Deceased former St. John’s dean Cecilia Chang showered President Rev. Donald J. Harrington and his chief of staff, Robert Wile, with extravagant gifts supposedly paid by “unnamed donors,” when they were really being charged to the University, according to a report in New York Magazine.
The former leader of the Institute of Asian studies operated under her own rules, according to the report, and nobody thought to question the results as they were being pampered with tailored suits, expensive cases of wine and vacations at luxury resorts.
Chang committed suicide in her home on Nov. 6, 2012 following her testimony in United States District Court. She left three different suicide notes, according to the report, one to her son, one to the judge and jury and one to St. John’s.
She reportedly felt that the University betrayed her and that she had raised millions in the school’s name. In reality, she was spending money equal to what she brought in from foreign donors and in later years, surpassing it, the report says.
Wile was a major beneficiary from Chang’s gifts, according to the magazine. He had a credit card linked to Chang’s account and charged around $45,000 to it over the course of five years including shopping sprees. During this time, the report says, Wile was one of the people signing off on Chang’s expenses.
The largest expense charged to Wile’s card was for a $8,474.82 stay in Turks and Caicos mostly at the Point Grade Hotel luxury resort, according to the magazine. The trip was taken with Harrington shortly following the death of his father. Chang urged Harrington to go, saying that it was customary in Chinese culture to offer a gift to someone who had recently lost a family member, the report says.
The magazine reported that Wile and Harrington’s relationship extended beyond work and even vacationing as the two joined the real-estate business as they registered GRH Group LLC with the address of Wile’s then-home in Tenafly, NJ. Following that, in 2006, they purchased a home in Rumson, NJ. They purchased the property for $659,000, leveled the house, built a new one and then sold it for $1,470,000. Harrington told the magazine, through a spokesman, that he made no profit.
The University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.