Lost scholarships tied to ‘crossfire’ between Papa John’s and John Schnatter, Simmons College administrators say

Simmons College, Papa John's pointing fingers at who's responsible for scholarship dismissals

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Ten students at Simmons College suddenly lost scholarships and administrators are blaming a feud between Papa John’s and its estranged founder, John Schnatter.

“Let’s not mince words,” Simmons College public relations and marketing Director Krystal Goodner said. “The reason we’re here is because of the million dollar donation made by John Schnatter. That definitely ruffled some feathers on Papa John’s situation. We feel like we are literally in the middle of crossfire. There definitely is some bad blood.”

Schnatter donated a million dollars to the predominately black college on Sept. 4th. Simmons College President Kevin Cosby said he was told by the pizza chain on Thursday that the company was withdrawing the $20,000 intended for scholarships.

“It felt as though someone has taken weapons of mass destruction and flown them into the hopes and dreams and aspirations of some of America's most vulnerable students," Cosby wrote in a statement.

But, the popular pizza chain is blaming Simmons administrators. Papa John’s released a statement Friday.

“We were disappointed when the administration of Simmons College unexpectedly told us last week they would not move forward with the scholarship program we had offered in good faith,” a company spokesperson said. “The claim we took away scholarships is absolutely false. We are committed to the communities we serve and have provided more than $1 million in grants this year through The Papa John’s Foundation.”

The Papa John’s corporate also released an email from Simmons College Director of Development Von Purdy, apparently rejecting the Papa John’s scholarships.

The email, addressed to Papa John’s executives Natonya Harbison and Victoria Russell said, “Thank you for our discussions on how to help support the students of Simmons College of Kentucky. In light of recent news, it is best to decline your scholarships at this time and perhaps look at other ways to partner in the future.”

Purdy said she was instructed to write the email by Victoria Russell, Papa John’s Chief of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“She wanted me to put something in language of that effect,” Purdy said. “Because it was certainly not my idea.”

“It’s like, ‘okay, you’re going to take money from John Schnatter then, alright our money’s off the table then,’” Simmons spokeswoman Krystal Goodner said.

Madeline Chadwick, Communications VP for Papa John’s declined to comment further.

Simmons administrators said the $20,000 worth of Papa John’s scholarship would have been distributed to 10 students in $2,000 allotments.

Simmons College tuition is $6,000 a year.

Sophomore Jalen Beene was supposed to be one of the scholarship recipients. The music student intended to use the money for books and rent.

“I can't say I'm a victim because that's how life goes,” Beene said. “You get things, you lose things.”

Simmons administrators said they would find a way to honor the promised scholarships.

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