Penn State

Beta Theta Pi, donor prepare to square off in court over shuttered frat house

Donald Abbey would like his $8.5 million back. On July 5, a judge will hear arguments about whether that happens.

Abbey is the Penn State alumnus and real estate investor who gave large sums of money to the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta Pi.

According to court documents, Abbey said the funding agreement between him and the fraternity has been violated.

More than a decade ago, Abbey made his first gift to the fraternity to fund restoration of the chapter’s house.

“After graduation, as I focused on my career for thirty years, the image I retained of the house was of the magnificent structure and the elegant style of living I’d experienced. So when I returned and saw that the house had regressed, and considering that my career has been in repositioning of real estate, I felt that action was required. It was the best chapter house on campus in my day, and I want to ensure that it remains so in the future,” he said in a 2006 statement from Penn State

Two years later, the chapter was suspended for alcohol violations. Abbey upped the millions he had already put into the house to help make it the “premier fraternity” at Penn State.

Penn State officials have said they would have agreed with that right up until the February party where prosecutors say a hazing gauntlet of alcohol consumption and 12 hours without medical help after a fall killed pledge Timothy Piazza, 19. The chapter was banned permanently. The chapter and 18 members now face criminal charges.

Abbey says that violates the funding agreement. The terms require, according to court documents, that Alpha Upsilon remain a Beta Theta Pi fraternity and continue to follow the “Men of Principle” initiative that included alcohol-free recruitment and no hazing.

Abbey has asked Centre County court to enforce the terms of the agreement.

Alpha Upsilon’s attorneys argue that Abbey made an irrevocable gift and cannot “subsequently convert it to a conditional gift,” and say the funding agreement was never approved by the full membership of the house’s leadership organization.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce