Oral Roberts University president resigns

TULSA, Okla. &

The president of Oral Roberts University, facing accusations he misspent school funds to support a lavish lifestyle, resigned on Friday, officials said.

Richard Roberts' resignation is effective immediately, according to a statement e-mailed from George Pearsons, chairman of the school's Board of Regents.

Roberts and the evangelical university have come under fire since three former professors sued last month, alleging wrongful termination.

The lawsuit includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts children.

Roberts, son of school founder and televangelist Oral Roberts, had been on temporary leave from the university, fighting the accusations against him. The Board of Regents had ordered an outside probe of the school's finances.

In a recent interview, Roberts and his wife denied wrongdoing. He has said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

On Friday, he said in the statement that he loved the university, of which he became president in 1993.

"I love ORU with all my heart," he said. "I love the students, faculty, staff and administration and I want to see God's best for all of them."

The school will not provide additional comment until next week, spokesman Jeremy Burton said. A message left for Roberts' personal attorney wasn't immediately returned.

Gary Richardson, the attorney for the three professors, said, "Those who have seen what we have seen won't have any surprise about the fact that Richard has stepped down." He later said, "There was no option, period."

One of the plaintiffs, John Swails, said Roberts "could have spared the university and the students by going ahead and stepping down and admitting his wrongdoing."

The professors also alleged in their lawsuit that Richard Roberts required students in a government class to work on 2006 mayoral candidate Randi Miller's campaign.

Roberts publicly endorsed Miller, but said then that he was doing so as a private citizen and not as an ORU representative. He has denied the lawsuit's claims that he ordered students to work on Miller's campaign.

Professor Tim Brooker, one of the lawsuit plaintiffs, accused the school of forcing him to quit after he warned Roberts that requiring students to work on Miller's campaign jeopardized ORU's tax-exempt status.

In the weeks since that lawsuit was filed, others have cropped up, including one from a former senior accountant who alleged that the Robertses ordered him to help them hide improper and illegal financial wrongdoing from the authorities and the public.

"This is good news for the university," said Donald Vance, a professor of biblical languages and literature. "It's time for the Board of Regents to step forward with a strong choice, and I hope they will involve the tenured faculty in the process."

Two weeks ago, Vance joined the majority of tenured faculty in a vote of "no confidence" in Richard Roberts as president, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

Cornell Cross II, a senior government major, said the resignation is "an excellent step to fix the university," but believes the school's most trying days lie ahead.

"This is not over, there a lot of things that need to continue," Cross said. "The culture of fear that has been allowed to fester at ORU has to be looked into.

"We still haven't heard any admission of wrongdoing or any kind of humility or contrition," he said.

The school's regents will meet Monday and Tuesday to determine action in the search process for a new president, Pearsons said in the statement.

Executive Regent Billy Joe Daugherty will assume the president's administrative responsibilities, working with Oral Roberts until the regents' meeting, the college said.

Former ORU Regent Harry McNevin, who quit the board in 1987 because of the misspending he alleged he witnessed, called the resignation "inevitable."

"You can't take the sacrifices of God's people and use them any old way," he said. "It's been 20 years that they've been doing the same things that I became aware of."

Share This Story