UB ponders next step for hall named after now-convicted benefactor

May 2, 2019

University at Buffalo officials are pondering the possible renaming of a hall currently identified by the name of a graduate and benefactor who was convicted Thursday in a federal bribery case.

John Kapoor, a 1972 graduate of UB, is a former billionaire and founder of a drug company at the center of what federal prosecutors say was a scheme to bribe doctors to overprescribe a powerful opioid painkiller made by that company and thus boost its sales.

John and Editha Kapoor Hall, the home of the University at Buffalo's School of Pharmacy. Following John Kapoor's conviction Thursday in a federal bribery and conspiracy case involving a powerful opioid his former company produced, UB officials began considering the future of the hall's name.
Credit Chris Caya, WBFO

Kapoor, along with four co-defendants, was convicted by a jury after 15 days of deliberation. Prosecutors say in addition to bribing doctors, Kapoor and his peers lied to insurance companies to ensure the fentanyl-based product was covered.

Kapoor donated generously to his alma mater over the years and, in turn, the university honored him and his late wife by naming the building in which UB's School of Pharmacy operates John and Editha Kapoor Hall.

The University issued the following written statement Thursday following the verdict in Boston: "The university is aware of Dr. Kapoor’s conviction in federal court today. The leadership of UB is currently reviewing and discussing the impact under UB and SUNY policies pertaining to university namings. The university recognizes the seriousness of this matter and is giving it very careful consideration.

"The illegal and unethical activities brought to light during the trial are in stark contrast to UB’s core values and our mission to improve lives, strengthen communities and positively change the world."

University officials are not commenting further but, in additional information released Thursday, explained that policy does allow them to change the name of a facility "if a future action or event occurs that will cause irreparable injury to the university’s image, reputation, or ability to pursue its mission or if the donor does not fulfill his/her gift commitment at the completion of the agreed-upon payment period."

The process requires several steps, beginning with a recommendation by UB's vice president for university advancement, followed by approvals by the university president and UB Council, followed by review and approval by the SUNY chancellor and, finally, a decision by the SUNY Board of Trustees.

No timeline has been set for the possible change in name to what is now Kapoor Hall, but university officials stated in addition to their writted statement that such a decision is expected to be made in a timely manner, with policies and procedures considered.

"I certainly hope that the University at Buffalo moves quickly and expeditiously to take the Kapoor name off the Pharmaceutical Building," said Assemblymember Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo). "Certainly when that was named after Kapoor, it was said that he would be a role model for future scientists and future pharmacists. Well, that's obviously not true, so the quicker we get that name off the building, the better off we will be."

Ryan said there is usually something akin to a morals clause for families who make large contributions to UB. If the Kapoor name put UB in a bad light, Ryan said it could be removed from the building, whether or not they have to give back the money donated.