updated 4/1/2009 3:56:12 PM ET 2009-04-01T19:56:12

Once more than $50 million in the red, Oral Roberts University has whittled its debt to around $5 million as it seeks to recover from a financial scandal, school officials said Wednesday.

The evangelical school in Tulsa said a fundraising campaign it launched last year has brought in nearly $20 million in cash and pledges from nearly 14,000 people and organizations.

"I believe that, with the continued help of our supporters, we can eliminate ORU's debt completely in the near future," ORU Board of Trustees Chairman Mart Green said. "This reduction of our debt is strengthening the new ORU and paving a clear path for the university as our new president, Dr. Mark Rutland, prepares to take office."

Rutland, president at Southeastern University, a Christian liberal-arts college in Lakeland, Fla., begins as ORU president July 1.

He replaces Richard Roberts, son of the school's namesake founder, televangelist Oral Roberts.

Richard Roberts stepped down in November 2007 amid allegations he and his wife, Lindsay, spent school money on home remodels, lavish vacations and shopping sprees. The couple have denied any wrongdoing.

Since his resignation, the school has slowly been recovering from the financial scandal.

Under new management
Oklahoma City businessman Mart Green, heir to the Hobby Lobby craft store fortune, took the reins of the school last year after his family donated $70 million.

His family's fortune comes from Hobby Lobby and Mardel, the Christian bookstore and office supply chain Green started when he was 19, among other sources.

Of that initial gift, $10.4 million went for renovations on the dated, 1960s-era campus. In January, Green pledged an additional $10 million for summer renovations.

Even with the cash infusion, the school was forced earlier this year to lay off 53 employees and eliminate another 40 unfilled positions in a move to reduce the annual operating budget by about $3.5 million.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments