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Ten months ago, Hobby Lobby heir Mart Green aroused both suspicion and relief among Oral Roberts University's faithful. The retail whiz announced that his affluent family was planning to pump $70 million into the heavily indebted, scandal-scarred liberal arts school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In May, Green generated even more excitement on campus when he announced that student dorm rooms would be rewired. The increased amperage will allow a curling iron and a computer to be plugged in simultaneously without blowing a fuse. But Green isn't just redoing the campus electrical grid; he's rewiring ORU's body, mind, and checkbook. Currently serving as ORU board chair, Green recently said, "ORU must restore its broken trust, its battered reputation, and its beaten spirit."

In October 2007, the tragic unwinding of ORU's trust, reputation, and spirit began as three whistle-blowing professors filed a wrongful termination suit. They charged that Richard Roberts, president and son of founder Oral Roberts, and his board-member wife, Lindsay, misspent school funds, including $39,000 for a shopping spree for Lindsay, a $29,411 trip to the Bahamas aboard a university jet for one of the couple's daughters, and a stable of horses for their three daughters, among many other accusations. (The Robertses have denied any wrongdoing.)

Initially, the Greens debated whether to help. The family typically donates to successful ministry ventures with well-established accountability measures. They had never staged a ministry intervention before. When the family gives a chunk to charity, it's given collectively. The privately held Hobby Lobby chain of more than 380 arts and crafts stores has estimated annual sales of $2 billion and $200 million or more in profits. ...

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hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2008

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