UPPER EAST SIDE — Hunter College High School graduates angry at the school for keeping $1 million donated by alumnus Martin Shkreli, who was arrested last week for running a "Ponzi-like scheme," say the gift reflects poorly on the elite institution and some are calling on the school to return the money.
Zach Kolin, a 2006 grad, said the school should not be associated with a "shady character.”
“Now we’re veering into actual illegal activities that are in no way acceptable by any metric,” the 28-year-old receptionist said. “And taking that money makes us culpable to his actions.”
Since Shkreli’s fraud arrest last week, donations doubled to a fundraiser seeking to replace his gift — which was the largest in the school’s 101-year history.
Alumni Katie Uva and Chiara Di Lello said they started the fundraiser in protest after the so-called “Pharma Bro” raised the price of an anti-parasite drug from $13.50 per pill to $750 in September.
“We wanted to raise however much money we could to express a general opposition to Martin Shkreli's...unethical practice of financial speculation in medicine,” Uva said via email, noting “Shkreli has become wealthy at the expense of the public good.”
The 27-year-old grad student said she and Di Lello hope to use the money to promote bioethics programming at the school for 7th- to 12th-graders.
As of Monday morning, the fundraiser had taken in $1,684 dollars, doubling from $805 before Shkreli’s arrest.
Sara Meyers, assistant vice president of institutional advancement at Hunter College, said last week the school had no intention of returning the money.
“There is no intention to return the gift,” Meyers said before Shkreli's arrest. The donation has been split into a fund and an endowment for new technology and teaching resources in science and guidance programs.
Shkreli, who attended the school between 1994 and 2000, made the donation in March and appointed his sister Nora as his designee.
The school did not return requests for comment regarding the donation on Monday.
Kolin criticized the school for keeping mum about their plans for the donation following the arrest.
“The only way to really evaluate any decision is at least with an explanation,” he said.
Still, a number of alumni said they understood the difficult position the administration is in and that the cash-strapped school could put the donation to good use.
Max Brawer said he “can separate my feelings from this owner and the importance of this donation” for Hunter, which is run by the CUNY school and not the New York Department of Education.
“I’m happy there's an amount of funding going to something important to me. I don’t take it as an endorsement of a person,” Brawer said.
But he said he will have to look more into where the money really came from.
“If the source of the funding turns out to be criminal, it would definitely make me re-appraise my thoughts,” he said.