MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – The former acting president of Southern Vermont College who apparently committed suicide after learning of embezzlement allegations against him cared deeply for the students and helped make the school a better place, college President Karen Gross said Friday.
Gross made the comments amid a civil complaint filed against 58-year-old James Beckwith, the person she put in charge of the school while she worked a year for the U.S Department of Education in Washington. Beckwith was found dead Wednesday. Investigators say his injuries were consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Gross said Beckwith’s six years of service helped change the face of the 550-student college in Bennington, contributed to the renovation of the dining hall, the construction of a health education center, and the restoration of the school’s signature 100-year-old mansion. He also oversaw the conversion of a carriage house into an admissions and financial aid area.
She wouldn’t comment about the investigation or what motivated Beckwith to allegedly have college officials write three checks for a total of $440,000 that he diverted to his own use.
“People are complicated. He had many strengths,” Gross said.
She said it was a difficult time for the southwestern Vermont school located about 35 miles northeast of Albany, N.Y. But she stressed that “this college is financially stable.”
“The key point is that despite the sad news and the allegations of financial malfeasance, the college is moving forward,” Gross said. “What matters most is our students and their success. We are doing what we do well, which is enabling our students to become career ready, thoughtful and engaged leaders in their communities.”
Federal court documents outline how Beckwith allegedly diverted three checks, for $100,000, $160,000 and $180,000 into accounts he controlled between November and last month. Of the total, he allegedly used $260,000 to pay down the mortgage on his and his wife’s property just off Vermont Route 100 in the Green Mountains.
The same documents said an audit of the college’s finances for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, found suspicious financial transactions involving purported vendor payments by Beckwith.
The documents do not say what might have motived Beckwith, a tax lawyer and former managing partner of a New York law firm, to have school officials write up the checks and claim they were to help pay expenses associated with a failed plan to build dormitory rooms at the college.
Beckwith served as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the college since 2007. He was acting president while Gross was on a one-year leave to work as a senior policy adviser to the U.S. Department of Education. Gross returned to Bennington last month.
Beckwith resigned from the school earlier this month. At the time he told the Bennington Banner it was time for a change.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors moved to seize the property he and his wife owned in the Vermont mountain town of Londonderry, alleging that Beckwith had embezzled $440,000 in just over two months to help pay down the mortgage on the property, valued by the town at $820,100.
Later that day, state police were called to Beckwith’s after he was reported missing. He was found dead nearby.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments