There’s fallout at a Florida university after dubious donation of $237M from Hemp CEO

There’s fallout at a Florida university after dubious donation of $237M from Hemp CEO

Florida A&M University Vice President Resigns Amid Doubts Over Dubious Donation.

A video by FAMU shows Gregory Gerami, a relatively unknown Texas businessman, presenting Florida A&M University with check for $237 million. But questions exist after he didn’t deliver on similar donation to CCU.

A high-ranking Florida A&M official resigned last week as fallout from the university’s recent announcement of a dubious donation continues.

Shawnta Friday-Stroud resigned as the Tallahassee school’s vice president for university advancement and executive director of the FAMU Foundation, said university President Larry Robinson at a board of trustees meeting on Wednesday.

Friday-Stroud, who will remain with FAMU as the dean of its business school, has faced backlash for her involvement in allowing donor Gregory Gerami to present a check for more than $237 million during the university’s May 4 graduation ceremony. Gerami also served as a commencement speaker at the event.

Public criticism since the announcement has been constant as more information comes out, casting doubt on the reported wealth of the CEO of a Texas hemp farming company. The donation to FAMU was revealed to be private stocks in Gerami’s company, Batterson Farms Corp.

The Sun News previously identified Gerami as the anonymous donor who pledged $95 million in 2020 to Coastal Carolina University before the college terminated that relationship just months later.

Gerami told The Sun News that he has remorse about Friday-Stroud, who he considers a friend, losing her position. He’s maintained that his gift is worth around $237 million, though he admits no external valuation of the stocks has been conducted yet.


Robinson began Wednesday’s meeting telling the board he accepted full responsibility for the situation.

“I wanted it to be real and ignored some warning signs along the way,” he said.

FAMU initially doubled down on what would be the largest donation ever to a historically Black college or university, issuing a news release the day after the announcement that it had “done its due diligence.” Officials have since admitted the stocks may be worthless.

But Robinson told the board that information he received the week before showed the gift “wasn’t what it appeared,” so he “put a pause” on processing the donation and instructed his staff to cease all communication with Gerami.

A university spokesman reached by phone declined to elaborate about what information Robinson received or what pausing the gift means since FAMU has previously stated the stocks have already been transferred to them.

The board meeting was primarily spent discussing details of a potential investigation into how FAMU officials came to accept Gerami’s donation and allowed him to speak during commencement to announce the gift.

Board chairwoman Kristin Harper and other board members were critical of Robinson for not telling them about the donation until it was announced publicly. FAMU officials have previously said that was due to a nondisclosure agreement Gerami insisted they sign to move forward.

“[We] should’ve never been caught by surprise of a gift of this magnitude,” Harper said.

Board members initially planned to ask Robinson and Friday-Stroud questions about the process during Wednesday’s meeting, but board member Belvin Perry said that could compromise the independent outside investigation they were seeking.

The board unanimously passed a motion to hire an external firm to conduct a full investigation and recommend corrective actions.


Gerami told The Sun News Thursday he didn’t watch the meeting, and he feels all the criticism directed toward him is premature since there hasn’t been any third-party valuation of the stock. His company is in the process of hiring a qualified appraiser, he said.

“If the valuation supports (the value we reported) of the gift, what will [critics] say?” he asked.

Asked if he believes the announcement of the donation was premature, Gerami said if university policy wasn’t followed, that’s not his problem because it’s not his job to know those policies.

“In hindsight, having all your ducks in a row [would have been] a good idea,” he said.

Asked if he has any regrets related to the situation with FAMU, he took a long pause before answering, “I don’t know; that’s a hard one.”

Gerami later called back to address the question, telling The Sun News he feels bad that the situation has evolved the way it has, but that doesn’t mean he regrets anything he’s done.

“My goal was to tell my story of adversity, being adopted, dealing with disabilities, dreaming and building my business the way I’ve done,” he said. “To be able to give back was obviously the goal. It was meant to be transformational for FAMU. ... I regret the backlash has gotten to this point.”

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