Marquette receives donation from Purdue Pharma owners

Both+gifts+went+toward+the+College+of+Education%27s+Institute+for+the+Transformation+of+Learning.
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Marquette receives donation from Purdue Pharma owners

Both gifts went toward the College of Education's Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

Both gifts went toward the College of Education's Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Both gifts went toward the College of Education's Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Both gifts went toward the College of Education's Institute for the Transformation of Learning.

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Marquette University accepted $65,000 in donations from a foundation associated with the Sacklers, a family currently facing lawsuits from cities, states and counties around the nation for their alleged role in contributing to the opioid crisis. 

The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the prescription opioid pain reliever Oxycontin. From 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Marquette accepted a $50,000 gift and a $15,000 gift from the Bouncer Foundation in 2016, according to Senior Director of University Communication Lynn Griffith. The Bouncer Foundation listed Jonathan Sackler as the nonprofit’s director and president in tax documents from 2016. Jonathan Sackler is a former board member of Purdue Pharma and son of Raymond Sackler, one of the founders of Purdue, according to the Wall Street Journal

“Philanthropic contributions to Marquette are reviewed to ensure they are in alignment with our Catholic, Jesuit mission, based on the information available at the time the gift is made,” Griffith said in an email. 

Griffith said both gifts went toward the College of Education’s Institute for the Transformation of Learning. The Institute creates programs to reform K-12 education, especially for low-income students, according to Marquette’s website.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies assured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The institute states this assurance led to widespread prescription and misuse of these medications before it became clear that the medications could, in fact, be highly addictive.

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to charges of misleading doctors and the public about the safety of Oxycontin and paid a $635 million fine in 2007, according to the Washington Post. In 2018, states and counties around the nation began filing lawsuits against the Sackler Family. Wisconsin sued Purdue Pharma and former Purdue Pharma chairman Richard Sackler in May 2019 for alleged misconduct in the marketing and sales of opioids that contributed to the opioid epidemic, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Eric Boos, a political science professor at Marquette, said he believes the university should donate that amount, or close to that amount, to a rehab facility, to uphold ethical integrity.

Marquette was one of at least two dozen universities who received gifts from the Sackler family and its affiliated foundations since 2015, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that Cornell University, who received more than $5 million in donations from Sackler foundations, has made a formal decision to reject future funding from the family.

Media representatives from Cornell declined to comment on this story.

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