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December 02, 2014

$6.5-Million Gift at Risk if U. of Ill. Keeps Professor With Criminal Past

A donor to the University of Illinois at Chicago has threatened to withhold most of a $6.5-million contribution if academic units at the university's Urbana-Champaign branch follow through on plans to rehire a professor who lost his job after a criminal conviction came to light, according to the Chicago Tribune. Retired tech executive Richard Hill made the pledge to the bioengineering department of the Chicago campus last year and has given about $2-million so far but said he would pay no more if James Kilgore returns to the system's faculty.

Mr. Kilgore joined the university as a global studies lecturer and researcher in 2010 after serving five years in prison in connection with a fatal armed robbery in which he took part in the 1970s as a member of radical group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army. The institution knew of his record when he was hired but declined to renew his employment this semester after his past was publicized in a Champaign newspaper.

His ouster sparked faculty protests, and the university's board voted last month to allow individual academic units to make hiring decisions for part-time staff. Mr. Kilgore said he has received offers from two programs for next semester. In a letter to university officials, Mr. Hill, an Illinois alumnus, said the university "has clearly lost its moral compass" and that he planned to cut off all support.