If there’s one oft-used idiomatic expression that really resonates with officials at the Massachusetts Worcester Polytechnic Institute these days, it is likely this: stuck between a rock and a hard place.
For that is precisely where the school seems to be squarely situated — at least in a figurative sense — in the wake of a recently filed lawsuit in federal court that poses a direct challenge to millions of dollars received by the school as a charitable gift from a celebrated alumnus.
That individual is wealthy businessman Bob Foisie, who graduated from Worcester Polytech more than 50 years ago. Foisie has been steadfastly — and impressively — loyal to his alma mater, with his gifts over many years totaling more than $60 million.
A portion of that largesse has proven irksome to Foisie’s former wife, whose legal filing contends that Foisie hid trust monies of $4.5 million during their divorce, subsequently gifting the entire trust to the school.
She wants fully half of that money, saying that Foisie’s “lies and omitted disclosures” during divorce negotiations shortchanged her in the 50/50 split the couple agreed to regarding all marital property.
In fact, Foisie admits to not disclosing the trust during his divorce. As noted in a news report on the matter, evidence seems to be sketchy on whether his failure to do so was intentional.
His former partner of half a century likens his conduct to money laundering, saying that he withheld the millions for ultimate disposition “for a purpose of his personal preference … rather than giving it to his legitimate creditor.”
The school is caught quite in the middle of the dispute, with officials stating that they knew nothing about any alleged improprieties when they accepted Foisie’s charitable gift.
Although it is presently uncertain how things will play out, no lack of certainty attaches whatever to a court’s power to demand a return of the money in the event it is judicially determined that wrongdoing was committed.