The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Robert Wile’s Wild Ride

Rob Wile walked off the pitch during the 1996 NCAA soccer championship game with tears welling in his eyes.

What should have been his moment of glory quickly turned into a moment of despair for the then-sophomore defender’s college soccer career. In a six minute span late in the second half, Wile received two yellow cards and was sent off the field.

He spent most of the final 12 minutes in the locker-room watching his team seal its 4-1 win over FIU on television.

Three years later, he took a different walk, virtually walking off the stage at graduation into the office of the president. Beginning as an administrative assistant, Wile quickly rose through the ranks to become the chief of staff to Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of the University, only five years after earning his diploma.

Today, he finds himself as the latest high-ranking University official caught up in the aftermath of Chang scandal, seeing his once-private business dealings detailed in published reports.

Questionable charges

A recent report in New York Magazine detailed how Wile racked up thousands of dollars worth of questionable charges on a Taishin credit card authorized by Harrington and given to him by disgraced former dean Cecilia Chang, according to credit card statements obtained by the Torch.

The University ultimately paid for those charges, including $1,200 at Prada.

Wile had that card, Harrington testified last fall in Chang’s federal trial, because Harrington’s Asia delegation once ran into trouble trying to use the University’s American Express card.

Wile was given the card on Chang’s recommendation, and both Chang and Harrington were to be informed of every purchase he made on the card, Harrington testified.

Yet according to published reports and credit card statements viewed by the Torch, none of the purchases Wile made came from Japan, China or Taiwan, the places where Harrington had problems with his card in the past.

Instead, money was spent at a casino in Las Vegas, on nightclubs in the city, expensive dinners in New Jersey and liquor stores in Westbury.

He also took out four loans worth at least $80,000 each, according to tax returns and reports in New York Magazine.

Two of them were reportedly interest-free loans totaling $350,000 given to him by the University that were reported to the Board of Trustees.

Two of them, one from the then-chair of the Board of Trustees and one from a contractor who worked for St. John’s, were not reported, according to NY Mag, raising questions about potential conflicts of interests.

One of the unreported loans, worth $100,000 came from then-Board chair Tom McInerney, according to NY Mag.

McInerney also served on the audit and compensation committee, NY Mag reported.

That committee was responsible for approving Wile’s salary, according to University officials.

Because Wile’s salary was one of the highest at the school, the Trustees also had to approve it, University officials said.

Soccer champion

Wile’s ascent through the University ranks was a quick one, something few who knew him back when he was a St. John’s student-athlete foresaw.

“He didn’t really stand out. He was just like an average guy,” Dylan Butler, a former Torch Managing Editor who covered men’s soccer, said.

“On the field he was a hard worker.”

The win, St. John’s first National Championship in any sport, made the soccer team instant heroes on campus.

The summer after the soccer team won the national championship, Harrington took Wile and the rest of the team to Europe.

During their time, Harrington arranged a private audience for the team with Pope John Paul II.

Wile and Harrington struck up a friendship on this trip, University officials told the Torch.

In 1999, Wile graduated and was hired as an administrative assistant in Harrington’s office.

Wile was quickly promoted to assistant to the president and then, in 2001, Wile’s ascent continued with his promotion to executive assistant to the president.

Wile was so trusted by Harrington that he served on the five-person committee to replace men’s basketball coach Mike Jarvis after he was fired in 2003.

That committee spent more than two months, February through April 2004, searching for a head coach before settling on Norm Roberts.

In 2003, Wile traveled with Harrington to Turks and Caicos. University officials tell the Torch that Harrington believed the trip was a gift from Chang after his father passed away.

According to university officials, Harrington’s usual priestly delegation was unavailable to accompany him, which is why he asked Wile to join him.

The offer was also extended to Wile’s then-girlfriend, Gabrielle Weir, a St. John’s sophomore at the time. Wile spent more than $8,000 on the Taishin card while on this trip, according to credit card statements.

Chief of Staff

Wile became Harrington’s chief of staff in 2004, his third promotion in five years.

Wile serves as the liaison between the President and all constituencies, according to his biography on St. John’s website.

He also oversees several offices on campus including the office of community, corporate and media relations and has met with the King of Thailand and the President of the Republic of Ireland, his biography says.

He also currently serves on the Board of Directors for St. John’s Bread and Life.

Reflecting on his boss of more than 13 years, Wile is effusive in his praise.

On the St. John’s University website, Wile is quoted saying, “Fr. Harrington is a man of incredible integrity. One always knows that what he commits to …. There are no empty promises around here.”

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About the Contributor
Shannon Luibrand, Features Editor
Contact: [email protected]. Since Shannon first entered the Torch office, she has shown a willingness to take on whatever story was thrown her way. Whether it was news or features, she displayed a tenacity rarely seen among staff writers. Now, she’ll be dedicating herself fully to the relatively new Lifestyle section along with Samantha. If the work Shannon has put out thus far is any indication, I fully expect Lifestyle to be infused with new and bright ideas. —Kieran Lynch Editor-in-Chief
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  • J

    JOSEPH A. ADAMSMar 14, 2013 at 8:03 am

    How can Board of Trustee members,directly involved in conflicts of interests, be in charge of conducting the investigation ? An independent accountant should be appointed to examine the books. Declaring that the two most senior people in charge of S.J.U. were duped by Ms.Chang is preposterous. A whitewash will not be acceptable under the present investigation.