Father Who Donated $40K to Jesuit Private School Sues When Son Gets Turned Down

Dr. Michael Bardwil gave the Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School $40,000.

December 30, 2010, 2:39 PM

Dec. 31, 2010 — -- A father who donated tens of thousands of dollars to a prestigious private school in Houston is suing the institution, claiming that school administrators rejected his son despite promising that his generous contributions to the school would ensure his son's acceptance.

Dr. Michael Bardwil told ABCNews.com that he feels as though he was scammed by school officials at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas, where he himself graduated from in 1973.

According to Bardwil, a school administrator he met during a fundraising event suggested that in order in ensure his son got into the very competitive school that Bardwil should start contributing money.

"They told me they'd like me to give them a contribution and said that they like people to give 'until it hurts,' to give 'more than you are comfortable giving,'" said Bardwil.

Bardwil recalls that a school administrator went to lunch with him and during their conversation pushed a piece of paper over to his side of the table that read "$100,000."

"I told him at that moment that if I make that type of large contribution I expected that my son will go to the school and the administrator said 'Yes, of course, absolutely," said Bardwil.

After consulting with his accountants, Bardwil told the school's administrators that he would be able to pledge $50,000 over a five year period.

Tuition for one year at the school is $14,450, according to the school's website.

"I got a call the next day from someone at the school saying they were really pleased with my pledge and they didn't think I'd be so generous and that they'd make sure my son Travis would go to Jesuit," said Bardwil.

At the time Bardwil wrote the first check for $10,000, his son Travis was in fifth grade.

"I put the checks in my mother's name and made the contributions while Travis was still in middle school," said Bardwil. "All along the idea was that I wanted to prepare him for Jesuit and I'd ask their advice on what classes he should take and what he should focus on to be ready for Jesuit."

"Never did they lead me to believe that this wouldn't be the case," he said.

When Travis was finally old enough to apply to Jesuit in February 2010, four years after Bardwil's first meeting with school administrator's, he was rejected. Bardwil said that at that point he had donated $40,000 to the school.

"I got a call from the principal who told me that the school had decided 'not to take Travis,'" said Bardwil. "A week after I got a letter from the school that said they didn't take Travis because they didn't think he'd be happy there."

"I told them if they didn't want my son that's fine, but I'm going to rescind my donation," said Bardwil. "And then that's when they told me that they can't give me my money back."

Asked about Bardwil's claims, Rick Rivers, the director of communications for Jesuit, issued a written statement.

"While it is school policy not to comment on pending litigation, Strake Jesuit has always kept its admissions process separate from donations and contributions," said Bardwil.

Bardwil Says School Implied Contributions Guarantee Son's Enrollment

As for his son, who is currently attending a nearby public school where he is "very happy," Bardwil said that initially he was embarrassed he didn't get in.

"He knew that I had contributed quite a bit and that they still didn't take him," said Bardwil. "I told him that it was about them and me, not him."

Travis failed his first attempt at the entrance exam, his father said, but when given a chance to re-take it, he added 55 points to his score.

"I told the school that it was huge he came up so much with just four days of studying," he said. "I asked why did you have him retake the test if a 55 point improvement isn't good enough."

"I told them I was a supporter of the school and I really wanted him to go there," said Bardwil.

But it didn't seem to matter, he said.

They told me that they won't "trade admissions for contributions," said Bardwil.

"If that's their policy then that's fine, but that was not made clear. They suggested otherwise," he said.

Bardwil said that even if the school offered his son a spot in the high school he would turn it down, arguing that all he wants now is to "break even."

In a letter to the school Bardwil said he wrote, "For me to donate money to a school that affords opportunities to other boys, but not my son, would be insanity. And for you to expect me to do that is insanity."

Bardwil Wants Money Donated to Son's Dream School Returned

Bardwil, who is a surgeon, said that even he was hit hard by the economy's downturn and that it was hard for him at times to make the payments to the school.

"Everyone took a hit during that time," said Bardwil. "There was a time when I was borrowing to make those payments, but my word was my bond."

The school has told Bardwil that they do not expect him to make the final $10,000 payment, but for Bardwil that's not good enough.

"What they did was fraud by omission," he said. "I just want my money back."

"I just don't want the school to have my money. It was taken under false pretenses," he said.

Bardwil said that he's disappointed his son won't be going to Jesuit, a place he considered part of his family.

"A lot of my reasons for wanting my son to go to school at Jesuit was that it's been a family tradition. My father went there and I went there," said Bardwil. "The school prides itself on developing young men and I thought it would be good for my son."

"For my son to not get accepted just blew me away," he added.

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