By Marissa Payne
In light of sexual-misconduct allegations against a University of Iowa donor, the UI announced Wednesday it is removing Stephen A. Wynn’s name from the Institute for Vision Research, which was named after him in 2013.
Wynn resigned as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee on Jan. 27 in response to the allegations, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 26. The report detailed decades of alleged sexual harassment and abuse incidents involving dozens of women employed by Wynn.
In 2013, Wynn committed $25 million toward research to cure hereditary blindness. He himself suffers from one of the heritable eye diseases. In October 2013, the institute was renamed the Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research in his honor. Wynn has donated $20 million toward this commitment, “dramatically increasing the institute’s scope of research,” the press release said. The naming was in recognition of the gift but not a condition of it.
The UI determined that retaining Wynn’s name would be damaging to the institution’s reputation. According to the announcement, this would be the first time the university has removed a donor name from a building or institute. This change is subject to approval by the state Board of Regents.
“The University of Iowa is committed to ending sexual violence and sexual misconduct and ensuring survivors know they are believed, supported, and assisted,” UI President Bruce Harreld said in the release. “It is incongruous with the university’s values to maintain the Wynn name on our program and building.”
Private gifts help fund equipment, allow the institute to recruit new scientists, and focus on eye diseases that other groups may consider too rare to pursue, according to the release. The 29 faculty members work collaboratively to develop treatments for all forms of genetic blindness.
“The Institute for Vision Research is conducting life-changing research that is critical to so many families suffering from inherited eye disease,” Brooks Jackson, the UI vice president for Medical Affairs, said in the release. “This decision reinforces our commitment to the long-term health of the institute in terms of faculty and staff recruitment and retention and future philanthropic support.”
Harreld said the UI remains committed to this type of research and to finding cures for blindness.
“The University of Iowa has been conducting industry-leading research and providing sight-saving patient care for 30 years,” Harreld said. “The name of the institute has changed, but our commitment to finding cures for hereditary blindness is unwavering.”