A Kent State alumnus fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission for defrauding investors has withdrawn a $1 million gift to the university.
The university said in a statement that “unforeseen changes” had prompted Jason M. Cope and his wife, Stacie, of Gates Mills, to rescind their gift to the basketball and golf programs.
“The university understands this decision and appreciates the Copes thinking enough of Kent State to consider their generous donation,” the statement read. “We look forward to an opportunity in the future to engage them in the life of Kent State.”
Cope could not be reached for comment at his golf course, Copeland Hills in Columbiana. He does not have a published home phone number.
KSU spokeswoman Emily Vincent said the university would not comment beyond the four-sentence statement. Cope was the branch manager in Pittsburgh of a financial firm that, according to the SEC, defrauded 190 investors of $8.7 million in 1999 and 2000.
The KSU business graduate was one of four defendants required to pay more than $19 million in penalties for collecting money from investors who believed they were purchasing highly publicized initial public stock offerings.
“Instead, the defendants stole the investors’ money and, to create the illusion of legitimate stock purchases, gave the investors phony trade confirmations and account statements,” according to the SEC.
In 2005, Cope started his own company, the Copeland Group LLC, which, according to the university, is made up of several golf courses in Ohio.
In December, KSU trustees accepted the $1 million gift from the 1995 finance graduate and his wife.
The athletic department originally praised the Copes for the gift. On Dec. 14, it announced that the basketball court in the M.A.C. Center would be renamed Cope Court in the couple’s honor Saturday, when the men’s team hosts Bowling Green. The renaming has been canceled.
In a news release, Joel Nielsen, the KSU athletic director, said the Copes “heeded our call for providing a significant gift and becoming ‘difference makers’ within our donor group.”
According to the release, Jason Cope had been a roommate of the university’s associate head golf coach, Rob Wakeling.
Cope also is a member of the KSU National Athletic Development Council and was one of the featured speakers at the Kent State Founders Gala in November, which honors individuals who give at least $100,000 and corporations that give at least $250,000 in one year.
The Copes are “dear friends” and their gift “is a real game-changer for our department,” Matthew R. Geis, KSU executive director of athletic advancement, said in a previous release.
On Wednesday, KSU journalism graduate student Doug Brown, of Ann Arbor, Mich., began asking Nielsen questions about the Copes and their gift. Brown writes for the student newspaper, the Daily Kent Stater.
Brown said Nielsen initially defended KSU’s acceptance of the gift because Cope’s problem with the SEC “was 12 years ago, and it was fully litigated and he [Cope] abided by the letter of the litigation.”
Two days later, the university announced that the gift had been pulled.
Vincent, the KSU spokeswoman, said she was unable to find out how this gift compares in size to others that sports at the university have received.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.