This week, Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University settled a lawsuit with a charitable foundation that restructured its leadership and took control of millions in funding following the firing of Paige Patterson, former president of Southwestern, in 2018.
The two Texas Baptist schools sued the Harold E. Riley Foundation last year, alleging a “secret coup” to divert gifts away from them, despite being designated as the sole beneficiaries of the foundation.
The parties settled in a Tarrant County, Texas, court on Monday, with four leaders from Southwestern and Baylor replacing the board members accused of trying to “seize control of the Foundation and its assets.” Harold E. Riley, the late benefactor and namesake, had set up the organization to fund his alma maters.
The resigned board members—Mike C. Hughes, Charles Hott, and Augie Boto—agreed not to hold any leadership positions or employment at charities in Texas or at any Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities. They are not able to serve in “any fiduciary capacity, whether as an officer, director, or trustee,” per the terms of the settlement.
Hughes had been Southwestern’s vice president for institutional advancement under Patterson (2006–2017), and Boto had been a longtime SBC Executive Committee member, serving as executive vice president and interim president two years ago.
Colby Adams, an incoming board member and Southwestern’s vice president for strategic initiatives, told CT he could think of no other instance in which leaders had been subject to such restrictions across the denomination, but “we believe this is a just result, given the inappropriate actions of the persons involved in this matter.”
Boto offered a statement by text message to Baptist Press, saying, “The services rendered by the foundation’s trustees have always been in keeping with Harold Riley’s wishes, as well as in the best interests of both Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University. I trust the new trustees that the beneficiaries have chosen will commit themselves to do those same things. I wish them well.”
Southwestern president Adam Greenway said that the outcome “vindicates” the school’s decision to pursue litigation in the case.
“While painful and costly, this cause of action was necessary to protect charitable donors who deserve the confidence that the purpose of their generous gifts will be fulfilled with integrity and without interference,” said Greenway, who became president in 2019. “This victory is not only for Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University, but for all who are committed to ensuring that resources intended to advance Kingdom purposes are not misused.”
In December 2020, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sided with Southwestern and Baylor by intervening in the case and issuing a subpoena compelling testimony from Patterson. Southwestern said seminary leaders say they will cooperate with any further investigation by the attorney general’s office following the settlement of their civil suit.