No money, more problems for KSU

Janet Aronica

Millionaire art dealer never gives promised money for Kent State Anthropology Institute

Kent State could be the home of one of the best anthropology institutes in the world – the envy of science academia nationwide.

It would have funds for research, a graduate fellowship, assistant professorship, an endowed chair and a yearly conference for international experts. The facility would be led by the world-renowned anthropologist and Kent State professor Owen Lovejoy. He is acclaimed for the reconstructive work he did with the fossil “Lucy,” a 3-million-year-old ancestor of man discovered in Ethiopia in 1973.

Until September 2005, the Matthew Ferrini Institute was anything but imaginary. Plans for the center had been underway since Bruce Ferrini announced his $6.8 million donation to the department in November 2002.

“He had that tragedy in his family,” Lovejoy said. “His only son that died of a drug overdose, and Bruce wanted to establish a memorial.”

Ferrini appeared to be nothing but committed to the project, Lovejoy said.

“We proceeded to make a long and very detailed plan for the supposed institute,” Lovejoy said. “We put together a budget, a detailed quarter-by-quarter plan. We were in constant contact. I met with Bruce once a week, and he would have me out to his hilltop mansion. Provost Gaston was also out to discuss matters with Bruce and nothing seemed amiss.”

The truth was his legal troubles were growing, and his wallet was shrinking. Ferrini was sued in late 2003, and he was caught in court again with a breach of contract lawsuit in December 2004. That lawsuit was put on hold, when he finally filed for bankruptcy in September 2005.

Kent State continues to look for a possible donor to build the institute.

Despite the disappointment, Lovejoy has reason to be optimistic. A documentary and a series of science papers about Ardi, a fossil 1.2 million years older than Lucy, are planned to be released this year. He only wishes the Matthew Ferrini Institute could’ve been a part of this development.

“At minimum, Ardi will revolutionize our understanding of human evolution. It would’ve been a heck of a breakthrough for Kent State. We would have the institute behind us. It will still be huge but it won’t have quite the cache,” he said.

In light of the recent Ohio Board of Education ruling to include the mention of intelligent design in high school education, Lovejoy sees this as the time more than any before for Kent State to have this institute.

Having a facility like the Matthew Ferrini Institute would put Kent State on the forefront of anthropological discovery, and it could have an effect on such policies depending on what they would find.

“This kind of institute is really, really needed,” Lovejoy said. “The fact that it [evolution] has occurred is indisputable, and people don’t seem to get it.”

Contact general assignment reporter Janet Aronica at [email protected].