Here’s why this high school turned down $25 million from a billionaire alumnus

Billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman wanted to give $25 million to his alma mater in Pennsylvania, Abington High School. And the school board was eager to get the money for a renovation and new technology center. But the money wasn't exactly free, and the community was not amused when it learned the details.

» RELATED: Man with Down syndrome on track to become millionaire

Schwarzman, chairman and chief operating officer of the global private equity firm the Blackstone Group, has amassed a $12.2 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine. A friend of President Donald Trump, Schwarzman, the son of a dry goods store owner, was president of the student council at Abington High. He graduated in 1965, and 40 years later, in 2005, donated $400,000 so the school's football stadium could be renamed for him.

Billionaires have been involved for years in education, donating parts of their fortunes to schools and to education initiatives, raising objections from advocates who believe the wealthy should not use their money to influence the conduct of public education.

The Schwarzman episode, however, ran into trouble for different reasons.

According to an initial agreement regarding the $25 million donation (see below for text of the document), which was approved March 27 by the Abington school board, Schwarzman would receive a number of things in return:

The school would receive a new name - the Abington Schwarzman High School - and, "for the avoidance of doubt," officials would make sure the name was displayed, "at a minimum," at the front and above each of the six entrances.

Parts of the campus would be named after his brothers, former high school track coach and two friends on the track team.

Schwarzman's portrait would appear "prominently" in the school.

» RELATED: 5 things to do in your 20s to become a millionaire by 30

Schwarzman would have input into the construction of the new campus, which is set to be done in 2022, including the right to approve contractors.

He would receive regular reports on the progress of a computer literacy initiative.

The agreement would be kept secret unless Schwarzman approved its release.

The agreement also referred to curriculum changes, with all students receiving Chromebooks and being required to take coding or computer literacy. District officials said that was planned before Schwarzman endorsed it, according to this story on

The board approved the pact without community input, and when residents learned that Schwarzman had essentially bought naming rights to the school, they pushed to get details, the story said. The board waited a few weeks after approving the contract to release it to the public - but by then, the board had rescinded the agreement and promised to vote on a new pact with most of the earlier demands stripped out.

The new pact gives Schwarzman a far reduced role, and the school will no longer be named after him, though the new science and technology center will be, and new gym facilities will be named after his former coach and track team mates. Demands were dropped for contractor approval, portrait hanging and regular reports on computer literacy. 

» RELATED: Missing German billionaire's family gives up hope of rescue

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

CDC researcher Cunningham remembered for work ethic, passion
CDC researcher Cunningham remembered for work ethic, passion

Timothy Cunningham loved his little sister so much, he took her to “show and tell” at his elementary school, telling his classmates she made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. Theirs was an inseparable bond, despite the eight years between them. On Saturday, Tiara Cunningham told hundreds gathered inside a Morehouse College chapel that her...
Social media reacts to neo-Nazi rally in Newnan
Social media reacts to neo-Nazi rally in Newnan

On Saturday, the National Socialist Movement, a far-right hate group that celebrates Adolf Hitler’s birthday, gathered for a rally at a park in downtown Newnan. » RELATED: LIVE UPDATES: Neo-Nazi rally planned Saturday afternoon in Newnan About 25 neo-Nazis showed up and anti-fascist demonstrators as well as hundreds of police...
Tex McIver murder trial deliberations drag on — what does it mean?
Tex McIver murder trial deliberations drag on — what does it mean?

Late Friday, the seven men and five women serving as jurors in the Tex McIver murder trial called it quits and went home for the weekend without reaching a verdict. Experts say their deliberations – roughly 24 hours over four days – are unusually long for a criminal trial. That’s perhaps fitting for a case that has been characterized...
LIVE UPDATES: Neo-Nazi rally met by counterprotesters, police in Newnan
LIVE UPDATES: Neo-Nazi rally met by counterprotesters, police in Newnan

5:15 P.M.: As the neo-Nazi demonstration began wrapping up shortly after 5 p.m, the counterprotesters began shouting, “Shut it down” and “Time’s up, go home.” The drumbeat grew louder as the demonstration lingered past its 5 p.m. deadline. » RELATED: How social media reacted 4:55 P.M.: National...
NYC postal worker arrested after police find 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail
NYC postal worker arrested after police find 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail

A New York City postal worker was arrested Thursday after 17,000 pieces of undelivered mail were found in his car, apartment and locker, authorities said. Aleksey Germash, who has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 16 years, possessed undelivered mail since 2005, WPIX reported. He told investigators he held onto the mail because...
More Stories