still emerge under the sale process outlined in Seaboard's bankruptcy filings, and a bankruptcy judge will need to approve the sale.