Chapman University

Chapman University in Orange has been sued by two of its donors.

By Jeremiah Dobruck
February 13, 2015

A 98-year-old Newport Beach philanthropist and his wife are suing Chapman University, alleging that the college coerced him into donating $12 million and then failed to keep its promises.

James and Catherine Emmi want Chapman to return the $3 million the school has already collected and give up any right to the remaining $9 million, according to a complaint filed this month in Orange County Superior Court.

They also are seeking at least $3 million more from the university.

The Emmis say they have no memory of signing a 2013 document pledging the money and accuse Chapman of taking advantage of James Emmi’s confusion in his old age.

“[Chapman], after noting signs of deterioration and vulnerability in James, preyed on [him] for a multimillion[-dollar] donation,” the lawsuit states.

A representative of the university denied the allegations Thursday.

“Chapman University is deeply saddened by the misstatements in the complaint filed by the Emmis,” spokeswoman Mary Platt said. “The allegations do not reflect what occurred and completely mischaracterize the Emmis’ interactions with the university.”

According to their suit, the Emmis previously gave smaller donations to the private university in Orange, including a $450,000 gift in 2009 to help build a science center.

James and Catherine Emmi, 84, also have donated millions to Hoag Hospital and to the Pacific Symphony.

The Emmis allege that after receiving their gift for the science center, the university “continued to hound” them for more money, even after they rejected a 2012 proposal for a $5-million donation that would have included putting their names on a technology hall in the center.

In 2013, the complaint alleges, the university approached the Emmis again, this time asking for a $12-million contribution to the science center.

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